Review Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 320 GB Ultra-Portable Drive & FreeAgent Auto Backup

By: Tobias Winkler, 09/04/2010

Flexible Newcomer.

Following the top model with 1GB of memory capacity, we have also now taken a look at Seagates' 320 GB variant with the innovative Auto Backup feature. Find out which differences and which advantages we uncovered in the following review.

Photo: Seagate
Bild: Seagate

With a new interface concept, the GoFlex series from Seagate offers a wide spectrum of possibilities for interface compatibility. With the optional adaptor, one has the possibility of ordering the individual required interfaces as need be and using the series with multiple harddrives.   We already reported on how this works in our comprehensive review of the  Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultraportable 1 TB.

The case of the 320 GB version is slightly lower at 14 mm and somewhat lighter at 150g than the larger model. But the case texture, with its high-maintenance glossy black paint job, is identical and doesn't always go down well with mobile use. We also elaborated more on that issue in the review mentioned above.

Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultraportable 320 GB

Maximal performance can be reached with the USB 3.0
maximale Performance erreicht man mit USB 3.0

In the performance tests, we have again tested the available interface adapter and accompanying harddrive on different desktops and notebooks. USB 2.0, eSATA and USB 3.0.

The Lenovo Thinkpad W701 was available for the eSATA test, which fortunately is equipped with a powered USB / eSATA combination port. This is necessary to ensure the GoFlex harddrive's power supply, as an additional alternative power supply is not provided. This worked well and without any problems in our tests, and led to a maximum transfer rate of 78.6 MB/s on our testing device (internal Seagate ST9320423AS min, 16 MB Cache, 7200 rpm). But, in the same testing scenario, we got only 96.1 MB/s with a LaCie d2 Quadra which suggests that the GoFlex adapter slows down the built-in harddrive somewhat. For a performance comparison, refer to our extensive HDD benchmark list.

This 'braking' we noticed in the test was not apparent with the installed USB 3.0 adapter, which extended the performance of the Seagate with a maximum of 93.1 MB/s and an average of 75.5 MB without loss. This also highlights the difference in performance to the bigger 1 TB GoFlex, which reached a maximum of 87 MB/s and an average of 65.2 MB/s. We also didn't observe any problems with the power supply on the tester and provides the model with a broad spectrum of possibilities.

The transfer rates on the USB 2.0's of various testers were at a maximum of 30.7 MB/s, though many notebook interfaces are unable to deliver those speeds. The HP 6540b Probook for example went on strike at 28.1 MB/s, which is still in the normal range. Otherwise, only a few notebooks and desktop systems could reach over 30 MB/s.

Verdict GoFlex 320 GB

Overall, the Free Agent Portable 320 GB Ultra GoFlex offers the same good qualities as the larger 1 GB version. Even the entry level model scores points in terms of its weight, size, and USB 3.0 speed. It doesn’t look so good with the euro-per-terabyte ratio, which obviously accounts for the seemingly low cost of 200 euro/TB. The 500 GB und 750 GB versions are significantly cheaper at approximately 140,- euro/ TB, but they don’t measure up to speed as the 1 TB GoFlex which is less than 130,- euro/ TB.

Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Auto Backup

Click to connect the harddrive after successfully installing Replica.
Aufforderung zum Anschluss der Festplatte nach erfolgreicher Replica Installation
Snapshots of the modified data files
Snapshots der geänderten Dateiversionen

The last feature we looked at in this test was the Auto Backup function. While there is a backup program (Memeo) on every GoFlex Ultra Portable, this only covers basic needs and is operated by familiar procedures. In turn, we would definitely expect the available extension, which at its core represents a special USB 2.0 adapter, to be more user-friendly. This add-on device is currently available for about 20, - euro and apart from its slightly larger design, is similar to the other interface enhancements in the GoFlex series.

Seagate uses a backup software program called Replica, which impressed us with its simplicity. The initial installation is carried out with only the adapter and without a connected harddrive, which in turn contains the software. Once this process is completed, you are then instructed to connect the driver. Replica works as a background device and shortly after its installation, it does a complete backup (1:1 copy), including all open files. This process lasted around 2.5 hours on our test system with 90 GB of full space. Some secure partitions could already be accessed while the other partitions were still being processed. After the backup is made and when it is again connected, only those changes made in the snapshot method (older and younger versions of changed data side by side) are, also automatically, saved. For example, when creating the backup, we continued to work on this review and later found the three corresponding snapshots. If any activities are stopped, Replica picks up where it left off and continues with its tasks.

In case something gets lost or a file gets damaged, it is possible to restore the files by simply dragging the chosen file from the backup. If the backup at some point gets too full, the older files are automatically deleted. Hopefully it will never crash, however, if that does happen, Seagate provides a recovery CD (made by a Linux system). With the help of this, it should be able to restore the whole system. But we didn't test this feature.

Verdict GoFlex Auto Backup

The backup resolution provided by Seagate is perfect for solid “backup muffle” which are running out of excuses. Even diligent users can enjoy its simplicity which now makes the task of backing up files a minor matter. Plugging in a single cable into the USB port is all that is needed! The rest is done automatically for you. It doesn't get much easier than that.

In Review: Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 320 GB
In Review: Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 320 GB
Im Test: Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Auto Backup
Im Test: Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Auto Backup
The 320 GB version offers the same core features including the high-gloss surface
The 320 GB version offers the same core features including the high-gloss surface
eSata runs out of steam and possibilities
eSata runs out of steam and possibilities
It is smaller and lighter than its 750 GB and 1000 GB colleagues
It is smaller and lighter than its 750 GB and 1000 GB colleagues
Very convenient backup solution with an option for system restoration per Linux.
Very convenient backup solution with an option for system restoration per Linux.

Shortcut

What we liked

Innovative arrangement of interfaces allows for a wide spectrum of uses. Auto Backup makes backing up files profoundly easier.

What we missed

Better use of the available speed of the interfaces with eSATA.  A less fragile paint job on the surface with more durable quality. A better bargain for the money.

What surprised us

How user-friendly and easy the interface system is, especially the backup function.

The competition

There are currently no other comparable offerings out there.  The biggest competitors therefore come from the same make in the form of the 1 TB variants.  If you are interested in specific interfaces, the models of the LaCie rugged series (USB 3.0 / eSATA) are still in a top spot thanks to their speed.

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Author: Tobias Winkler, 2010-09- 9 (Update: 2012-05-26)