WHEN MAXTOR and Seagate came together, a decision was made by the powers that be to aim one at business and the other consumer, in terms of storage.
From that divide comes this venture of the Seagate FreeAgent portfolio. These are external portable drives, branching from the not-so technical to technical user in terms of their needs. All are designed to be a lot more useful than just a box for backing up, packaged in snazzy casing - making them look rather like a cross between a Jaffa cake and a liquorice-all-sort. This new fleet of devices range from the FreeAgent 12GB GoSmall flash drive to the more senior 750GB monster.
Seagate FreeAgent Pro
We looked at the largest capacity in this range, seeing as everyone wants the biggest, fastest toys on the block.
Inside the Pro is the Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 750GB SATA 3.0Gb/s perpendicular technology based hard drive, launched mid 2006. This was its first mainstream HDD based on this new tech, all designed to increase the storage density. A choice piece of kit here we believe, along with being the only viable one too as it's currently the ceiling in terms of capacity.
Seagate has ticked a few boxes here in terms of external connectivity, with USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and eSATA all being present and correct. What isn't there is FireWire 800, which is not a major loss but still would have been good, seeing as one of the modules provided could have easily housed it. Within the first module there's USB and eSATA and the other dual FireWire ports, and we would have liked to have seen the IEEE 1395b here. As both ports cannot be used in operation at the same time, making a dual is therefore a wee bit redundant, methinks. The same applies for any of the connectors, it's an either or situation.
We hunted high and low in the retail box trying to find the eSATA cable. The lead's not shipped in the retail box, which is disappointing seeing as it's not an everyday item that accompanies a computer. Seagate does, however, supply USB and FireWire 400 cables, along with a power lead need for the FreeAgent Pro while in use.
Connecting up the eSATA aspect of the FreeAgent Pro proved difficult. After some tinkering we discovered this was partly down to it being disabled in the BIOS by default. Also the updated Vista motherboard drivers were not installed on the system we were using. We were not alone in this obstacle, as after some forum and support group surfing we discovered quite a few complaints. It's always good to know we're in the same hole as others.
A good suite of software is provided by Seagate on the drive, although it's a tad troubling that a restore CD wasn't provided with the software on. This is highlighted as it appears the software isn't even available on-line, despite our fervent searches and eventual confirmation by Seagate. Backing up and backing drive in case you lose your install software seems a tad redundant in our opinion.
Fundamentally, the software provided is from Taragra file management and backup series, in the Memeo products. It's actually Memeo AutoBackup software with a customised interface, reflecting the Seagate FreeAgent orange and black colouring. Apart from that, it's near-perfect the same application with the same functionality.
It's a fairly simple to use package with a few clicks to backup everything, with multiple locations and not just the Seagate FreeAgent Pro itself. Backing up to a Memeo web-based drive with 500MB (six months trial) is an option, along with flash drive and curiously iPod too. Interesting and useful additions we believe.
FreeAgent Pro Tools
The usual foray of features are there as expected in terms of data recovery - roll back to previous states; and various backup plans along with some smart file selections. There are some nice aspects to this, as in the automatic backup of files and their multiple versions too.
Smart file selections
There's a distinct lack of support for the software in anything else other than Windows, along with a distinct lack of support in anything below Windows 2000 in terms of the drive itself.
We're happy to see there's a five year warranty accompanying the FreeAgent Pro. Although it's limited and is not wholly complete in terms of gaining back corrupt data, peace of mind is still a good factor to have in external backup hardware.
The drive itself is very quiet in operation, even at the full-load of multiple writing and reading. This is down to the fan-less casing of the unit, creating a useable desktop drive even in the office environment. The undercarriage does tend to get rather hot, not alarming so but enough to notice. This is because the operational heat gain comes out there. It's wise to remove the protecting shipping plastics from the casing, as we feared things might have reached the melting stage if it was left on.
We benchmarked the drive using HD Tune, just to show transfer rate and access time in the various connections.
HD Tune - eSATA
HD Tune - FireWire
HD Tune - USB
All as expected here and nothing too surprising, a good solid performance on drive access time and throughput on the various modules.
With the numerous possible connections available Seagate has created a nice external drive. The software accompanying it is useful and full featured too, a nice addition to the backup-world.
Multiple interfaces, large capacity, 7200 RPM, 5 year warranty
No support for Windows 95 or 98
No software CD, no eSATA cable