Name: GoFlex Slim (Seagate)
Type: 320GB ultra-portable external hard drive
Specs: Click here for full specs
Who said computer storage devices couldn’t be sexy? Seagate’s latest portable external storage drive, the GoFlex Slim is so svelte and small it may well replace your USB flash stick as your pocketable drive of choice. But does its performance match its good looks?
There’s no denying that Seagate have managed something quite remarkable with the GoFlex Slim drive. At 9mm thick, it’s roughly the same thickness as your average Bic pen, and thinner even than the slinky iPhone 4 smartphone. What’s even crazier is that it manages to be .5mm thinner than your average 9.5mm standard SATA internal drive. It’s still fairly wide and long at 4.1 inches by 3.2 inches, but there is only so small you can make a 2.5 inch drive chassis, and Seagate are definitely pushing the envelope here.
The drive’s small size of course leads to at least one concession, and that here lies with overall storage capacity. 320GB is hardly anything to write home about in the external drive stakes these days, and the overall cost-to-capacity ratio is quite expensive, with the average price for the drive around the £80 mark. If large capacity is a necessity for you, look elsewhere, but again for a drive this size 320GB remains impressive.
The drive supports both USB 2.0 and the much faster USB 3.0 connections, and comes packaged with a USB 3.0 backwards-compatible cable. The actual drive itself is comprised of two parts which snap together; the main drive unit with a standard SATA female connector at one end, and an adapter part with a male SATA connector and a Mini-USB 3.0 port for attaching the supplied cable. This flexible design allows for pretty much any connection to be supported providing you snap in a sold-separately GoFlex adaptor. With USB 3.0 currently the fastest peripheral connection available (at least until Thunderbolt drives become the norm) the need for other adapters are unlikely to be much of an issue however. Of course, the SATA connections also mean you’ll be able to hook the drive up with a SATA internal drive, no matter what the manufacturer, which is a great addition by Seagate.
Flexibility is extended by the drive’s built in software. Though available in two pre-formatted styles (a black chassis with NTFS file system for Windows and white chassis with HSF+ formatting for Macs) pre-installed software drivers give full read/write access across both platforms anyway. It’s a thankful addition, and much better than having to use the FAT32 universal standard which frustratingly caps file sizes at 4GB.
All this good work would be for naught however were the GoFlex Slim a sluggish performer when it comes to transfer rates. The drive, with its 7200 RPM speed, has so far proved a consistent joy to use. Testing USB 2.0 transfer speeds, we saw an average of 27.6MBps and 37.5MBps for writing and reading speeds respectively. As you’d expect, USB 3.0 speeds were significantly better at 82.3MBps for writing and 102MBps for reading. They’re not category topping speeds, but are very nippy nonetheless, and again particularly impressive given the drive’s size. Even during prolonged use the drive stayed quite cool too, despite the lack of any visible ventilation slots.
Capping off an impressive package is the Seagate Dashboard software suite. It bloats the drive by some 195MB with mostly unnecessary software, but don’t turn down the optional installation of the Memeo Backup Premium application. It’s a simple-but-excellent tool for backing up important files or entire drives, with clever visual representations of the volume of specific file types, as well as customisable backup schedules that should ensure your data is never lost.
You could argue that the GoFlex Slim’s relatively small capacity makes it poor value for money, and in that stake alone you’d be right; there are plenty of drives that offer more space for your buck than the 320GB on offer here. However, few drives can balance portability and performance as deftly as this catwalk-ready little number, and the inclusion of very good back-up software more than makes up for any storage shortcomings. Slip this into your jacket pocket and you’ll unlikely go back to your USB flash drive ever again.
By Gerald Lynch | April 7th, 2011