A typical external drive combines a hard disk with a USB controller, but Seagate’s GoFlex system splits the components into two separate pluggable modules. This approach lets you upgrade the hard disk without buying a new controller, or move up to a faster connector (or even a network interface) without paying for a new disk. Seagate’s standard desktop drive comes with a USB 2 connector, but here we’ve partnered it with the optional USB 3 dock.
The dock itself plugs firmly into place as you attach it, and the whole assembly is tasteful and compact, although there’s no power switch, nor anywhere to connect a lock. And it’s designed to stand upright, which makes it susceptible to being knocked over. If you lie it down, the cables and lights sit awkwardly at the corners.
The lights are cute, though. Next to the round power LED up to four strip-lights pulse while the drive is reading or writing data. It isn’t only a nice visual effect: it also serves as a capacity gauge, so when the fourth light comes on you’ll know it’s time for a little housekeeping.
The GoFlex Desk didn’t take the top spot in our speed tests, bu t it gave a perfectly respectable performance in the large-file read and write exercises, achieving an almost exactly average score for a desktop drive. It performed even better in the small-file test – it’s two-and-a-half times as fast as a USB 2 drive, and in the small-file read test it beat out the LaCie and WD drives for first place.
A large 2TB drive such as this can’t be had for pocket money, however, especially not with a fancy USB 3 adapter. But even when you buy the two together you’re still paying only 15.3 cents/GB, which isn’t too far off the cost of a bare drive.
What’s more, since the dock uses standard SATA data and power connectors, you can actually slot in any bare drive and access it via USB – this could be a handy free way of adding more storage, although not one that’s officially supported by Seagate.
So although Seagate’s FreeAgent GoFlex Desk isn’t quite the fastest drive in this month’s Labs, it’s our favourite, combining a stylish design, a persuasive price, and more features and flexibility than any other.