Seagate BarraCuda Fast SSD review: Stylish, but slow for the price

If your performance needs are basic, this USB drive will fill the bill nicely.

Credit: Seagate

Seagate's BarraCuda Fast SSD lives up to its name, but only if you're talking about external USB storage with SATA drives inside from a couple of years ago. Most vendors have moved on to NVMe internals, to take advantage of the doubled bandwidth SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps offers. 

That wouldn't be a big deal if the BarraCuda Fast SSD were cheaper, but it's priced nearly the same as NVMe drives such as the Samsung T7.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best SSDs. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them.

Design, pricing and details

Most external drives opt for a rectangular shape, but the Seagate BarraCuda Fast SSD marches to a different drummer. A squarish drummer, as the drive is about a half-inch longer in one direction. In fact, I hate to say it, but it made a very nice coaster for my desk. 

The BarraCuda Fast SSD is available in three capacities: 500GB ($110 on Amazon), the 1GB size we tested ($180 on Amazon), and 2TB ($350 on Amazon), respectively. It’s billed as a USB-C drive, which tells you nothing other than it sports Type-C connector. As mentioned, the USB is SuperSpeed 10Gbps. The drive technology inside, if our tests are to be believed, is SATA, not NVMe, as with some of the only slightly pricier competition.

The drive carries a three-year warranty. Seagate doesn’t provide a TBW (TeraBytes that can be Written) rating, however, for the normal user, that shouldn’t be a concern. SSDs are outlasting estimates in droves. 

One design detail surprised me: The Type-C port is located on the same end of the drive as the thin, green LED band. If your cable orients the drive in the wrong direction, you can't see the friendly Kermit-like lighting. Habits vary, but I would’ve put the port on the other end, or the side.

The drive ships with the Seagate Toolkit software, which is handy for syncing data to the drive. Alas, it won’t allow you to change the color of the LED as you can with the  Seagate Gaming SSD. 

Performance

The BarraCuda Fast SSD lives up to the second part of its name—within the limits (around 550Mbps) of its apparently SATA internals (Seagate would not confirm). It’s speedy, though not quite as speedy as Samsung’s three year-old T5. The results were so close, however, that performance really shouldn’t be the deciding factor.

barracuda fast cdm 6 IDG

CrystalDiskMark 6 pegs the BarraCuda as a faster writer, but slower reader, than the Samsung T5. Longer bars are better.

As you can see above, CrystalDiskMark gave the BarraCuda Fast a nice edge in write performance, and a statistically irrelevant deficit in reading. 

barracuda fast 48gb IDG

The BarraCuda Fast largely held its own agains the Samsung T5. Shorter bars are better.

The BarraCuda Fast also played second fiddle to the T5 in the 48GB tests (above), but cut over a minute off of the T5’s 450GB copy time as shown below.

barracuda fast 450gb IDG

Where the BarraCuda Fast excelled was in endurance. Writing 450GB it was more than a minute faster than the Samsung T5. Shorter bars are better.

The BarraCuda Fast is a very good performer for a SATA-based drive, but so is the T5. However, there’s that pricing issue again—much faster NVMe-based USB SSDs, such as  the SanDisk Extreme Portable Pro SSD and Samsung T7, cost only a little more. The graphic below shows just how much faster in everyday use the competition is. Twice the performance for another $10? Yup.

barracuda fast cdm 6 nvme IDG

The BarraCuda Fast holds its own against SATA-based drives, but can’t hold a candle to NMVe-based SSDs such as the Extreme Portable Pro SSD and Samsung T7 (though the latter slows down quite a bit on long copies). Longer bars are better.

Note that the Samsung T7 will slow down quite a bit when its cache runs out, but for most purposes, it’s significantly faster. The SanDisk Extreme Portable Pro SSD is easily the fastest of three.

Testing is performed on Windows 10 64-bit running on a Core i7-5820K/Asus X99 Deluxe system with four 16GB Kingston 2666MHz DDR4 modules, a Zotac (Nvidia) GT 710 1GB x2 PCIe graphics card, and an Asmedia ASM2142 USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) card. Also on board are a Gigabyte GC-Alpine Thunderbolt 3 card and Softperfect’s Ramdisk 3.4.6, which is used for the 48GB read and write tests.

A nice drive, but...

I like the Seagate BarraCuda Fast SSD. There’s just something about the styling, and yes, the LED highlighting, that's quite appealing. It’s also a good performer for the the technology involved. At a lower price point, I’d be all over it.

However, you can get twice the performance for only a little more. That, my friends, makes it a bit tough to recommend the BarraCuda Fast SSD. Unless of course, you’re dead-set on the idea that it’s hip to be square.

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Jon L. Jacobi

PC World (US online)
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