Seagate Backup Plus Fast
A portable 4TB hard drive with RAID 0 that's powered from a single USB 3.0 port
- 4TB capacity
- RAID 0
- Works on a single USB 3.0 port
- The cloud features in the software didn't work as intended
Seagate's Backup Plus Fast has a 4TB capacity and excellent speed. Both of these traits make it a good portable drive to consider if you want a large and fast drive for transferring data while on the job (or even at home between computers).
Price$ 409.00 (AUD)
Portable hard drives with fantastical speed ratings have now hit the market from both WD and Seagate. In Seagate's case, its Backup Plus Fast has a massive capacity of 4TB, and it aims to please PC users by providing faster than 200MBps transfers over USB 3.0. It can do this thanks to a RAID 0 array running across two 2.5in drives, and, best of all, it only requires one USB cable for power. Seagate wants this drive to be used by photographers, videographers, and other mobile pros, but those of us with simpler plans will also benefit from its swift transfer speeds.
Physically, the Seagate Backup Plus Fast doesn't seem like much of a big deal. It looks almost the same as a 1TB portable drive from a couple of years ago. It's a 2.5in unit that’s not overly thick (22mm), and there is nothing much about it to indicate that in fact two 2.5in drives reside within its housing. It's a clean-looking, plain Jane drive with a single USB 3.0 interface on the back and an indicator light at the front. The only way you'll know there is something more to this drive than meets the eye is when you pick it up and feel it. At 311g, it weighs noticeably more than a typical, single-drive portable hard disk.
The drives that reside on the inside of the case are slim, 2TB models, which provide a usable formatted capacity of 3.63TB. Specifically, Seagate told us that they are Spinpoint M9T drives from the company's Samsung HDD division. They each have a spin speed of 5400rpm and 32MB cache.
We tested the drive on a Windows 8.1 hybrid laptop (a Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro) with a solid state drive (SSD), and we gauged its speed using CrystalDiskMark, as well as a range of manual file transfers to and from the laptop. In CrystalDiskMark, the drive achieved a sequential read speed of 244.9 megabytes per second (MBps), and a write rate of 246.8MBps. It’s not often we see write rates that are faster than read rates, but on RAID 0 drives, the two are often close. When we manually transferred large files, the Seagate recorded a read rate of 217.7MBps and a write rate of 204.54MBps. For smaller files, the read rate was 161.9MBps and the write rate was 153.42MBps.
As those tests show, you can definitely get great speed out of this Seagate drive when it’s connected via USB 3.0 to a computer with a fast drive, and it will come in most handy when moving large chunks of data such as video files. Even though there are two drives inside the Backup Plus Fast, it only requires one USB cable (and one port on your computer) to supply them with power, but Seagate provides a dual-head cable in the box as well, just in case your USB port doesn’t supply enough.
While it's in operation, the drive doesn’t make any obvious noise; you’ll only hear it if you put your ear close to it. It’s a sealed drive without any cooling fans, so the only noise that’s heard is from the spinning platters. You can feel a lot heat from the drive after it has been on and working for a while, with the majority of this heat being concentrated at the top and bottom of the enclosure (the top is metal). It didn’t get too hot to touch, though (at least not after 40min worth of reading and writing in our tests). Vibrations weren’t noticeable during regular operation, and could only be felt when we held the drive.
Software that’s provided with this drive includes Seagate Dashboard 2.0, which can be used to back up your computer in a continuous fashion after an initial backup is completed (it keeps backing up any changed files). It’s simple software to use, and you can basically start a backup just by clicking on one button. This will keep a copy of all the personal files on your computer (anything that’s not a system file). You can also create a backup schedule if you wish, and also customise the backup to include any folders that it might not have selected automatically.
Other features of the Dashboard software include the ability to tap into Seagate’s Cloud feature, and to share and save photos and videos from Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr (though it can’t download full-resolution files, only 1024x768). It also provides the ability to switch off the status LED on the drive. You can’t change the configuration of the drive, meaning its two internal drives will always run in a RAID 0 array to provide the fastest transfer speeds possible over USB 3.0.
To use the mobile backup features of the drive, you have to get the app for your phone (it supports both iOS and Android). Things could be clearer here: the Seagate Dashboard tells you to install the Seagate Mobile Backup app, but the app in the Google Play store is called Seagate Backup. Some consistency would be nice. With this app, you can set you phone to send its data to your Seagate drive every time you join your Wi-Fi network (and assuming the drive is plugged in to a running computer on the same network). In addition to photos and music on your phone, the app can be used to back up the data in your Dropbox and Google Drive accounts.
However, we couldn’t get the mobile app to work successfully during our tests. It told us there was no communication between our phone and the drive (even though it could find the drive and created folder on it), and when we attempted to sync Google Drive data through the app, it just seemed to hang. There is a ‘Cloud’ tab in the Dashboard software that is meant to work through Seagate’s Cloud service, but we also couldn’t get this to work (it wasn’t clear how to create an account to use this feature). At the time of this writing, we are still waiting for Seagate to get back to us with a resolution.
We don’t think the software issues are that big of a deal for a drive like this, which we think will get most of its use as a repository for large files while you’re on the go, rather than as a solution to back up mobile and cloud data. For mobile and cloud data, you are better off using a NAS anyway.
Pick up the Seagate Backup Plus Fast drive if your main priorities are a large, 4TB capacity, plenty of transfer speed, and neat connection method. It has a suggested retail price of $409, which gives it a cost per formatted gigabyte of about 11 cents.
Updates: 22 April 2014 to include specific drive information supplied by Seagate.
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