External Storage: Terabyte Drives Compared

Power Consumption, Conclusion

The power consumption results show very clearly that most drives still have plenty of room for improvement. Seagate’s FreeAgent XTreme requires too much power across all measurements, Western Digital’s My Book Home Edition consumes too much power in standby mode and never drops to zero power consumption even when the drive or the host PC is shut off. SimpleTech provides the best power consumption profile, demanding the least power while delivering performance almost as fast as Seagate’s.


All four drives do a good job when it comes to storing up to 1 TB of data in a flexible external manner. All four are designed differently—their visual appeal is largely a matter of personal taste. LaCie has created a sophisticated exterior, Seagate and Western Digital offer the perfect style for PC enthusiasts, and the My Book actually looks like a book. All of that works for us.

The software packages differ significantly: LaCie provides a rudimentary backup tool with no advanced backup features, encryption, or synchronization options. The other vendors bundle comprehensive backup packages, but none is perfect. The Seagate Backup Manager is great at backup and synchronization, but the encryption tool is long-winded compared with Western Digital’s TrueCrypt. However, one impressive piece of software included in Western Digital’s bundle is only a 30-day trial. SimpleTech doesn’t offer synchronization, but it comes with an additional 2 GB of online backup space, which we like best.

Performance shouldn’t be the deciding factor in a review of external hard drives, but there are huge differences here that enthusiasts will want to factor in: Seagate’s FreeAgent XTreme provides the best throughput of the bunch at up to 107 MB/s for writes, followed by the SimpleTech ProDrive at 91 MB/s. The LaCie reaches 85 MB/s and the Western Digital lingers at 77 MB/s. All this applies using eSATA interfaces. FireWire limits throughput to 40 MB/s; USB 2.0 to 32 MB/s—read performance is even slower across the board.

Finally, consider warranties: LaCie offers only a two-year warranty on the hard drive we tested, SimpleTech and Western Digital offer three-year warranties, and Seagate covers its product for five years.

Our overall recommendation goes to SimpleTech’s ProDrive 1TB. Cost of all four products we tested is roughly equal at about $200, but the ProDrive SimpleTech provides the best feature combination: low power consumption, solid performance, four—not three—interfaces, and an impressive software bundle topped by online backup.