External Storage: Terabyte Drives Compared

Seagate FreeAgent XTreme 1 TB

Seagate’s FreeAgent family has been around for a while and we already covered the FreeAgent Pro 750 GB and the FreeAgent Go 160 GB. The Pro version is a feature-rich external hard drive using a 3.5” drive; the Go is a portable storage solution based on 2.5” hard drives. This time we tested the enthusiast model called FreeAgent XTreme, which Seagate offers in 500 GB, 640 GB, 1 TB and 1.5 TB capacities. The sample we received was the 1 TB version.


The shape of the FreeAgent XTreme is similar to other FreeAgent desktop drives, but the color as well as the details are different. It’s made of black plastic, and it looks very much like a consumer router or a switch. The analogy is apt, as the drive can be operated horizontally on the desk or snap it into the pedestal and operate it vertically. It looks nice standing tall, but it doesn’t stand solid enough, which means you could accidentally knock it over on a desk top.

Some of the LEDs on the device illuminate the top panel from the inside, which causes the Seagate logo to glow in the dark. You might want to turn the drive away from you if the brightness bothers you, or you can disable the LED.

Features and Performance

All connectors are on the thin back part of this stylish drive. Since this triple-interface version is designed for enthusiasts, it comes equipped with two FireWire 1394a ports, a mini USB 2.0 port, and an eSATA port, as well as a Kensington lock. Seagate provides USB 2.0 and FireWire cables, but we’d like an eSATA cable as well because this is the best interface for everyday use. The FreeAgent XTreme provides up to 105-MB/s throughput—the maximum throughput of the Barracuda 7200.11 at 1 TB capacity. FireWire 1394a offers 40 MB/s throughput while USB 2.0 shows the typical bottleneck at around 32 MB/s. This drive has the quickest average access time in this roundup at only 13 ms.

Power Consumption

Our power-consumption testing includes activity, idle, standby, a fourth measurement with the host PC powered off and a last check with the drive switched off. While the Seagate drive performs well, it also consumes noticeably more power than its competitors. The maximum power requirement of 14.4 W is more than 40 percent above that of the next product. Standby power and the power requirement with the host PC shut down are identical, though the other vendors show that it’s possible to reduce power consumption when the host PC is powered down. We understand that this is an enthusiast product, but we’re sure power consumption could still be optimized without compromising performance.

This is the only external hard drive that comes with a 5-year warranty. Impressive.