Seagate's FreeAgent GoFlex: Modular External Storage


The GoFlex family in Seagate’s FreeAgent product line is one of the most comprehensive consumer storage offerings on the market, thanks in part to the separation of drives from external interfaces. Seagate offers two solid, attractive, modular drive groups for external (3.5”) or portable (2.5”) storage applications. In addition, the firm provides a huge lineup of adapters and value-added products to the GoFlex portfolio. This way, Seagate removes complexity from the physical drives and focuses on delivering just the right interfaces, features, and related products separately.

Most GoFlex drives come with a USB 2.0 adapter, requiring the separate purchase of a USB 3.0, FireWire 800, or eSATA option if needed. In many situations, this won't make much sense given the aggressive pricing in today’s retail storage market. However, GoFlex realizes its potential when you opt for one of the USB 3.0 upgrade kits, or if you want the GoFlex TV or GoFlex Net products. These are affordably-priced media player and network storage solutions that meld storage with multimedia.

Smart features like a capacity gauge on the 3.5” drives, an optional backup kit for the 2.5” line, and compatibility with third-party USB 2.0 products speak well for Seagate, too. All drives come with included backup and synchronization software, as well as software-based encryption, making GoFlex decent for semi-professional applications.

However, we found that write performance isn’t always on par with several other competing USB 3.0 solutions. The USB 3.0 and eSATA options seem bottlenecked on writes. The interface bandwidth is usually high enough, but average writes in our real-world testing maxed out at less than 70 MB/s, while other solutions passed the 100 MB/s line.

Nevertheless, GoFlex aims at multimedia and lifestyle consumers, and it does very well if you can live with its one noted performance limitation and the fact that you're paying for the drive and then separate interface connectivity. Seagate does deserve recognition for deploying a comprehensive and flexible product line. Sustained success for the GoFlex family will depend on Seagate’s ability to maintain development momentum, take feedback seriously, and keep an eye on pricing. In the end, we recommend going for this modular solution as long as the drive and most relevant interface don't set you back more than a competing solution with its connectivity built-in.