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Tom's Holiday Buyer's Guide 2008, Part 1

Seagate FreeAgent Go 500 GB w/ Docking Station
$172 (drive only); $197 (drive plus dock)
By: Ed Tittel

We’ve previously covered Seagate FreeAgent incarnations in Buyer’s Guides for Tom’s Hardware. This holiday season, Seagate has earned another berth thanks to an updated, more attractive package and a slick, drop-in USB-attached dock that lets you carry your drive wherever you go, then reattach it to your desktop PC simply by slipping it into its cradle. Of course, 500 GB is a huge amount of disk space, which is bigger than many desktop drives and provides ample room to carry all of your important files and applications around with you. This model comes in a range of colors, including black, silver, red, and blue that were carefully calculated to lend this FreeAgent some eye appeal.

The drive includes a Seagate backup utility that’s reasonably easy to set up and use. By default, this program saves files to your My Documents folder, but it’s easy to customize its sources and targets to backup most folders on a notebook or desktop PC. There’s also a folder synchronization utility that lets you designate the same folder on two machines that the software will keep current by using the FreeAgent as the repository for new versions that need to be replicated on one machine or another.

This makes it easy to set up a folder that you can use in the office at work, then take home with you to your home machine, while keeping all contents current wherever you’re working at the moment. The only things missing are some kind of drive imaging software and a recovery disk capability that would let you perform a bare-metal restore on your backups, but there are plenty of ways to scratch that itch, including the excellent Macrium Reflect Free package.

As with earlier FreeAgent drives, this one includes a dual-headed USB cable for hooking your drive to a notebook PC. The second USB connector is for power only and is included because so many notebook PCs have trouble delivering sufficient power for an external drive through a single USB port (this shouldn’t be a problem on a desktop PC, however). Your mileage may vary when using or forgoing the second port—the drive worked fine for me on a Dell D620 Latitude with only the primary, but I had to use both connectors on an Asus Eee PC before it would spin up.

This drive is also reasonably speedy for a 5,400 RPM device. We observed sustained read rates of 22 MBps when reading and 17 MBps when writing large files to the drive (> 1 GB). PCMark05 gives this drive a score of about 2,800 points, which is neither especially faster nor slower than most USB 2.5" drives. The combination of its good looks, a convenient dock, and some useful software makes it our portable drive of choice these days. Anybody who wakes up Christmas morning to find one in his or her stocking should crack a huge smile. But you’d better put it on top—this FreeAgent’s dimensions are 1.16" x 3.34" x 2.4".