Seagate's latest: Drive fast, App slow

The scoop: Backup Plus Fast external storage drive, by Seagate, about $270 (for 4TB capacity)

What is it? The latest external storage hard drive from Seagate, the Backup Plus FAST drive was announced at the 2014 International CES sporting a whopping 4TB of data. The all-in-black portable drive connects to your PC or Macintosh via USB 3.0 cable (two cables are provided, one which offers additional USB power if your older system needs it). The latest version of Seagate Dashboard software provides additional backup capabilities that enhance the drive you can download photos and videos from social sites (Facebook and Flickr) to the drive, as well as upload photos and videos from the drive to other social sites (Facebook, Flickr and YouTube). Mobile phone users (both iOS and Android) can access the Seagate Backup app, which lets you back up photos and videos from your device to either the cloud (Dropbox or Google Drive) or indirectly to the drive (works via Wi-Fi if the phone/app and PC-connected drive is on the same Wi-Fi network).

Why it's cool: The data transfer speed improvements that Seagate has made to their drives is remarkably impressive. In our speed tests, we achieved write speeds between 225M and 253MBps, and read speeds between 218M and 236MBps. These are dramatically faster than similar USB 3.0 speeds we saw on some other drives (for example, a USB 3.0-connected G-Drive ev unit achieved about 128MBps. of write and read speeds. These speeds even trounced a Thunderbolt-connected storage drive system (see below), which tested at 127MBps of write and read speeds.

Here's a quick comparison of some of the speeds we achieved with the drive:

  • Connected to USB 2.0 port, Seagate Backup Plus FAST drive, (MacBook Pro, 2011) 25M-30MBps write, 32M-34MBps read.
  • USB 3.0 port, WD Passport drive (connected to HP EliteBook 840 G1) 88M-89MBps write, 88M-89MBps read.
  • USB 3.0 G-Tech ev drive (connected to MacBook Air, 2013) 128MBps write, 127MBps read.
  • Thunderbolt-connected G-Tech docking station, G-Drive ev unit 125MBps write, 127MBps read. (Add Thunderbolt docking station via MacBook Air)
  • USB 3.0 port, Seagate Backup Plus FAST drive (HP EliteBook) 253MBps write, 218MBps read.

If the speed factor alone doesn't pique your interest, maybe the 4TB capacity will. I'm still having a hard time filling up some of my 1TB drives with video footage (despite a considerable effort to do so), and now this drive gives me four times the capacity. For videographers experimenting with new 4K resolution cameras and footage, the extra capacity will be welcomed.

Having the additional capacity on the drive does add some weight to the unit, compared with similar Seagate drives such as the Slim (the Slims are about half the height of the new Backup Plus Fast unit). But users looking for that much space won't likely mind the additional weight.

Some caveats: While the drive speeds are impressive, I was less impressed with the Seagate Dashboard software, especially the Mobile Backup app. It's a cool idea to provide backup from your phone to the cloud, especially if the connected Seagate drive can then download those photos/videos directly to the drive. But in practice, getting the data from Point A (my phone) to Point B (the cloud) and then Point C (the device) took more work (and battery life and network bandwidth) than I really wanted to tolerate. The app also lets you perform the phone-to-drive backup over Wi-Fi if both devices (phone and drive) are connected via the same Wi-Fi network, and I'd recommend this cut the cloud out of the picture, at least initially, or when you can afford to do a cloud backup overnight with a power-connected phone.

Grade: 4 stars (out of five).

Shaw can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @shawkeith.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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