Seagate FreeAgent Pro 750GB external hard drive
As capacious as an elephant's scrotum - and as visually appealing?
Review You can go too far to be consumer friendly. Making a device straightforward to set up and get running with some clear, simple guidance is all very well, but it's easy to overdo it and come across chirpy and brainless. Seagate has come perilously close with its FreeAgent Pro external hard drive.
Seagate clearly believes ordinary folk are scared of storage, even though external drives have never been easier to connect and use. So, opening the FreeAgent Pro's box reveals not only the most basic of set-up guides - reassuringly headlined, in large, friendly letters, "This won't take long" - but all the cables and adaptors come in little grey bags each sealed with a yellow sticker marked "Hello".
Every page of the set-up instructions includes the time Seagate expects you to take with each stage, claiming you'll be done in 1 minute 51 seconds. Or not - as it says on the back: "Times may vary depending on exactly how excited you are about using your new FreeAgent Pro data mover."
Heck, even Mac packaging isn't this smug.
And let me repeat those last few words. "Data mover." Even the phrase 'hard drive' might prove unfathomable for poor old Colin, the Confused Consumer.
But the worse is yet to come: the FreeAgent's design. Again, in a bid to stress that storage products are as relevant to consumers as they are to office drones, Seagate has come up with a look that's miles from the grey blocks of yore. The drive's encased in black plastic moulded to look like brushed metal and banded with translucent orange plastic that lights up when you connect the power supply. It's also eminently scratchable as I found after taking it home one evening.
Black and orange can go together, but here the illumination resembles nothing so much as the sickly glow you get from sodium street lamps.
Irresponsible design for a spinning disk
None, and I really mean NONE of these HDDs should be positioned on their sides. Not for the HDD, they can handle it, but for the impossibly narrow base.
What do think will happen if these things fall over while the disk is spinning (and they will - by nature of being portable)? Exactly, a head crash. HDD protection only applies when the disk is switched off, then the heads are moved out of the way (something we had to do manually almost 2 decades ago) so with a disk at full spin, tipping the thing over WILL spell disaster (and I've seen it happen).
From that perspective the Lacie is better if it wasn't for having an ugly habit of developing other mechanical problems - it already lies down..
Standing on edge is cute for devices without moving parts. For a device that many will use to store valuable data on such as backups, music and pictures it is, well, irresponsible.
I didn't buy it because a seemingly detachable base that's not detachable is a strict no-no. It's just an awkward shape for an external drive.
I just bought the WD MyBook - square, black, looks like a book. Doesn't seem to make a lot of sense but works in fact very well. It came with a single USB cable, connect and you go. The book is simply cute, black, unobtrusive. And very fast, got 15MB/s out of it.
BTW you should test this with a worst case scenario. I have a folder that's about 4GB but containing 200,000 small files. If you copy that, the transfer rate drops to 500KB/s... clearly, the file system doesn't like dealing with lots of small files much.
That looks like a gigantic liquorice allsort!