The drive in the FreeAgent Pro spins at 7,200rpm. It runs quite warm when its powered up and connected, but not hot.
After swapping out the Firewire connector for the USB/eSATA unit, I took the drive and connected it to a Vaio notebook and try out the bundled apps: a drive utility and an automatic back-up package. Both are up to the task and easy to use. AutoBackup monitors your PC's hard drive and copies over new files and folders, and any that get changed, all in real time. It's easy to select specific folders for it to watch or set it to look out for changes to specific types of file - web bookmarks, for example.
The FreeAgent Tools package lets you set automatic system roll-back points - in case an update or a new app messes up your system - and tweak drive settings like the aforementioned orange light and the disk sleep time. Handy to have, but not essential - and downright unavailable if you're a Mac or Linux buff.
One irritation: there's a quick-link icon in the System Tray which runs the various tools but isn't smart enough to maximise their windows when they're already running. Instead, you get a message saying: "Utilities is already running." Helpful? Not.
The FreeAgent Pro retails for around £225 inc VAT, though I've seen prices ranging from £215 to £249. It's not a bad price, given the capacity and, in particular, the ports it offers. LaCie has a 500GB d2 Quadra that likewise features USB, eSATA and Firewire - both 400 and 800 - all for £139, which works out better value than the Seagate on a price-per-gigabyte basis and comes with Mac and Windows back-up software, unlike the Windows-only FreeAgent.
You either love the FreeAgent Pro's looks - or you hate them. What everyone can agree on is that the drive is not only well capacious and quick, but also - since these are not unique qualities - equipped with a solid array of connection options, including eSATA, which looks set to feature on many more new systems. And the price isn't half bad either.
Seagate FreeAgent Pro
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!