Thunderbolt external drives: Seagate GoFlex

Posted on by Mike Evans

Now all my Macs are Thunderbolted, the old-fashioned USB 2 backup drives are beginning to feel dated. The trouble is that there few native Thunderbolt external drives to choose from. I find this strange since the technology has been with us for over a year. 

FireWire adaptor and cable (included with drive)Yesterday I bought a 1TB Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex drive and one of Seagate’s Thunderbolt adaptors. It is a fairly expensive option at the moment. The adaptor is £100 and the drive is £140. There is no Thunderbolt cable included (as seems to be the norm, I find) so that’s another £39 to get you up and running. These are Apple Store prices, by the way, and I have no doubt that savings can be made elsewhere. The big advantage of buying from Apple, of course, is that you can change your mind (ChangeYourMind is my middle name) and take a product back for a full refund within 14 days.

The GoFlex and companion turns out to be very neat solution. The drive itself comes with two adaptors and two cables. The adaptors slip on to what looks like an eSATA bus at the base of the drive and provide a cable socket for, respectively, USB 2 (which is a bit disappointing, why not USB 3?) and FireWire. A big advantage here is that you can use the drive on other computers with either USB or FireWire.

Thunderbolt adaptor without cableThe Thunderbolt adaptor, although very expensive, is another neat piece of kit. It is essentially another of version of the adaptors supplied with the drive but has a platform to hold the drive. Once you’ve bought this adaptor it is possible to buy additional standard GoFlex drives and convert them into Thunderbolt. It should also be possible to add SSD drives when they become available.

I will review the drive more fully when I’ve used it for a few weeks. However, initial speed tests show 93MB/s read and 79MB/s write. On first appearances, this seems to be similar to USB 3 speeds but I will check further. An old USB 2 Western Digital external drive tested at the same time and on the same computer (the new MacBook Air) rated only 38/36 MB/s. The initial SuperDuper! backup of the MacBook Air’s 133.5GB of data took 39:19, an average speed of 56.59MB/s. Ths was impressive compared with past experience of USB drives which took well over an hour for a similar amount of data. Even incremental updates, which would typically take 50 minutes on the USB 2 drive, are now polished off in around 5 minutes. 

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