Seagate GoFlex for Mac Ultra-Portable 1.5 TB HDD is Future-Proof [Review]



As we’re probably all aware by now, Apple’s Thunderbolt I/O debuted earlier this year with the new generation of MacBook Pros and threatened to make all other interfaces, like USB and FireWire, seem like stone-age relics — and at the same time, make obsolescent all current external HDDs. All, that is, except Seagate’s line of GoFlex drives.

That’s because the GoFlex system is different: It’s modular, with the enclosure separate from the interface. For instance, our GoFlex for Mac Ultra-portable 1.5 TB ($220) test unit came with two interfaces: a USB 2.0 and a FireWire 800. USB 3.0 and eSATA kits are also currently available at $15 each, and Seagate says they’re working on a Thunderbolt interface.

Swapping couldn’t be easier. The “head” at the interface end of the drive simply unplugs with a bit of force. It’s so seamless that a friend of mine who has a smaller version of this drive didn’t even realize the interface was swappable. Unlike the USB interface, which has a removable cable, the FireWire interface’s cable is not removable, which sometimes was a bit of an issue when toting it around — but a very minor one.

The 5400 RPM drive itself is relatively fast. Tests revealed fast enough speeds of 55.3 MB/sec read and 44.2 MB/write via the FireWire 800 interface (full results below) to theoretically handle editing compressed video. Pair that with it’s gulpingly large volume and the 1.5 TB GoFlex makes a good choice for digital artists or for a portable Time Machine unit. It is, however, a little on the large side, and considerably bulkier than its 500/750 GB siblings.

Decent test results from our QuickBench speed test.

Seagate did a great job of creating a Mac-specific drive: it’s ready to go out of the box, formatted in Mac-friendly HFS+;  it comes with a FireWire 800 interface in addition to the  USB 2.0 (the non-Mac version doesn’t — although its USB is a 3.0); and the color matches aluminum-bodied MBPs almost flawlessly, a nice touch.

Verdict: It’s a pricy behemoth; but the unique, flexible modularity of this solid-performer makes it a good choice — especially for those wanting Thunderbolt equipment but needing something now while they wait.

[xrr rating=80%]

  • jayjaytee

    “Seagate says their working on a Thunderbolt interface” – AAAGGHHH! Somewhere your elementary-school English teacher is sobbing. For shame!

  • trrosen

    Gee I wish at least one tech blog writer understood what thunderbolt is.


    ThunberBolt is basically external PCI you don’t hook hard drives and keyboard to it. Although you could. You use it for monitors and drive arrays and other interfaces like USB and FireWire. There will be no thunderbolt adapter for this that would be stupid why spend over $100 to hook up a single drive. Now you will see 4 port SATA adapters hubs with USB 2/3 and FireWire too.

    Thunderbolt for a single portable drive is like a FireWire 800 keyboard.

  • Bob The Tyrant

    I’d hook an external drive into a tunderbolt port. You know how long it takes to move 4g worth of source code with USB?

  • trrosen

    1 minute 40 seconds with USB 2 and 1 minute 20 seconds on Thunderbolt. are you really going to spend $100 on 20 seconds. Firewire 800 is already faster then the drive USB 2 is just 20% off its max speed.

  • Cecil Hill

    Please. English Grammar was invented by Latinized fools and was based on Latin grammar.  As an instructor who has an MA in English, remember  the primary goal of language is to communicate.  Believe the sentence you criticized communicated the idea just fine, thank you very much.  Only an elementary Latinized fool would be sobbing.

    The Thunderbolt interface sounds like the future, indeedeeeee.

  • MC

    If thunderbolt is 10Gbit/sec and USB2 is 480Mbit/sec, how does this end up being a 20 second difference?

  • trrosen

    This disk can only do around 400Mb/s that’s the limiting factor passed USBs max real world throughput of 320Mb/s. Now if you put in a SSD that’s a whole new ballgame. They can run over 1000 Mb/s easy so they can saturate even a FW800bus. That’s where a thunderbolt to SATA 6 adapter would come in.

  • Guest

    And only a fool would seek to convince others of their opinion by insulting them. 

    The sentence “Believe the sentence you criticized communicated the idea just fine, thank you very much.” doesn’t make any sense.

    Maybe taking a bit more care with the written word isn’t such a bad thing. 

  • AriRomano

    Who needs an externam thunderbolt HDD? No HDD does read speeds even close to 10 gbit

  • Cecil Hill

    Their, their, they’re, they’re. Relax and enjoy the communications. 

  • Chris

    if you have a small ssd and thunderbolt, you need mass storage anyway. not everyone wants to buy terabytes of ssd’s

  • GeekDaddy

    ***Double Posted by accident – nothing to see here – move along, move along***

  • GeekDaddy

     Good grief, man.  Get a grip.  jayjaytee was perfectly correct to be annoyed at the use of “their” instead of the correct “they’re”.  Too many web journalists  & bloggers have a poor grasp of the English written word and it does my head in.  What are you an “instructor” in?  Does it bear any relevance to your MA?

    If I was being a pedant (and I am) I could happily translate this roughly into French in two ways to illustrate my point:

    1.  The article:  “Seagate affirme que son travail sur une interface Thunderbolt”
    2.  What should have been said:  “Seagate dit qu’ils travaillent sur ??une interface Thunderbolt”If you reverse translate those back into English, you will get:1.  “Seagate claims that his (their) work on a  Thunderbolt interface.”
    2.  “Seagate said they are working on a Thunderbolt interface.”
    This illustrates two things:

    1.  The correct meaning is only communicated when this article is HEARD and not READ.  Yes, your brain will common sense auto correct it but it still jars and is still just as wrong.
    2.  French can be useful.

    Honestly, you’ll be using TXT SPK next.  *tsk*

  • Andrew

    Saying ‘their’ is ambiguous and slows communication down.  Saying ‘they are’ is instantly recognisable. 

    Whilst I agree that this is not a big issue in this article and can be simply corrected, good communication drives clarity and speed.  Politically correct permissiveness of lackadaisical writing holds us back.
    N yes I h8 txt spk 2.

  • chano

    Remember too, that English is not an American language. Webster and similar tools have a lot to answer for in dumbing down the language.

  • elimilchman

    I think you’re missing the point. Here’s one scenario: We’re probably close to the final bow for FireWire, since there’s no reason for Apple to keep including both FW and Thunderbolt in forthcoming models (because FW is slower than Thunderbolt, yet doesn’t enjoy the broad peripheral support that USB does — so there’s no longer any real reason for it to exist). When that happens, all FW drives suddenly become obsolete — unless the interface can be replaced.

  • elimilchman

    @Captain Pedantic: There’s very little discernible difference between “web journalists” and print journalists in terms of “grasp of the English written word”; in fact, many journalists freely move between the print and web worlds (myself included). The little errors you see creeping into web-based journalism — especially at the blogging level — are there for two reasons: lightning quick posts are highly valued within the blogosphere; and when there are mistakes, there are no copy editors to catch them. If it really bothers you that much, walk down to your nearest newsstand and pop for a $5 copy of Macworld (great rag); you’ll get your news weeks later than Cult of Mac readers, but at least you won’t have to deal with those typos. 
    And frankly, to suggest that a minor brain fart equates to “a poor grasp of the English written word”smacks of hubris.

    @jayjaytee:disqus Thanks for the catch.

  • GeekDaddy

    Hi Eli – I didn’t intend to slight you, so please accept my apologies that I inadvertently did.  Please let me clarify some of my statements as well.

    My reply was aimed at Cecil’s comments around the rules of written English being redundant as long as the meaning was communicated.  From my perspective verbal English is obviously more organic (accents, words sounding the same, colloquialisms etc.) but written English has far more strict rules on meaning and I was brought up to use these.  To me this becomes especially important when, for example, an automatic translation service is being used which would cause the meaning to be lost.  This is why I made the distinction between the verbal and the written.

    I made the distinction between web and print for the very reason you outline in terms of quality control.  For print journalists, there is often some form of spell and grammar checker being employed before the article goes to a copy editor who reviews it all before it gets published.  For web, as you state, the lightning quick post is often that – quickly written & posted – in some cases I suspect without the author even reading it back.  I don’t mind this on small blogs/Facebook status updates/tweets etc. but major sites I’d expect a bit more self-governing going on.  (And I do subscribe to MacFormat in the UK but come here for real-time news.)

    I’m sure that you have a perfectly fine grasp of the language that is the core of your craft and wasn’t attacking you for a brain fart as these things happen.  I was ranting at someone’s poor justification of this and having a slight moan about quality as there have been some real clangers on here recently, things like half a sentence repeated where someone has copy-pasted without realising what they have done or read it back prior to sending it out to the world.

  • Paul

    As a recent Mac convert (Imac and Ipad2) I thought I would get a Goflex 500mb disk to use between them. The prospect of my own local wifi hotspot to move and recover files was too good to be true – and so it is. The wifi bit works very well – both my iPad and Imac find it easily. I can put files on it via my Imac, together wit folders and sub folders – and I can see them when I use my Imac. The problem is that my Ipad likes to play ‘hide and seek’ with the files – sometimes you see them and sometimes you don’t. I have now bought and returned 2 of these ‘too clever for themselves’ drives. I suspect that the hardware is good but that the software is still too clunky.

    After returning the second drive I looked on the internet (Seagate user forum) and I do not appear to be alone in this. I desperately wanted it to work and I cycled to Cheltenham (round trip of 35 miles for me) to pick up the second attempt from Argos. I also spent much of the weekend trying to coax it to work – thinking I had gott it sorted and then it letting me down. At one point it had picked up some spurious (and dubious) video content that it saved as a photo (not in the videos).

    Ah well – such is life!