Meet the Drives: Seagate FreeAgent Go Flex Ultra Portable & Toshiba Canvio 3.0 Plus
Seagate FreeAgent Go Flex Ultra Portable
Looks-wise, the FreeAgent Go Flex Ultra Portable is quite plain, with a brick-like rectangular shape and finished in glossy, black plastic with a blue LED indicator on the thick cable connector. The drive is also fairly bulky and heavy, 50g heavier than the next heaviest drive (Buffalo MiniStation Extreme), and a full 100g heavier than the lightest drive (Toshiba Canvio 3.0 Plus). It's also noticeably thicker than any of the other drives at 22mm. That puts it a full 4mm thicker than any of the others (it's definitely not a pocket friendly drive).
What sets the drive apart from the others is Seagate's unique FreeAgent GoFlex plug-and-play exchangeable cable connector. Our Ultra Portable model came supplied with a USB 3.0 cable, but it can be easily removed and switched out for a FireWire 800, eSATA or other Seagate cable if required. This is essentially the same design as when we first reviewed GoFlex Pro edition nearly two years ago. While it made sense back then, these days, the relevancy of other connector options are rather low.
However, where this design has its merits is when the interface cable can be detached to mount the drive (with its SATA interface) directly with Seagate’s GoFlex HD Media player, and can also be turned into a network storage device with the Seagate Net Media sharing device dock. Seagate is obviously promoting its own ecosystem of products which bodes well if you're thinking of sticking to one brand to establish a more cohesive ecosystem. While you're not tied or forced to use this ecosystem, you do however indirectly end up paying more for the design that went into creating the expanded ecosystem - an inevitable downside which we noticed with its notable price tag. And because Seagate created this ecosystem to integrate their products tighter, it's also unfortunately the same reason why drive's basic design has remained identical even after a couple of years.
Yet another problem with the dock connector system is that the USB cable is permanently attached to the bulky connector, meaning you can't unplug it and wind up the cable separately to store on its own. This makes it quite hard to stow into a slim notebook bag pocket or similar.
Seagate includes two easy to use utilities that do exactly what they're named: Password Protection with Encryption and Easy Backup. While basic, they should cover the essential requirements for most users.
Toshiba Canvio 3.0 Plus
Toshiba’s Canvio 3.0 Plus adds some design flair to a typically mundane product with an artistic square art piece adorning the centre of the drive. The rest of the drive is glossy black, with the sides finished in matte grey – not the most appealing accent color, but the matte texture does provide some grip. A small LED indicator lights up blue when the drive is plugged in.
While the drive is advertised as having drive protection, we noticed only Internal Shock Sensor and Ramp Loading Technology as protection features. Both of these are standard features on all hard drives. Furthermore, most drives with protection features tend to be a bit larger and heavier (like the MiniStation Extreme), which makes us conclude that the Canvio 3.0 Plus probably isn’t any better equipped to survive a fall than any other regular drive.
The Canvio 3.0 includes password protection with data encryption, as well as NTI BackupNow EZ backup software. Additionally, Drive Space Alert software will notify you of when your hard drive is running low on space.