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We tested three Seagate FreeAgent Go drives: a 500GB USB-only drive, a 500GB USB+FireWire, and a 320GB USB+FireWire. The drives with FireWire are from Seagate’s For Mac line, so they come preformatted for Macs. These drives were never the very top performers, but they were consistently the second-best, often only by a small margin. This was particularly noteworthy in our FireWire 800 test when both Seagate drives, which spin at 5,400rpm, finished only slightly behind OWC’s 7,200rpm drive.
The overall concept of these drives was clearly well thought out. We particularly liked the attention to detail in small things; the USB and FireWire cables that shipped with the drives, for example, have a solid feel and aren’t excessively long. This is especially important for a mobile drive that you’ll carry around—endless loops of cable snarled up in your laptop bag get old really fast. Seagate also provides a Y-shaped USB cable that plugs into the drive and two cables for the host machine. It turns out that some laptop models—including some Macs—don’t provide enough USB power on a single port to spin up the drive. The Y-cable uses up two ports on the host computer: one port for power and data, the other just for power. You may never encounter this problem with a desktop machine, but it’s smart to have the cable available when you cross paths with an underpowered laptop.
The only aspects of the Seagate FreeAgent Go concept that we’re not sold on are the docks. The Mac versions of the drives come with FireWire docks in the box—extra docks, as well as standalone USB docks are available separately. The idea is that you attach the dock to the computer that you’re primarily using the drive with, and then just pop the drive into the dock and remove it without having to deal with cables. But from where we sit, bundling docks doesn’t make that much sense, since we can only see docks being useful if you frequently shuttle between two machines, in which case you need two docks anyway. Somehow, having to pay for a single dock seems unnecessary.
Overall, the combination of reasonable price, good performance, and thoughtful design leads us to choose the Seagate FreeAgent Go For Mac 500GB as our Editors’ Choice.