Somehow, Seagate has managed to simplify the external hard drive while adding new features and functions. The Backup Plus Portable can be used with PC or Mac without reformatting and requires no extra fiddling to get it going – you just plug it into your USB port and away it goes. If you’re just looking for a decent external hard drive, then it’ll do the job.
The Backup Plus Portable family of drives, not to be confused with the less-portable Backup Plus Desk product category, are 2.5-inch mechanical drives that can work with USB 2.0 and 3.0, as well as FireWire or Thunderbolt, although only a USB 3.0 cable is included in the box.
Transfer speeds were good over USB 3.0, with transfers of 30,000 small files adding up to 770MB taking less than three and a half minutes, both transferring on and off the drive. Our large files test, which adds up to 2GB across three files, took considerably less time. In fact, the only time the drive got painfully slow was when we conducted the small files test over USB 2.0 – that one took nearly 20 minutes, but slow transfers are to be expected when using an old standard.
The design of the Backup Plus Portable is slick – it comes in several colours, but ours was silver and white. It’s only 14.5mm thick, and could probably fit in a large pocket. It’s not quite smartphone-portable, but it’s less of a hassle to carry around than a laptop.
But the main drawcard of the Backup Plus Portable is its attachment to the cloud.
When you plug your new hard drive into your PC, it has an installer for some extra software, called Seagate Dashboard, on it. If you run the installer, it’ll set up the program, which allows you to quickly and easily back up your PC (‘Protect’), upload from your PC or external drive to social media (‘Share’), and – perhaps the biggest appeal – download files from Facebook and Flickr accounts (‘Save’).
If you have accounts with Facebook or Flickr, you can link those accounts with your Seagate Dashboard, through the Seagate apps, and automatically backup all the images and video you’ve previously uploaded.
You have to accept some permissions to do this, but they’re fairly reasonable – Seagate needs access to your photos and video content in order to download it, and the app doesn’t ask for anything extra that it doesn’t need, like your personal details.
Once you’ve linked up your Facebook account, for example, you just click on the Facebook logo under the ‘Save’ section of the dashboard, and it’ll automatically download anything and everything it can find. You can set it up so that the drive auto-updates every time you upload a new photo, but it’s sometimes a bit slow to do so. Best be careful not to lose your drive – all those drunken pictures of you could suddenly find themselves in the wrong hands.
There were two little niggling issues with Seagate’s ‘Save’ service. Firstly, the software downloaded the photos onto our PC by default, not our backup drive. We had to manually change the file path so photos were backed up on the hard drive, which doesn’t make much sense. Secondly, you can currently only save files from your Facebook or Flickr – it’d be nice to at least see Twitter/Twitpic on there, as well as Instagram. However, Seagate hasn’t discounted adding other social networks in future updates.
While the Backup Plus Portable isn’t mind-blowing, the parts that don’t work as well as we’d like are features that other hard drive manufacturers don’t actually have. And those features aren’t bad, they’re just not perfect. The Packup Plus still seems like a solid drive for those who want to back up not only their PC, but their entire digital lives, as well.
Seagate is distributed in New Zealand through Westcon and Ingram Micro.
This review originally appeared in the September issue of New Zealand PC World magazine.