In recent months we've seen a flurry of affordable and spacious 3.5-inch external drives. They come in all shapes and sizes: droves of plain USB 2.0 drives, slightly pricier FireWire and eSATA models, and increasingly popular NAS solutions. Of course, here at Fudzilla, we're fans of high performance, enthusiast stuff, but we're also pretty sensible, at least some of us are.
The fact is, most users will get a 3.5-inch drive for backup, and the vast majority don't need the extra performance provided by eSATA or FireWire, especially considering the premium you have to pay for the new tech. This might sound like blasphemy, but let's face it, USB 2.0 drives still offer pretty good performance, and the prices are amazing.
Seagate's Desktop series is no exception, as the 1TB model costs just €74, while the 1.5TB unit will set you back €109. This makes the Seagate Desktop series one of the most affordable drives in its class. Although you could get a drive from another vendor for a few cents less, bear in mind that Seagate's drives are relatively fresh, they were introduced some three months ago and feature 32MB of cache. What's more, Desktops look pretty nice, considering the price. While most manufacturers offer value and premium series of 3.5-inch drives, most of the value models look like huge bricks covered by a coat of plastic you'd find on car trim pieces back in the eighties.
Seagate did a pretty good job designing the Desktop, and it really doesn't look or feel too cheap. However, there are some downsides to this look. The black gloss gathers quite a bit of dirt, and you can't place the drive vertically, which will be an issue if you lack space on your desk. Also, the round, green indicator LED looks quite a bit dated, and doesn't do the drive justice. Measuring 123x38x205mm, the drive is pretty slim, but it has a rather large footprint.
Other than that, we like the styling, as well as the choice of materials. The lower part of the chassis feels quite sturdy, and the rubber pads make sure a light breeze won't slide it off your desk. Build quality is excellent, and we've got nothing to complain about.
Seagate used a mini USB connector, and we really don't see much point in this. Most vendors use them, but there's plenty of room for a standard connector, and for the sake of compatibility, a standard USB would have been much better.
Once you hook it up and start transferring some serious lumps of data, you'll notice that the Seagate is quiet. Very quiet, in fact. We're guessing much of this has to do with the choice of materials, as a lot of thick plastic should absorb more noise and vibrations than aluminium, and the horizontal layout, with four widely spaced rubber pads helps deal with vibrations.
We must say we had some misgivings about the lack of aluminium, and its effect on cooling ability. However, there's nothing to worry about. Although a vertical layout is superior in terms of airflow, the Desktop is surprisingly cool, and thermals are not an issue.
Even after copying some 300GB of data, the drive was merely lukewarm. Looking at the bottom, you'll see two rows of cooling grills, and both are rather small. In spite of that, the heatsink manages to keep the 7200rpm drive cool under load.
Frankly, there's really not much point in testing performance, as it's a USB 2.0 drive, but we ran HD Tune anyway. A 7200rpm drive with 32MB of cache is overkill for USB 2.0, but still we can see respectable seek times, and overall performance is pretty good, not just in benchmarks, but in real life. You simply can't ask for more out of a USB 2.0 drive.
The Seagate Desktop is a straightforward affair. It's quiet and it doesn't heat up much, but most importantly, it's cheap, very cheap. With prices starting at €74 for the 1TB version, and €109 for the 1.5TB version, it's one of the cheapest drives in this market segment.
It's biggest drawback is its sizable footprint, made worse by the lack of a vertical mounting option. So, in case you've got room for it, it's a very good choice, and it also looks quite a bit better than most cheap drives.
Thanks to recession friendly pricing, Seagete's Desktop gets our Top Value Award.