When connected to a USB 3.0 port, Seagate GoFlex's 4TB drive is as fast as I could ever hope it to be. Spinning at 7,200 RPM with a density of 800GB on each of its five platters, the GoFlex well exceeds the limits of USB 3.0 cards connected to a PCIe x1 interface. Only if you're lucky enough to have USB 3.0 built onto your motherboard will you be able to reap the full benefits of the drive. Let's take a look at some benchmarks.
As you can see in the above HD Tune Pro benches, the GoFlex attained a maximum read and write speed of 177MB/s and 157.6MB/s respectively. Dropping off towards the outer edges of the drive as all rotational drives do, performance sunk to around 80MB/s, giving average read and write speeds of 135.8MB/s and 131.7MB/s. This is very, very good for an external drive, and beats Seagate's own rated speed of 125MB/s. The gradually sloping curves in the chart also do well to indicate that the SATA to USB 3.0 bridge chip is moving data along rather efficiently as if it were an internal drive. Seagate does have some room for improvement based on the plateaued write performance throughout the first quarter of the drive, but this is easily overlooked by the sheer awesomeness of having average write speeds in excess of 130MB/s. Bravo.
ASMedia USB 3.0 Host Issue
One note of caution that I'd like to share is that the GoFlex USB 3.0 dock might be incompatible with ASmedia-based USB 3.0 controllers. I'm currently in the process of reviewing HighPoint's RocketU 1144A that features no less than four ASM1042U controllers on a single PCIe x4 card, and was disappointed to see that the GoFlex drive would repeatedly exhibit I/O errors and flake out when connected to this card. Thankfully, the problem appears to be mitigated by uninstalling the Seagate Dashboard software.
None of my other USB 3.0 drives have a problem with the RocketU USB 3.0 card. Likewise, the Seagate drive is rock solid when connected to the NEC/Renesas controllers on my motherboard and PCIe x1 cards, with or without the Seagate Dashboard software. So where does the problem lie? I'm not yet sure, but I've reached out to Seagate and their engineers are currently looking into things. I'll update this review if we get a definitive response back. If you have an ASmedia-based USB 3.0 host and end up purchasing a 2011 GoFlex drive, we'd like to hear from you!
Warranty and Pricing
Like the 2010 models before it, the GoFlex Desk comes with a basic 2-year warranty. This matches LaCie's 2-year warranty term and doubles what Western Digital and Buffalo currently offer for external drives, but falls short of OWC's 3-year warranty for their Mercury drives. So while it's impossible for me to say that Seagate's warranty is bad in a relative sense, I can't help but bemoan how pathetic of a warranty it is compared to what was being offered by Seagate only a few years ago. Both the original FreeAgent Pro and the FreeAgent XTreme offered 5-year warranties. Five years! I don't know if the slashing of warranties expresses a lower confidence by manufacturers in their own products or if it's merely a symptom of the downed economy and cutbacks, but this industry movement is bad for consumers and is only getting worse. Seagate, you're seen as a market leader. Please reverse this trend.
The 4TB GoFlex Desk should retail for $250 according to Seagate's original press release, but as of December 2011 hard drive prices are inflated across the board due to the serious flooding in Thailand where many hard drive parts are manufactured. Amazon and Newegg are both price gouging at $320, and the cheapest I can currently find it is $300 at Micro Center (online), or $250 at Best Buy's brick and mortar stores. Thankfully, these both still beat my psychological barrier of 10 cents per gigabyte, but you'll want to shop cautiously for the next few months until the market stabilizes.
Sleek monolithic design
Passively convection cooled
Excellent R/W speeds for a HDD
USB 3.0/2.0 compatible
Can be converted for FireWire 400/800
Real-time backups monitor for changes
Lacks a power button
Not designed for horizontal placement
Software incompatible with ASmedia-based USB 3.0 controllers
Seagate's got a clear winner on their hands with this four terabyte juggernaut. Boasting average read and write speeds in excess of 130MB/s, an innovative solution to the 2TB limit for XP users, easy backups and inbuilt compatibility with Mac and PC, it was hard to find anything not to like about this drive. Assuming that you can forgive the lack of a power switch and feet for horizontal placement, the GoFlex Desk 4TB comes highly recommended.