• Price: 82.6 . 89.56 . 117 . 144

  • Company: Seagate

  • Pros: Low cost. eSATA interface; long warranty.

  • Cons: Very limited Mac usability; slow performance.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

This drive is reviewed as part of our group test of desktop storage devices.

Let’s get one thing clear: the FreeAgent XTreme is clearly not intended for Mac users. The other two members of Seagate’s FreeAgent range – the desktop Desk and portable Go models – are available in ‘for Mac’ versions, which add both types of FireWire interface to the Windows models’ USB 2.0 connections (as well as adding Mac formatting).

The flagship FreeAgent XTreme model is also a single-drive model, but has an eSATA interface for faster connection (as well as USB 2.0 and standard FireWire). There’s no ‘for Mac’ version available, and Seagate underlines this point by making it impossible to format the FreeAgent XTreme to Mac OS X’s HFS+ file system over USB or FireWire, and by not including any Mac software.

For Windows-only users, the FreeAgent XTreme aims to offer a fast way to work on your files at a low cost. However, it’s on the slow side considering what it has to offer. When reading and writing over USB 2.0 and FireWire – where we saw little difference between most drives – Seagate’s drive was noticeably slower than its rivals. Only the Drobo, which uses compression for its unique RAID system, was slower.

Over eSATA, the single-drive FreeAgent XTreme was always going to be slower than its dual-drive rivals. We managed to format our test unit to HFS+ for these tests over eSATA – but we checked the speed scores on our Windows workstation too, which confirmed them.

Seagate’s FreeAgent software is installed from the unit. The FreeAgent backup software is simple, but also offers advanced features, such as the ability to sync files between multiple computers, and encrypt data. The Seagate Manager software provides control over how it powers down and when the front lights up.

The white glow from the mix of curved lines and dots on the device’s front is pleasing and overall the design is quite attractive – though it won’t turn heads like LaCie’s Hard Disk Max. It can either lie flat or sit on a stand to take up less desk space.

Seagate’s confidence in its product is reflected in the five-year warranty it offers, which is two years longer than any of its rivals.