A hard drive is a hard drive is a hard drive. Unless you’re a deep study, the differences between competing portable storage drives seem minute, and few things influence purchasing decisions more than capacity and price.
Warranty and brand loyalty are sometimes factors — we each have horror stories about dead hard drives, all of which end in a declaration along the lines of “I’ll never buy a Whizzo-Disk USB drive again!” — but the fact is, most people just focus on how much it holds and how much it costs.
Hoping to change that thinking, manufacturers are introducing more consumer-friendly add-ons to their storage products. Take as an example the new Backup Plus line of drives from Seagate. They come pre-loaded with software that, in addition to automatically backing up your PC, also sucks down all the photos you’ve stored on Facebook and Flickr. They’re versatile, too — a modular adapter system lets you swap in different interfaces to match your computer’s connection type (though Seagate has offered this feature for a while).
The new “Backup Plus” name is also intended to increase retail shelf appeal. The company has rebranded its entire Go Flex line of consumer hard drives as Backup Plus, and the new drives are remarkably similar to the older Go Flex drives. You get a fast-performing, easy-to-use drive at a good price — the Backup Plus Portable line I tested comes in at $130 for the 1TB, $120 for the 750GB and $110 for the 500GB. The company also makes a larger Desktop drive that maxes out at 4TB capacity, and a razor-thin Slim drive that only comes in a 500GB size.
The Backup Plus Portable 1TB enclosure I tested measures about 3 by 5 inches and, like the GoFlex, is topped with a Universal Storage Module (USM) adapter. This is a connection technology based on the SATA standard that lets you snap a variety of interfaces onto the drive. My tester came with a USB 3.0 adapter attached. But if I upgrade to a machine with Thunderbolt, I can swap in Seagate’s Thunderbolt USM module ($100), and just like that, my drive becomes a Thunderbolt drive. Likewise, if I need to use the drive within an existing FireWire workflow, there’s a USM module with a FireWire 800 connection (price TBD). It’s a nice feature that increases the drive’s versatility, doesn’t add too much bulk — it gains about half an inch to the length — and future-proofs the thing to a certain extent.