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Great drive, but short warranty
on June 29, 2012
I've purchased a lot of different hard drives over the years and used to build my own external drives using internal drives and external enclosures. It used to be cheaper to build your own external drives. These days, external hard drives are very competitively priced, like the Seagate Expansion drive.
- Stays cool
- Fast USB 3.0 performance
- Backwards compatible with USB 2.0
- Works with Mac OS X 10.4.8 and up
- Measly 1 year warranty
DESIGN & BUILD
The Seagate Expansion portable hard drive's enclosure is made out of matte plastic that feels pretty well made, though I'd prefer aluminum for durability and better heat dissipation. Glossy plastic enclosures are hard to keep looking good, so kudos to Seagate for using the matte plastic instead. The back of the drive has the USB 3.0 port and there's an itty bitty blue power/activity light on top of the drive, towards the back. Also, there are small rubber feet on the bottom, to keep the drive from sliding around on your desk. The USB 3.0 cable is short, so it's best suited for use with laptops.
CrystalDiskInfo identified the internal drive as a Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012, which is a SATA II (3Gb/s) drive with a 16MB cache. It has a height of 7mm and runs at 5400RPM. 5400 RPM drives are the standard for portable external hard drives because they don't run as hot as 7200 RPM drives. 5400 RPM drives are perfectly suitable as storage drives.
I tested the Seagate Expansion drive over USB 3.0 with CrystalDiskMark and got sequential read/write rates of 107MB/s read and 105MB/s write. That's likely about 3 times the rate of what you'd get over USB 2.0. So yes, the Seagate Expansion USB 3.0 drive is great for transferring large multimedia files, like photos, movies, and music. Of course, there are plenty of other USB 3.0 drives with similar performance.
The formatted capacity of the 500 GB drive is 465 GB. On the drive, there's a small registration utility for Windows that's safe to delete after you register. I deleted the utility, but kept the autorun.inf and SeagateExpansion.ico files so the drive would show up with a Seagate icon in Windows Explorer.
Online, the bare 500GB drive can be bought for around $65-$75, so the external version is a decent value if you like the enclosure and internal drive.
Though the Amazon product description doesn't mention compatibility with Mac OS X, Seagate's website shows compatibility with OS 10.4.8 and higher. It comes pre-formatted in NTFS, however, so you'll need to reformat it if you intend to use it with a Mac.
The Seagate Expansion portable hard drive comes with a measly one year warranty. The Western Digital My Passport 500 GB USB 3.0 portable hard drive costs nearly the same as the Seagate Expansion drive, but comes with backup software, has hardware encryption, and a two year warranty. For a little bit more, you can even get Seagate's own Backup Plus 500 GB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive , with a two year warranty. As far which company makes better hard drives, well, that's hard to say. I've used drives from both companies for many years and I've had drives from both companies fail. In fact, it's not unusual for hard drives to fail over time, which is why the length of the warranty can be a significant factor in deciding which drive to buy.
The Seagate Expansion portable hard drive is a very nice drive. It performs very well and is a pretty good value overall, however, the short warranty is a concern. I like the drive a lot, but I'd personally look for a portable hard drive with a longer warranty.