The Backup Plus Fast looks like any other external drive from the outside. But what’s on the inside counts, and in this case it counts very fast indeed.
Seagate Backup Plus Fast: On the plus side
Hard drives are, as a rule, not terribly exciting creatures. That’s more or less by design, because they’re the mechanisms by which we store content, which can be exciting. Who gets excited by a container, though?
Seagate does try hard to raise enthusiasm for the Backup Plus Fast, however, with the promise of fast drive access speeds. Specifically, it’s a USB 3.0 connected 4TB drive with two RAID 0 array 2.5 inch drives within. The use of RAID 0 extends its speed capabilities, with, as per Seagate’s own claims, “up to” 220MB per second transfer rates.
Rates listed as “up to” always get me wondering, and for a reason. It’s often a weaselly way of saying what a drive might be able to do under ideal conditions, but these don’t often happen in actual real world situations. So I tested the drive copying a series of files, both folders of files and single large files in order to get a more realistic picture of what the Backup Plus Fast can actually manage.
Single Large file (535MB): 232MB/s read, 225MB/s write
Folder of files (600MB): 205MB/s read, 200MB/s write
That’s astonishingly quick for a mechanical drive, although you will have to connect it up to a USB 3.0 port to make the most of it. Connect it to a USB 2.0 port and it remains functional, but also significantly slower.
There are nearly always two aspects to assessing a hard drive. There’s the physical hardware, and then there’s the software supplied. Seagate’s inclusion with the Backup Plus Fast is Seagate Dashboard 2.0, a bundled application suite on the drive that also (at least for my install) involved a 93.9MB download package as well. Seagate Dashboard covers incremental backups of local data, as well as connected mobile backup of iOS and Android devices.
If you’re using the Backup Plus Fast on a laptop you may find that the single cable solution won’t cut it to power the drive, but nicely there’s a double-headed cable included in the box if you do need extra power.
Seagate Backup Plus Fast: On the minus side
The idea of backing up mobile devices to a large capacity storage device has a lot of appeal, but only if it works in a relatively seamless fashion. Backup is generally tedious stuff, so it’s something you’re usually going to want to just set and forget.
Unfortunately, at least during my testing, I was never able to get the Android Seagate Backup App to talk to the Backup Plus Fast. The drives could see each other, they were both logged into a valid account, and yet every time I initiated a backup, it would fail, over and over, with an “unknown” error. Hopefully that’s a short term app glitch, but for now it’s not a drive I’d buy with mobile backup as a direct priority.
There’s an additional issue to consider with the Backup Plus Fast, and it’s that as a backup drive, it’s something of an eggs-in-one-basket creature. RAID 0 has no redundancy built in, so if just one of the internal drives fails, the whole Backup Plus Fast becomes a plastic brick — and fast.
Seagate Backup Plus Fast: Pricing
The 4TB Seagate Backup Plus has an RRP of $409.
Seagate Backup Plus Fast: Fat Duck verdict
The Backup Plus Fast lives up to its billing, at least for the most part. The buggy nature of the mobile app is a concern, but beyond that, it’s certainly backup-capable, and it’s undeniably fast.
It’s still something of a niche product, however, simply because you’ve got to justify that $409 price point. If you need that much concentrated storage in a small unit with speed enough to, for example, edit video on the fly, then there’s a lot of value here.
If on the other hand you just need a backup drive — and if you’re reading this, YOU NEED A BACKUP DRIVE — then there’s no shortage of cheaper, albeit slower options for much less money.