Seagate Backup Plus Storage Drives
Weighing less than 250 grams and slightly smaller than a smartphone, the three Backup Plus drives are ideal for travellers as they will take up minimal space in a handbag and add little to the weight you carry.
Seagate’s line of Backup Plus external hard disk drives was updated at CES 2019 in January this year with new capacities added and new finishes and colours. Unlike the previous generation drives, the new models come with exFAT formatting, which enables them to be used as supplied with both Mac and PCs. There are three models in the Backup Plus range: Backup Plus Slim, Backup Plus Ultra Touch and Backup Plus Portable. The first two have one and two terabyte capacities, while Backup Plus Portable drives come in 4TB and 5TB capacities.
Seagate’s Backup Plus Slim drives are available in seven colours. (Source: Seagate.)
The new Backup Plus Slim and Backup Plus Ultra Touch drives come in 1TB and 2TB capacities, while the Backup Plus Portable drives are offered in 4TB and 5TB configurations. Both drives use Seagate’s high density drive platters, which appear not to have changed since the previous models.
The main differences between the new drives and their predecessors is the bundled software, which includes a subscription to Mylio Create and two months’ membership of the Adobe CC Photography Plan (which includes Photoshop and Lightroom). Mylio Create is a file management app that brings photos together into a single, searchable library and includes basic editing and sharing facilities. It can work across multiple devices, including tablets and smartphones.
Mylio Create has a Basic plan which covers three devices and up to 25,000 photos and is available free of charge. The bundled subscription is for a free year at a higher level with a larger library and more devices. The annual fee for this subscription is US$50.
Adobe’s CC Photography Plan normally costs AU$14.29 per month and includes 20GB of cloud storage. You can choose 1TB of cloud storage for a monthly fee of AU$28.59.
For our review, Photo Review received the latest Backup Plus Slim and Backup Plus Portable drives, the former in the 2TB capacity and the latter with 5TB. Since no higher capacity models have been released since 2016, 5TB appears to be the capacity limit for 2.5-inch portable hard disk drives.
Who are they for?
Weighing less than 250 grams and slightly smaller than a smartphone, the three Backup Plus drives are ideal for travellers as they will take up minimal space in a handbag and add little to the weight you carry. Which one you choose will depend upon the capacity you require (see the Conclusions section below), whether you need hardware encryption or if you could utilise the Seagate Rescue Services subscription.
The two drives
The drives we received have similar footprints as well as similar, utilitarian designs. As expected, given its much higher capacity, the Backup Plus Portable drive is roughly twice the thickness of the Backup Plus Slim drive and a little over twice its weight.
Each drive has a simple rectangular chassis made from plastic with a thin, brushed aluminium top plate that curls round to the end panel opposite the panel that carries the Micro-B USB 3.0 port. A Seagate’ swirl’ logo and a tiny status LED are the only (minor) interruptions on the metal panel to attract attention.
Backup Plus Portable drives are thicker than Backup Plus Slim drives because of their higher capacity. (Source: Seagate.)
This illustration shows the differences in thickness between the Slim drive (top) and Portable drive (below), along with their USB 3.0 ports. (Source: Seagate.)
The drives are supplied with a 46 cm long USB 3.0 Type A to Micro-B cable, which is compatible with earlier USB 2.0 ports, enabling the drives to be used with older equipment. Data transfer speeds will be slower when USB 2.0 interfaces are used.
There appears to be no easy way to open the case if you want to extract the magnetic platter in the unlikely event that it fails. Pricing of these drives – at least for the lower capacities – suggests that they aren’t meant to be repaired.
The Backup Plus Slim drive we received had a smart-looking red top panel with subtle linear etching, which wrapped around the top face. The remainder of the cladding appeared to be made from plastic. It was white with a matte finish that was quite comfortable to hold. The supplied cable was also white.
The 2TB capacity drive we received should suit photographers with 16- to 40-megapixel cameras if they mostly shoot stills. It should also suit videographers who record 4K footage, since on average, an hour of 4K compressed footage at 25/30 fps will create roughly 30GB of data.
Amateur videographers are unlikely to want to store more than 66GB of movie clips taken on a holiday trip – particularly if faced by that volume of data for editing. Splitting shooting options roughly evenly between stills and video, a 2TB drive should be enough for a two-week trip.
The Backup Plus Portable drive is a slightly different beast, although its footprint is similar to the Slim drive’s. But it’s toughly twice as thick in order to accommodate its higher capacity. The 5TB drive we received was a ‘silver’ model with a brushed aluminium front and end panel and black plastic chassis. A 46 cm long black USB 3.0 cable was provided.
Going on information sources through web searches, it seems this model contains the same, five-platter assembly as the original Backup Plus Portable drive launched in 2016. Each platter in the assembly has a capacity of 1TB and the drive has a spindle speed of 5400 RPM plus a 128MB cache.
Out of the box, each of these drives comes with a few pre-installed files and folders, among them separate ‘Start Here’ apps for the Windows and Mac operating systems, which open a Seagate web page so you can register the drive and download Seagate Dashboard software. There’s also a PDF warranty document.
By default, the drive comes formatted in the exFAT file system, which will suit most Windows or Mac installations and enables cross-platform readability. Mac users who wish to use Apple’s Time Machine may need to format the drive in HFS+ while some Windows users may choose to reformat the drive to NTFS to optimise performance. Note that reformatting the drive will erase EVERYTHING on it, including the pre-loaded setup and warranty folders and files.
Clicking on ‘Start Here’ icon launches a largely automated process. Initially you’re asked to register the drive by providing your name and email address and checking the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Statement boxes.
Clicking on Next takes you to a page where you can download Seagate’s Toolkit utility which, unusually, isn’t pre-loaded on the drive. The wizard recommends formatting the drive before using it. A pop-up window requires you to accept the Terms and Conditions, Privacy Statement and End User License Agreement before you can proceed.
Toolkit lets you copy folders and files to the drive and includes facilities for managing security (including password protection), setting up backup and sync plans and restoring data. A warranty document in PDF format is also provided.
Once you’ve installed Toolkit you can access the other ‘benefits’ Seagate provides, including software and recovery services. Each drive comes with a one-year subscription to Mylio Create, a database-driven photo-organisation application that keeps track of image files across multiple devices and provides basic editing and sharing facilities as well as ensuring your images are always backed up. For what it’s worth the basic Mylio app is available free for Android and iOS mobile devices so anyone shooting with a smartphone can give it a try.
The free app supports up to three devices and provides storage for up to 25,000 photos, while Seagate’s Mylio Create plan covers five devices, stores up to 100,000 photos and supports raw image editing. After the first year of the subscription, a fee of US$50 per annum will apply.
We’ve had unfortunate experiences with image backup software in the past and were unwilling to download the trial software. But we did check it out for this review.
On the plus side, at least Mylio gives you control over which images are chosen and where they are stored. For the latter, that can be an external drive, a network-attached storage device, your laptop and/or desktop or a cloud service like Google Drive or Dropbox.
However, Mylio doesn’t include cloud storage; instead it creates a ‘Vault’ on your main computer but you can nominate a cloud service as your preferred Vault. You can also nominate whether you want images stored at full quality or reduced to a designated viewing size and you can choose the synch settings when you set up the account.
Photographers who aren’t already using applications like Apple Photos, Google Photos, Corel Paintshop Pro, Photoshop Elements or Adobe Bridge CC might find Mylio useful for managing large, ever-changing image libraries. But since we have our own system for managing images, we decided it wasn’t for us.
As part of the registrations process, Seagate also includes a two-month complimentary membership to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan, which gives you access to Adobe’s Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC applications. Internet access is required to take advantage of these two offers.
Seagate also offers two- and three-year subscriptions to its Rescue Data Recovery Services at US$9.99 and US$14.99, respectively. We were unable to discover the local costs associated with these plans and suggest readers check out the plans with their local re-seller before proceeding.
Backing up files is simple and you can use existing facilities in your computer’s operating system or simply copy and paste (or drag and drop) folders and files between a device (computer, camera, card reader) and the Seagate drive. To evaluate the performance of the review drives, we set up two typical ‘real life’ situations which users would be likely to encounter. For one, we selected a 102GB folder in our Windows 10 computer and backed it up to each drive, noting how long the process took.
For the other, we loaded a 32GB Lexar SDHC II U3 card with a read/write speed of 300 MB/second with approximately 15GB of original JPEG and ORF.RAW files and downloaded it to a laptop with a USB-C via an adapter. (This could represent a typical day’s shooting.) We also investigated how much slower it would be to transfer the 15GB of image files via a USB 2.0 card reader.
By way of reference, the theoretical maximum transfer speed of the USB 3.0 standard is 640MB/second, while that of the USB 2.0 standard is roughly a tenth of that at 60MB/second. In practice, write speeds often fall far below those standards.
For the first test using the USB 3.0 interfaces, backup times varied between 125 and 136MB/second, with the backup to the Backup Plus Portable drive taking just over 13 seconds on average. This equates to a real-life speed of around 127MB/second. The Backup Plus Slim was marginally faster with an average transfer speed of 128MB/second. In each case, the drive became warm to the touch while files were being transferred.
We didn’t pursue the backups with the USB 2.0 interface since the drive speed monitor showed transfer speeds varying between 13 and 15 MB/second. At those speeds backing up the 102GB folder would have taken hours and there may have been a risk of the drive overheating.
For the second test, the 12GB batch of image files was transferred to each drive at much the same speeds, in both cases averaging a little over a minute and a half, equivalent to a transfer rate of around 128MBps. The drive was very quiet during this transfer and barely became lukewarm to the touch.
Transferring the same files to an older laptop with a USB 2.0 interface took six minutes and 13 seconds with the Backup Plus Slim drive and six minutes and 21 seconds with the Backup Plus Portable drive.
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|Backup Plus Slim||Backup Plus Portable|
|Colours||Black, silver, blue, red, gold, grey, rose gold||Black, silver, blue|
|Texture||Polished aluminium top and front panel|
|Capacities||1TB, 2TB||4TB, 5TB|
|Operating systems||Windows and Mac OS|
|Adobe CC Photography Plan||Two-month membership to Adobe Creative Photography Plan is redeemable during product registration.|
|2-year Seagate Rescue Services||No|
|Dimensions||114.8 x 78 x 11.7 mm||113.5 x 76 x 12.1 mm|
|Weight||126 grams||247 grams|
Distributor: Seagate Australia, 1800 147 201
RRP: 1TB $99; 2TB $139; 4TB $209; 5TB $299
- Build: 8.6
- Ease of Use: 8.7
- Versatility: 8.8
- Software: 8.5
- Performance: 8.7