Seagate refreshes external storage with GoFlex line

New design highlights flexibility, future connection standards

Seagate's new GoFlex family of drives

I’ve really enjoyed seeing the evolution of Seagate’s FreeAgent Go line of portable, external hard drive offerings over the year, so I’m a bit sad to see the entire line go away. Yet I’m excited about its replacement – the new GoFlex storage family, which Seagate announced today.

The new line features portable, desktop, network-attached and multimedia devices in a new form factor that allows for flexibility with current connection options such as USB 2.0, 3.0, FireWire and eSATA, and also allows for future upgradeability. In addition, the GoFlex drives will work with both PC and Macintosh systems (note AND, not OR), which means consumers with a mixed environment will be able to use one drive to easily copy, share and store files. Through the use of an NTFS driver for Mac OS X systems, users will be able to allow access to the Windows-formatted drive.

I love the idea of this flexible, detachable cable option. While a removable part might not appeal to some, it solves a bunch of problems when it comes to storage connections – I’d love to be able to take an older drive with content on it and be able to transfer it via faster USB 3.0, or connect it to a Mac via FireWire 800. The new cables and Macintosh integration now make this possible.

The new line is available for purchase online today, and will be in stores by the end of June. Here’s what was announced:

GoFlex portable drive
The GoFlex drive features a 5400RPM hard drive with 320GB ($99.99), 500GB ($129.99), 750GB ($169.99) or 1TB ($199.99) of capacity. The system comes with a USB 2.0 connection, but users can purchase a separate cable to upgrade to USB 3.0, FireWire 800 or eSATA connections. One end of the drive snaps off the drive, allowing for the cable to be changed. Also included is preloaded backup and encryption software.

The GoFlex Pro drive is a 7200 RPM drive that includes premium backup and encryption software, an additional “intelligent desktop dock” that includes a capacity gauge (a series of lights that tells you how much capacity you’re using). It can be upgraded to USB 3.0, FireWire 800 or eSATA, just like the GoFlex drive.

The GoFlex Desk external drive is an external hard drive meant to connect to your existing desktop PC, and can upgrade to USB 3.0 or FireWire connections (no eSATA connection capability). Like the portable drives, the GoFlex Desk works with both PC and Mac systems. Two capacities are offered: 1TB (119.99) and 2TB ($189.99).

That would be cool enough, but Seagate is taking the extra steps by having additional products that will work with the GoFlex line.

The GoFlex Net media sharing device ($99.99) replaces the company’s DockStar NAS offering. The device connects to a home router and enables easy file sharing across a home network. In addition, users can access content outside their home via a PC, iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, Android or other Internet-connected mobile phone. Another cool feature – the ability to instantly publish photos from the drive to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, with the option of quickly removing the photos from Facebook if you want (the photos are never uploaded to Facebook, but rather Facebook accesses the photos from the GoFlex Net device).

The GoFlex TV HD media player ($129.99) replaces the company’s FreeAgent Theater Plus line of home entertainment devices. By inserting a GoFlex portable drive into the media dock, you can access the content on the drive on a HD TV (up to 1080p resolution). The GoFlex TV system connects to your network via an Ethernet port or optional Wi-Fi adapter. The device also can stream video from Internet video services, including YouTube, MediaFly, Picasa and Netflix (access your instant streaming queue).

The GoFlex cables range in price from $19.99 (USB 2.0) to $39.99 (FireWire 800), and other upgrade kits for eSATA and USB 3.0 will also be available. Seagate also plans to introduce the concept of “application cables”, which would allow for specific applications to be stored on Flash memory on the cable, and then would install on the drive when the cable is attached. An Auto Backup cable ($29.99) would deliver continuous backup and data protection (much like the older Seagate Replica system) when attached to the drive and a PC.

The company also updated its storage management software – the Seagate Dashboard provides an easier view of applications on the drive, the ability for users to buy additional application, and other management utilities.

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