Seagate Recently launched what may be the beginning of a very fruitful relationship for them their new Seagate Duet “Cloud-Syncing Portable External Hard Drive”(that’s a mouthful) the Duet is a 1tb external hard drive that is based on the st1000lm035 model drives a recent 7mm 5400rpm drive the entire package is very thin and light barely noticeable in a laptop bag. The drive is paired with an app that automatically syncs data to/from the drive and amazon cloud drive in an automatically created duet folder, as an added bonus the drives include a year of amazon drive unlimited storage. Someone at Seagate or amazon timed the release of this drive very well tying in with the holiday season when people are taking photos for both Christmas and new years, vising their grandparents and being family tech support, and this drive with automated cloud backup offers
The Drive users Shingled Magnetic recording(SMR) which has an impact on performance but shouldn’t interfere with the normal use of the drive and is several generations evolved from it’s initial debut, SMR is an alternative to the Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) technique that has been in use for some time that lays down tracks on the hard drive parallel to each other, in contrast SMR lays the tracks down overlapping with each other reducing the track width to that of the read head(which is smaller than the write head) For more information on SMR please visit storage review.
Physically this is one of the smallest terabyte class drives i’ve ever seen coming in at 7mm thick for the bare drive and ever so slightly more than that with it’s enclosure, it’s slightly longer than the WD drives as Seagate continues to employ a separate sata to usb bridge from the main drive, an encouraging decision as it would allow them to move this to 2tb drives(there is an identical physical size drive they already make in that capacity) in the same form factor should they decide to in the near future. As an aside I personally do prefer the separate sata bridge should the connector ever become damaged it’s possible to dismantle and recover the data on the drive, although being backed up to the cloud this is a non issue on a drive like the duet.
Starting with synthetic tests adding a stable of collection of 2.5 inch drives I had on hand and including the data from the OWC miniStack we see that the smaller platter drives are all performing similarly, a good sign considering that both Seagate drives in this test use SMR unlike the WD drives used in the test. For our Duet We see speeds at 125 MB/a or higher sequentially for both read and write as well as both tested queue depths. Random access is as expected abysmal compared to solid state drives however this isn’t particularly relevant for a drive that’s intended use is simply storage and not an operating system drive or storage of a users steam library.
We do have a new test starting with this drive a file copy test using real world data(a mix of files I had for pocketables as well as several others) the data set totals 25.4Gb and contains a wide variety of file types and sizes. These are copied to the drive(with the sync app paused as to not cause simultaneous read and write) I plan to use this same set and test method going forward for any PC storage we review. looking at the results despite a good showing with synthetic tests the SMR drives(the Seagate drives) in this test are both noticeably slower for this mixed workload taking two minutes and eighteen seconds longer than the fastest drive and averaging out to a data rate of 55MB/s for mixed data write. This isn’t so slow that the drive is unusable but highlights it’s intended workload of backup and archival storage as opposed to live storage for photo or video editing.
Cloud & Mobile
The initial setup of the cloud synchronization app was very simple and almost entirely self guided simply asking for credentials for the amazon account to be used an automatically activating it’s 1 year of included unlimited prime storage after which it simply syncs everything on the drive as it comes in, behaving similar to the google drive folder or dropbox folders that their cloud services use, but with a dedicated 1tb storage included locally. I did note one thing I wasn’t able to test is that it seems to have provisions built in for multiple duet drives(which I will post an update once i know more about) and that it does recognize other Seagate Drives(in this case my 4tb backup plus) this seems like a missed opportunity to have the ability to “activate” other Seagate drives you may already own for additional local storage(for some reasonable fee I’m sure). The app side of the equation is roughly equivalent to google’s offering, their photos app offers unlimited storage and automatic backups, the drive app works well, the only hangup I noticed poking about through it was a decreased native file support drive lets me preview spreadsheets and such whereas the amazon app can preview a more limited set of files, I was able to open word documents images and pdf files inside the app others asked me to open them in a different app, not a substantial problem as office is free on android but it certainly makes it feel a bit limited.
Bringing this all together we have a slower than average but respectable 2.5 inch portable hard drive in a thin and light package combined with a very basic but effective synchronizing app as well as a year of drive unlimited. This drive is very clearly more than the sum of it’s well connected parts, the bare drive is currently listed at 55usd and a year of unlimited storage is regularly 59.99 those two alone ignoring the enclosure total more than the 99 that the duet retails for. With the convenience of cloud plus physical and respectable performance for a backup solution I have no qualm recommending the Seagate duet as a robust method of keeping your files safe and accessibly, a welcome thing during the holidays. Anyone interested in the Seagate Duet can find them on amazon here.