Seagate Backup Plus Desktop Drive for Mac (3TB) review

The Seagate Backup Plus Desktop for Mac external hard drive is a nicely priced and featured drive that's a good match for Apple's Time Machine.

The Seagate Backup Plus Desktop Drive for Mac (3TB) ($179.99 list) is a desktop drive that has enough space to back up all currently shipping MacBook laptops and Mac desktops. It can also be used as a repository for your digital life, including photos, videos, and music. While it’s not the fastest drive out there, it has enough speed to make sure you’re not waiting on it to copy groups of files back and forth from the primary drive in your Mac. It’s a good choice for the digital pack rat who needs a place to put all his digital photos and video downloads.

Design and Features
The Backup Plus Desktop Drive for Mac (3TB) looks very similar to the former Editors’ Choice Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk (4TB) ($250 list, 4 stars) that we reviewed earlier, with the same black plastic construction. This time, however, the Mac version has a matte silver stripe instead of a black one. The GoFlex and Backup Plus desktop lines share the same USM (Universal Storage Module) connectors between the base and the drive chassis. The USM connector allows you to physically lock the drive away at night while keeping the power and USB connectors connected to your Mac. Alternately, you can purchase a desktop Thunderbolt adapter ($189) so you can use the drive with the faster and more flexible Thunderbolt interface on current Macs. Aside from the USB and power ports on the back, there is a row of LEDs on the front of the base that let you know how full the drive is (provided you have the Seagate Dashboard software installed).

The drive we reviewed has a 3TB capacity, and there is a 2TB version currently available ($129.99). Theoretically, the base should be able to support a 4TB model as well, though that model isn’t yet available. We suppose you could put the GoFlex Desk’s 4TB drive on the Backup Plus’ base and use it that way. The drive measures 7 by 1.75 by 4.75 inches (HWD) with the base installed. Since the drive requires an AC adapter to power up, this is strictly a deskbound drive. It’s portable in that it’s easy to pick up, but you won’t be able to use it away from a power outlet, as you would a true bus-powered portable drive. The 3TB is plenty to back up or store the files from most desktops and laptops, good enough to hold over 100 high-definition movies and hundreds of standard-definition ones. The drive comes pre-formatted with Mac OS X’s HFS+ format, so it will work with Time Machine out of the box.

The Backup Plus Desktop also comes with Seagate’s Dashboard software, which activates the capacity gauge on the front of the drive’s base. Four LEDs show how full the drive is while it’s on. Seagate Dashboard also can be used to upload photos and videos to social media services like Facebook and Flickr, plus Dashboard can also be set to automatically or manually download pictures from your profile(s) on Facebook and Flickr for local safekeeping. Essentially it helps you manage your digital life online and locally on your Mac. Our current Editors’ Choice desktop drive, the ioSafe Solo G3 (1TB) ($299 direct, 4.5 stars), relies on brute force and a bulletproof chassis to keep your data safe. The Seagate leverages online storage, helping you share and keep your photos safe online via social networking. The Backup Plus Desktop comes with a two-year warranty, better than the one-year warranty found on more generic hard drives.

Performance
This is a fairly speedy drive. It takes a scant eight seconds to copy our standard 1.2GB test folder via USB 3.0. This is much faster than the Iomega Mac Companion (3TB) ($369.99 list, 3.5 stars) (42 sec USB 2.0, 30 sec FireWire800), which also uses a single 3TB drive mechanism. That said, performance drives like the LaCie Little Big Disk 1TB SSD (Thunderbolt) ($999 list, 4.5 stars) are faster at six seconds. Likewise on the AJA System test (a test of data throughput optimized for video), the Seagate Backup Plus puts in a strong 167 MBps write throughput and a 171 MBps read throughput, way outclassing the Iomega Mac Companion by a factor of four or five. Of course, the SSD-powered LaCie Little Big Disk leaves them all in the dust. Essentially, the Seagate Backup Plus is a good Time Machine drive for quick file backups, but there are better-specialized drives for video editors and scientific users.

The Seagate Backup Plus Desktop is a very good Mac drive for the user that needs to clear a lot of space off their primary hard drives, or needs a Time Machine drive to back up the 1-3TB hard drive in their desktop Mac. You can of course use it with a MacBook laptop, but you’ll have to leave the drive in your office or at home, since it’s not portable. The current Editors’ Choice ioSafe Solo G3 holds on to its desktop-class drive crown thanks to its data protections, both physical and pre-paid data recovery after an incident. The Solo G3 can also be bolted down to a metal or wood surface, which adds to its security. But if you simply need a repository for the files from your Mac, the Seagate Backup Plus Desktop Drive is a very good choice.

COMPARISON TABLE
Compare the Seagate Backup Plus Desktop Drive for Mac (3TB) with several other hard drive side by side.

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Specifications
System Type Desktop
Type External
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 3000 GB
Ports USB 2.0, SATA, USB 3.0

Verdict
The Seagate Backup Plus Desktop for Mac external hard drive ups the speeds with USB 3.0 and the ability to mesh with a pricey Thunderbolt adapter. It's one to consider if you're moving from older Macs to one of the newer, faster models.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc