If you want to carry your data around with you and you've gotten used to the lightweight portability of a smartphone or a tablet, you'll probably want to consider Seagate's new GoFlex Slim drive. This 320GB USB 3.0 drive is being touted by Seagate as the world's slimmest portable hard drive, and while I can't vouch for the truth of that, I have to say that it's certainly the slimmest I've seen.
What does it do? The 7200rpm GoFlex Slim Drive measures 4.91 x 3.07 x .354 in. -- as Seagate's press release says, roughly the width of a typical pencil -- and weighs 5.64 oz., about the same as the company's slightly larger FreeAgent GoFlex Pro. Inside the sleek black case is a 2.5-in. drive that, according to the company, is 38% leaner than the others in the GoFlex line.
Like the other drives in the GoFlex family, the GoFlex Slim uses a detachable cable that also provides power. This adds slightly to the weight of the device (and means there's one more thing to remember to pack).
The GoFlex Slim comes loaded with Memeo Premium Backup and Memeo AutoSync software; it also has trial versions of Memeo Share (for sharing photos and videos) and Memeo Send (for sending large files). When you connect it for the first time, the drive installs the Seagate Dashboard, which lets you manage these applications -- and makes backing up and syncing very easy.
I tested the drive on a Lenovo T43 notebook equipped with USB 2.0 ports using the ATTO Disk Benchmark v2.46. The GoFLex Slim earned 26.1MB/sec. write and 32.5MB/sec. read ratings, at the top end for a USB 2.0-connected device. (If my computer had USB 3.0 ports, it would have performed better.)
What's cool about it? Well, mainly that it's slim -- which means it's a lot easier to drop into a pocket on your already-stretched-thin case for your tablet or laptop.
Another selling point of this drive is that it can be used with both PCs and Macs without reformatting. The currently available drive is pre-formatted using NTFS; if you prefer to use Apple's Time Machine backup application (which won't work with NTFS), you'll be able to purchase a drive pre-formatted with HSF+ this May. Both drives are readable and writable by both Windows and OS X systems.
What needs to be fixed? The value of this $100 drive depends a lot on what you need -- and what you're willing to pay for. It offers USB 3.0 speed, which is a good idea, assuming you have a device that uses USB 3.0 -- if not, the GoFlex is backward-compatible (and offers USB 2.0 speeds).
But while thin is in, consider that you can get the GoFlex Pro drive with USB 3.0 and 500GB for only $10 more. Iomega offers the same deal: Its 7 oz. eGo Portable Hard Drive also comes with USB 3.0 and 500GB for $110.
Bottom line: The Seagate GoFlex Slim is a very handy drive to have. It is fast (for an external drive), offers USB 3.0 connectivity and will fit into the most overstuffed backpack. If slimness is what you need, this is the drive for you. However, keep in mind that you can find other drives that are nearly as portable but offer more storage for about the same price.
Barbara Krasnoff is reviews editor at Computerworld. When she isn't either editing or reviewing, she blogs at The Interesting Bits ... and Bytes; you can also follow her on Twitter (@BarbaraKrasnoff).