If you're buying a portable hard drive, chances are you're looking for extra storage space for your desktop PC or laptop. It makes sense to find a drive with the maximum capacity possible, without trading off too much portability. The Seagate Backup Plus FAST boasts 4TB of storage, but runs off a single USB 3.0 cable -- no extra power required.
At $409, Seagate's newest drive isn't cheap, but it's not expensive for the amount of storage you get. It has one chief competitor in Western Digital's 4TB portable MyPassport Pro, although that drive is slightly more expensive.
The Backup Plus FAST is not particularly flashy, as portable hard drives go. The entire enclosure is finished in a simple satin black plastic, with a single soft white light for both power and disk activity.
At one end of the FAST's case is a central microUSB 3.0 connector -- that's the long, thin one that looks like microUSB with an extra port at the end.
The drive itself is quite bulky for a portable enclosure, measuring 22mm thick, and similarly hefty at 315 g. This isn't a big deal at all, since it's still not large, but it's definitely larger than a drive like Seagate's own Slim or the WD MyPassport.
There's a good reason for this, though. The Seagate Backup Plus FAST 4TB is actually two drives, with two super-slim Samsung 2TB disks sandwiched together and married with a single PCB.
Having two drives would usually overwhelm a USB port by drawing too much power, but the FAST's two drives are relatively energy-efficient -- their 5400rpm spin speed sacrifices outright speed, but the low power overhead means the enclosure can run off the power of a single 1A USB port.
We tested the FAST on half a dozen desktop and notebook PCs, and never found a USB port that wasn't able to spin up both drives. Even if you're running an older laptop, you should be able to use this particular drive.
4TB is a huge amount of storage, especially if you're hooking the Backup Plus FAST to a MacBook Air or Ultrabook with a low capacity solid state drive. I get by with 4TB of storage in my home NAS setup -- and that's with plenty of downloaded movies, TV shows and music, and regular backups of a couple of PCs -- so having 4TB of space on a portable drive is almost overkill.
It's not, though -- and that's because Seagate bundles the Backup Plus FAST with its Dashboard software suite, which handles both file backups from your PC and your Android or iOS mobile devices.
The software is extremely easy to use, as well. It's not as comprehensively featured or as granular as backup software that you might pay for, but it gets the job done for offloading or creating a second copy of your files.
You can choose to back up individual files, folders, or your entire hard drive. You can schedule backups, too, so there's no worrying about a backup interrupting or slowing down your workday. If you want a constant file-by-file backup, this is also possible, but I didn't find it especially useful.
With a companion app on Android, you can back up your device wirelessly -- although we wouldn't recommend it unless you have appropriately fast Wi-Fi. In the same way as the PC app,
There's one big caveat, though -- you have to have the Backup Plus FAST plugged into a PC, connected to your network, and switched on. This isn't a wireless or battery-powered hard drive like the Wireless Plus. If you follow the instructions properly, the backup process works quite well.
iOS backup is extremely limited, though -- you can only get your photos off your iPhone or iPad -- but this is a limitation of Apple's software design, rather than Seagate's. If you have an iOS device, you're better off using iCloud for all your data anyway, but having photos backed up to a second location might come in handy one day.
If you just want to use the Backup Plus FAST for transferring files to and from your PC, though, it is a perfectly capable and reasonably fast performer. We measured transfer rates of 244MBps read and 232MBps write from the drive over a series of synthetic and real-world transfers from a SSD-equipped PC -- not incredibly fast, but fast enough to make use of USB 3.0 (although it is of course backward compatible with USB 2.0).
Seagate Backup Plus FAST 4TB: Performance
Storage: CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Read): 244MBps CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Write): 232MBps
If you really need a large amount of storage space, the Seagate Backup Plus FAST does a good job. It's not especially fast or attractive and it doesn't offer any unique features, but it does have a full 4TB of storage available at the reasonable price tag of $409.