Need some extra storage for your movies, music or personal photos? You can get a portable hard drive and carry all your data around on it, or you can step up to a proper network-attached storage device with all the bells and whistles. More often than not, though, you don't need them. For the vast majority of users that just want to watch their movies and listen to their music wherever they are, Seagate's Personal Cloud is a really simple networked storage drive.
What Is It?
- Storage: 1x 3.5-inch HDD, up to 2
- Connectivity: USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Ethernet
- Wi-Fi: No
<liCapacity: 3TB, up to 8TB (2-bay)
The $399-plus Seagate Personal Cloud is a 1- or 2-bay, integrated network attached storage device. Available in everything from 3TB single-drive units all the way up to an 8TB 2-bay unit, the Personal Cloud is a high capacity storage drive, with a Web interface, in-home streaming to all your TVs and set top boxes and mobile devices, as well as file transfers and streaming when you're out of the house through the 'net -- it's effectively the home user's equivalent of Seagate's own Business Storage high-capacity NAS.
The Personal Cloud is a sleek device -- it's a long way from any Synology or Asustor or regular NAS with front-loading drives and easily accessible drive bays, and actually looks a lot more like a personal video recorder or set-top box rather than a boring old storage drive -- it is to NAS what the Seagate Seven is to portable storage. To that end, there's no front-facing USB ports or inputs; there's only a piano black face with a Seagate logo.
Around the back is where the (extremely limited amount of) action happens; there's a DC power plug for the Personal Cloud's external power brick, there's a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a single USB 2.0 connector. There's actually a second, USB 3.0 port on the Personal Cloud, and it's hidden away on the box's right flank -- this is the one you'll be using to temporarily connect a flash drive or portable hard drive to transfer files to or from the NAS. There's no secondary Ethernet port, no eSATA, no integrated Wi-Fi or other fancy fripperies like HDMI -- it's just storage, and it's just a simple network connection that shares it with all your in-home and out-of-home devices.
To that end, the Personal Cloud has a barebones Web interface, where you'll visit it for initial setup -- to tell the Personal Cloud whether you'd like it to use RAID 0 to speed up file transfer times or RAID 1 to mirror data for safety and redundancy's sake, as long as you're buying the 2-bay version, of course, since the 1 bay is just a single hard drive and doesn't need RAID -- and to install complementary apps like BitTorrent Sync, an iTunes Media Server or the Seagate Media App that lets your mobile devices access the NAS' media file folders directly whether you're on a local network or via the Internet.
What's It Good At?
The Seagate Personal Cloud is super easy to use. It's set up in a basic manner straight out of the box, and it'll show up as a connected network storage device on any network-connected PC within seconds of you hooking it up to your router. The Web interface for making changes to its settings, if you want to do so, is equally similarly easy to understand -- there's a simple drop-down list where you can additional user accounts, monitor the health of the Personal Cloud's hard drives, and add those apps if you're so inclined. It's very easy to navigate whether you're on a PC or a mobile device, although the smartphone interface is a little harder than on a larger screen.
The complementary Seagate Media app for Android, iOS, Windows and Amazon Appstore -- great selection there, good job Seagate -- also works very well. Seagate's Sdrive software lets you browse the Personal Cloud when you're away from your home Wi-Fi network just as if it were still connected directly to your PC -- it's an absolutely traditional folder structure, just like Windows Explorer. The Personal Cloud will collate, tag and even organise all your media files (if you want) whenever you copy them to the NAS, and through that it provides a two- or three-click route from launching the app to watching a video or playing music stored on the drive.
Similarly, you can use the Seagate Media app to upload files from your mobile devices to the Personal Cloud. This is a great feature if you're on a tablet or smartphone without removable microSD storage, or using an iPhone where getting at your stored media isn't quite as simple as plugging it into the NAS and dragging and dropping. It works very well, especially when the Personal Cloud just exposes itself to the Internet as soon as you set it up and connecting to the Seagate Media app is equally seamless -- no dicking around with port forwarding or IP addresses or NAT like other more expert-oriented NASes out there.
What's It Not Good At?
About the worst criticism I can make of the Personal Cloud is that its Web interface is a bit Spartan. There's no lush splash or landing screen like you'd find on a mini-server or mini-computer NAS like a Synology, and its feature-set is limited. It's great for sending out files, whether that be across your wired home network to your smart TV or your DLNA-compatible set top box or media streamer, across Wi-Fi (via your Wi-Fi router) to a mobile device, or through the 'net as long as you're not excessively rate-limited by the speed of your Internet connection. But it doesn't do much else -- you'll have to get enough usage and enough value from the regular network storage and mobile apps to make the Personal Cloud worthwhile.
For that reason, it's hard to recommend the Seagate Personal Cloud if you're the kind of power user that wants their NAS to do a bit of everything. With plenty of network attached storage options that include a BitTorrent client, that have a miniature Web server, and so on. What the Personal Cloud excels at is sharing and collating and organising your digital media files efficiently and simply, but its expertise is mostly limited to that area. The complementary apps are generally focused around the different methods of sharing files between devices, and especially for streaming media.
The Personal Cloud's read speeds are perfectly fine for a home user -- I recorded 85MBps transfer rates across a wired connection to a single one of the NAS's drives, near the reasonable speed limit of a mainstream 3.5-inch desktop hard drive -- but its write speeds are a little less spectacular at around 40MBps. Still perfectly fine unless you're intending to transfer an entire multi-terabyte library of video or other high-resolution media content in a single go, but business or multi-user environments will need something a little faster and more robust. For that, consider a higher-end NAS -- which will also have easily removable drives.
Should You Buy It?
Do you need simple, fire-and-forget home network storage to play downloaded videos, music and personal photos on your TVs, through your mobile devices? Do you also want to access these files across the Internet, as if you had a portable hard drive plugged into your PC? Then that's exactly what the $399 and upwards Seagate Personal Cloud does. It does exactly what it says on the label -- and only a little bit more than that, but it doesn't have to.
It looks good, too. It looks good enough that it could live in the home entertainment unit next to your TV and Blu-ray player, which might also be next to your bonkers stylish Wi-Fi router if you're living in a small apartment. More importantly, it doesn't look like a big ugly box that's just filled with hard drives and circuitry, even though it is.
The Seagate Personal Cloud does its job -- storing your files, letting you access them wherever you are -- well. Don't expect it to do much more, and you'll find it to be a convenient and useful and very easy to understand piece of hardware.