Seagate's new FreeAgent Go is smaller than the original and is housed in a sleek, hard casing.

It is offered in a choice of black, blue, red or silver with capacities of 250GB (£63), 320GB (£80) and 500GB (£151), with the added option of a docking station for another £20, although that wasn't included with our sample.

Dual USB ports

It was the USB cable that especially caught our eye. The original FreeAgent Go used a regular cable, but the new drive has sprouted a dual-headed cable with one USB plug marked 'power' and the second marked 'data + power'.

That might be a problem if you don't have two spare USB ports on your laptop, as you need to use both connections to get the Seagate to burst into life. There's also an aesthetic issue as the white cable looks like an 80cm piece of spaghetti which stands in sharp contrast to the smart appearance of the drive.

Once the drive is connected, the Seagate Manager software offers the facility of data backup, file synchronisation and file encryption, which ticks all the boxes; however, the software is not as sophisticated as some rival packages.

Sluggish performance

The performance of the new FreeAgent Go is also mixed. Test results using the synthetic HD Tach benchmark look reasonable, although they lag behind some of the competition.

But when it comes to a real-world test of reading and writing 2GB of files, the Seagate looks less impressive as it is noticeably slower than several rivals when you're writing data to the drive and considerably slower for reading data.

This lack of performance is a real concern, but the need for dual USB ports will be an even bigger problem for most laptop users.