When it comes to solid-state drives, out of the two big storage manufacturers in the world – Seagate and Western Digital – the latter has gained the upper hand thanks to its acquisition of SanDisk Corporation a few years ago. Western Digital has subsequently released a number of SSD products: the G-Technology G-Drive Slim SSD 500GB and the WD My Passport SSD come to mind. However, Seagate is playing catching up with the acquisition – as part of a wider consortium – of Toshiba Memory Corporation.
Seagate has just launched the Fast SSD range and here we’re reviewing the STCM500401 (opens in new tab), a 500GB model that’s on sale at Amazon for $127.99 (about £98). Other iterations include 250GB ($97.99, or about £75), 1TB ($279.99, or about £215) and 2TB (which has a recommended price of $599.99, or about £460).
The drive looks like a miniature slice of bread. It’s only 9mm thick with a footprint of 94 x 79mm, which means that it can easily slip into one’s pocket and can be carried around pretty comfortably. At 82g, it is also extremely light as well as compact, although not as compact as the My Passport SSD.
Seagate opted for a combination of hard plastic and metal for the enclosure to help with heat dissipation and make it feel a bit posher. The downside of this is that the device gets scratched more easily, especially when the delicate surface of the metal lid comes into contact with the coins and keys in your pocket or handbag.
There’s no flex here and the drive feels solidly built. Plugging in a USB cable (either Type-A or Type-C – both are provided) into the sole connector (a Type-C port) lights up a white status LED.
Here’s how the Seagate Fast SSD performed in our benchmark tests:
CrystalDiskMark: 440.3MBps (read); 439.1MBps (write)
Atto: 461MBps (read, 256mb); 455MBps (write, 256mb)
HD Tune Pro: 268.9MBps (read); 0.089ms (access time)
AS SSD: 388.3MBps (seq read); 412.07MBps (seq write)
Usage and performance
When it came to performance, this drive ranked amongst the fastest without resorting to any sort of magic tricks (RAID-0 for example).
Seagate’s newest storage product delivered some impressive numbers, almost tying with the G-Drive Slim SSD on CrystalDiskMark and Atto. HD Tune Pro and AS SSD numbers were also amongst the best we’ve seen. The benchmarks were not performed on a USB Type-C to Type-C connection which explains why they are a smidgen lower than Seagate’s up-to-540MBps claims.
One of the more compelling selling points of this drive is a two-month membership to Adobe Creative Photography Plan (part of Adobe Creative Cloud) that must be redeemed by January 31, 2020, which is worth $9.99 (about £7.70) a month and gives you access to Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic CC, Photoshop CC and 20GB of cloud storage.
The drive is exFAT formatted which makes it compatible out of the box with Windows and Mac. You also get a free download of Seagate’s own Toolkit suite which includes backup and folder mirroring capabilities.
We’d expect to pay a premium for a device of this ilk, but it turned out that it’s actually quite affordable given that it is a brand new product from a tier-one vendor, competing easily with the likes of the Samsung T5, the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD and the WD My Passport SSD.
And those who want an external solid-state drive without having to pay any premium can opt for an external enclosure and pair it with an internal SSD which are cheaper. Such a DIY solution will get you a 480GB external SSD for less than $100 (about £77), but you will lose out when it comes to speed, size and general support.
Should you be looking for an IP68-rated model, then the Adata SD700 is an attractive alternative. It is slower, thicker and uses a full-size USB port, but it has a smaller footprint and a better rounded software offering.
The Seagate Fast SSD is one of the best external solid-state drives out there. This device is affordable – with prices likely to drop – and it’s an excellent performer, relatively small, plus it has a nice design and a three-year warranty. On the other hand, it is not waterproof or splash-proof.
Seagate might aim to produce an even smaller model and add a beefier software suite with encryption, backup and maintenance features. The company could also pick up a few tips from its very own high-end brand, LaCie, to offer an even more hardened external SSD.
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