This drive has a large capacity (by today's standards) and is very portable. It is convenient and highly compatible, not fast, but no slower than others in its class.
I seriously doubt the claim that buying a USB 3.0 adapter for the drive will speed it up noticeably, and certainly not 10x. I discuss this point below. [Update 8/10/10] See below. A discussion in the comments has convinced me that the optional adapters may indeed make a difference for transferring very large files, such as video, but not a 10x difference.
large capacity for portable drive by today's standards
small and not too heavy, similar to competitive products
USB 2.0 offers terrific compatibility (Win, Mac, Linux when drivers are available)
alternative interfaces available (eSATA, USB3, Firewire)
USB provides power, so no power supply needed
very standard USB connectors on both ends of cable
compatible with Windows and Mac, and probably Linux (not tested)
[Update] ability to connect directly to TV for playing audio and video without computer via new dock [see below.]
misleading claims of value of changing cables [Update: maybe not, see Updates below]
slightly larger and heavier than WD Passport
glossy top attracts fingertips (like Passport)
black case is hard to find in my black computer backpack, but probably other colors will be available in the near future
not fast, not slow, about the same as competitive products, slower than desktop drive or many 3.5" external drives, but far more portable
The drive spins at 5400 rpm. This is not as fast as most desktop drives (which are 7200 rpm), but 5400 rpm saves power and runs cooler. It could be that 7200 RPM drives could not be used for an application like this without a power supply. Big drives make great archives, and archive drives don't need to be as fast as the drives that contain your system, programs, and files you are working on.
I copied my audio collection - over 50,000 files totaling 383 GB - to this drive, starting empty, and (separately) to an empty 500 GB WD Passport drive that had been freshly formatted. Both drives took about the same amount of time: a bit under 7 hours, with Windows 7 reporting 16-18 MB/second. The Passport was a little faster, but not enough to make a difference.
CHANGEABLE INTERFACES: QUESTIONABLE VALUE, MISLEADING CLAIMS [see UPDATE in this section]
The included "Personality Cable" allows this drive to be used with USB 2.0. You can get others for USB 3.0 and eSATA, and they CLAIM that this will speed performance by up to 10x. I haven't tried to be certain, but I sincerely doubt that this is true.
You see, USB 2.0 is capable of 57 MB/sec, yet my drive runs at 16-17 MB/sec, so it is performing at only 29% of the maximum USB 2.0 speed. I think the disk itself is the limiting factor. Although eSATA and USB 3.0 are faster interfaces, they can't make a 5400 RPM drive go 10x faster. By comparison, copying files from my internal 7200 rpm drive to an internal 10,000 rpm drive with direct SATA interface maxes out at 66-70 MB/sec, which is about 4x the speed.
By analogy, your car may be capable of 100 mph, but on a lot of roads you're only going to be able to go 25 mph. Putting a faster engine in the car won't help. In this analogy, the disk is the road, and the interface is the car.
Many manufacturers have been very misleading about disk speeds. They often rate the performance as that of the interface, when the device itself is significantly slower. The ONLY time any drive reaches the interface speed is when the data you wanted is already in the cache - that is, you just read it or wrote it, and now you're reading it again. Because the cache is tiny compared to the disk capacity, this is an uncommon situation.
In summary, I doubt the optional interfaces are worth buying.
UPDATE 8/10/10: This section triggered considerable and interesting debate in the comments, and I stand corrected. The upshot is that when transferring "smaller" files (jpg's, mp3's), the transfer rate may be limited by drive performance, but for "large" files (video files, say ~200 MB and larger), sustained reads may indeed mean that the drive is pumping out data faster than the interface, and using a faster interface such as firewire or USB3 could improve performance for transferring large files.
Also, I ordered an eSATA interface kit. For a system with SATA drives, I suspect this interface will be faster than Firewire or USB3, but I'm guessing. I will run some new tests and probably rewrite this review with the results.
CONNECT THIS DRIVE TO YOUR TV!
UPDATE 8/10/10: This is a cool innovation. A dock for this hard drive, which you connect to your TV to allow playback of photos, audio (including SPDIF digital audio), and video (including HD), is now available. See: Seagate FreeAgent Theater+1080P HD Media Player STCEA201-RK. That dock would be handy for people who don't have a computer connected to their home entertainment system but want to play back their media library there.
This is the most important feature, and only time will tell. New drives rarely have any problems, and I saw none. The drive has a 3-year warranty, less than some. *Many* years ago I had a Seagate drive fail and I lost data, and I have always held a grudge. With massive changes in technology and manufacturing, this grudge amounts to superstition, but I still normally prefer WD, because they have never failed me.
UPDATE 11 Feb 2011: I started experiencing some serious problems with the drive, amounting to USB failures. At times it would not be recognized; sometimes Windows said it needed to be reformatted; sometimes it did not appear at all; in all cases there were times that I could not access files, and later I could. Then I noticed that I was using a cable that was not the one that shipped with it, but was plug compatible. Now I'm using the original cable. So far, none of these errors. I'll update again if that changes. Lesson: not all USB cables are created equal, even when they are plug compatible.
THE CASE AND WEIGHT
Early drives are always boring black, and they are hard to find in a black computer bag. The comparison drive I used was a red Passport, which is easy to find, and I like the color.
The case is slightly longer than the Passport 1TB, and the drive is a little heavier 9.9 oz vs 7 oz for Passport 1TB, or 41% heavier) , according to the manufacturer's specs.
1 TB is currently the largest size for this kind of disk. Starting with the 250 GB drive, these drives have started at the same price when new, and then decrease as larger ones come out, which is a good thing for consumers. Now we get 4x the capacity of the original 250GB drive for the same price.
Drives like this are now commodity items, with little to differentiate them aside from their size, so you can choose based on color/style or price. Seagate is a name brand and the drive should last. The WD Passport is somewhat lighter, slightly smaller, very slightly faster, and a little more expensive. The product is very good but does not excel, hence 4 stars.
UPDATE: My claim that the drive works for Mac is based on what Seagate says; I did not test that. I have read in other reviews people who have said that it did not work for their Mac. In one case, the review said he was running OS X 10.3.x. Someone suggested that this drive is said to require a later version of OS X, like 10.4.6(?). Please note: I am not a Mac user and my memory of OS X version numbers is not exact. The point is, Mac users might have more luck when the latest OS is installed.
DISCLOSURE: This product was provided to me by Amazon free of charge in return for a review. All of my reviews are written honestly - exactly as I see them.