As a desktop user I never really jumped on the external storage craze. I kept a couple of terabyte drives in RAID-0 inside my chassis and there's always the multi-TB array in the lab in case I needed more storage. External drives were always neat to look at, but I never really needed any. My notebook's internal storage was always enough.

With the arrival of Sandy Bridge in notebooks however I've given the notebook as a desktop replacement thing a try. I've got enough random hardware if I need a fast gaming machine in a pinch, but for everything else I'm strictly notebook these days. As a result I've come to realize just how precious portable storage is. Most reasonably portable notebooks have one usable 2.5" bay at most (two if you don't mind sacrificing an optical drive). Network storage is great but what if you need something portable on the go with you?

I'm obviously a staunch advocate of spending your internal real estate on an SSD, but if you need the space you've gotta go mechanical for your external storage. If portability is what matters, an external 2.5" hard drive can be quite attractive as they're lightweight and can be powered over USB.

In the 2.5" world there are three predominant thicknesses available: 7mm, 9.5mm and 12.5mm. Most notebook drives are 9.5mm. You'll notice that Intel even ships many of its SSDs with a removable spacer to make them 9.5mm tall in order to maintain physical compatibility with as many notebooks as possible:

That black trim is removable for use in 7mm bays

Thicker drives are needed to accommodate more platters inside, but as platter densities increase so do the capacities of thinner drives. A couple of years ago Seagate announced the world's first 7mm thick 2.5" hard drive and earlier today, it announced the thinnest external 2.5" drive: the GoFlex Slim.

Originally called the GoFlex Thin at CES earlier this year, the GoFlex Slim measures 9mm tall thanks to its internal 7200RPM 7mm SATA drive.

The GoFlex Slim is actually a two-part device. There's the drive itself and a detachable GoFlex USB 3.0 adapter with a white LED power/activity light. The LED is always illuminated by default and lightly throbs when you access the disk. Remove the adapter and you can plug the GoFlex Slim into any other GoFlex compatible device. Seagate has also opened up the GoFlex standard so other manufacturers can build and ship GoFlex compatible devices royalty-free.

The drive chassis is simply glued together. A thin enough tool wedged in between the top cover and the rest of the chassis is good enough to get you inside. Once open you'll notice a pretty simple design:

The GoFlex Slim is nothing more than a 320GB Momentus Thin in a slim aluminum case, no different than the other GoFlex drives we've reviewed. The Momentus Thin spins at 7200RPM, has a 16MB on-board cache and is of course a single platter drive.

The drive comes pre-formatted with a single NTFS partition and a copy of Memeo backup software. For the Mac users among us Seagate also includes a Paragon NTFS driver as well as a Mac version of Memeo Backup.

The GoFlex Slim ships with a short 14" USB 3.0 cable that can obviously be used with USB 2.0 ports. The 320GB drive retails for $99.99.

Just as we saw at CES earlier this year, you can expect a HFS+ formatted Mac version to ship with a silver chassis in the not too distant future.

Performance & Final Words
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  • Gigantopithecus - Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - link

    Sorry Seagate, shaving a few mm off a portable external drive's height is simply not worth a >100% cost increase to me.
  • AstroGuardian - Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - link

  • GullLars - Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - link

    First, this is not news on an external HDD, it's news on an _External HDD ENCLOSURE_ that comes bundled with a standard 7mm 2,5" HDD.
    Second, this is really not a big deal, as +- a couple of mm on the hight of the external enclosure only matters to one in a million users.
  • tno - Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - link

    Thin drives come into play for those that are traveling light. This might, again, not have any bearing on your user experience, but for some it does. In addition to the slim size you're also getting USB 3.0, and as is always the case with the GoFlex line, the future proof of the interchangeable adapters. Put money on Seagate being one of the first to put Thunderbolt on an external drive.

    My only concern is reliability. Having a single platter design should mitigate reliability concerns but heat will definitely come into play in these drives. I imagine that if Anand had noticed heat related slow down, he would have mentioned it, as he has in the past.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - link

    Don't forget that a single 320GB platter is also an improvement over a single 250GB platter. I've got the first 640GB 2.5" HDD in a laptop I'm testing, and it feels a bit faster than previous 500GB HDDs, likely because of the increased areal density.
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, April 7, 2011 - link

    Comparing to the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 500GB (since I don't see a 320GB in normal thickness) the slim is ~4 ounces lighter. I'm sure someone will complain that is noticeable, IMO it won't matter. Otherwise the 500GB is a 5400 RPM drive, don't know how many platters but might well be a pair of 250GB ones, so it would be slower. Otherwise it is still a GoFlex and USB 3.0. Given the increased storage space and the fact that it isn't a boot drive I would think most users are better off saving the $40 (it is $59.99 at newegg) unless they really want a thin drive.
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, April 7, 2011 - link

    Yeah...I mean I can kind of see the point in using notebook drives in external enclosures instead of desktop drives, but Seagate's "normal" 2.5" external drives go up to 1.5TB...I've got one, and it's plenty small. Even from the pictures the difference here seems ridiculous. Much smaller capacity for a few MM shaved off the top? Who cares?
  • tipoo - Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - link

    This. Or a capacity decrease at the same price.
  • Rasterman - Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - link

    yeah its pretty dumb, why not just use a 1TB 12.5mm notebook drive, 5mm of extra thickness for 3x the storage at the same price.
  • nadca - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    Please tell me you're trolling.

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