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Valentine's Day 2007 Buyer's Guide

Seagate 500 GB ESATA External Hard Disk

Those who not only need a big chunk of external hard disk storage but also need to access contents quickly, will find a lot to like about this Seagate model, more properly designated the ST3500601XS-RK. (We know that 500 GB is no longer the biggest around, but it's still nothing to sneeze at.) As a quick look at the Tom's Hardware External Hard Drive Charts will confirm, this eSATA drive offers an entirely respectable 48.8 MB/s of average read transfer performance, and 47.9 MB/s of average write transfer performance - maximum read and write transfer rates are in excess of 60 MB/s. Here again, this isn't the fastest eSATA offering around - those honors go to the CalDigit S2VR Duo in RAID0 mode - but at prices ranging from $290 to $350 it offers very good performance for the price (in contrast, the CalDigit unit will set you back $1100).

The external enclosure is the same one that Seagate uses for its USB/Firewire drives, but the eSATA connector on the back shows that this unit supports a faster interface.

The ST3500601XS-RK includes a 2-port PCI interface card that provides eSATA connections for computers whose motherboards lack support eSATA, as well as the cable necessary to make the connection between this drive and a computer. This makes the Seagate unit particularly attractive for those looking for reasonably fast, capacious external storage, but who may not otherwise be able to accommodate an eSATA solution. As is typical of most of Seagate's external drive products, you'll also find a basic backup solution bundled on the accompanying CD-ROM.

The kind of user most likely to appreciate the ST3500601XS-RK is somebody who works with media, especially those involved with digital video, HDTV or other sizable collections of data files. As the product literature for this unit observes, this drive can store up to 8,330 hours of digital music, 160,000 digital photos, or 500 hours of digital video. Photographers working at professional resolutions are likely to take issue with the number of photos promised - such images tend to be around 25 MB in size, indicating that something less than 42,000 would fit on this drive. But that still isn't too shabby, and the other numbers work for typical music, digital video and HDTV files.