Over the years Seagate’s shipping containers have gotten a bit more mature, a bit more minimalistic, a bit more stylized. What has not changed is the fact that they are eye-catching, filled with information and generally ‘just work’ the way they are.
In either case, the exterior box houses a large plastic clamshell protection layer which literally lets the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch float in the center of the box. Free from worry about blunt force trauma, sharp objects stabbing the drive, and basically anything else that is likely to happen while it is as at the ‘gentle mercies’ of the shipping agent.
The accessories which accompany this are head and shoulders above average. Yes, the typical accessories are included – like an installation/warranty pamphlet and USB 3.0 Type-A to USB 3.0 micro-USB cable; however, this is just the start of the goodies included. On top of the usual suspects, you will also find a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C adapter (to let this drive connect to modern devices which have dropped Type-A ports in favor of the smaller Type-C). Then you will find a free two-month subscription to Adobe Cloud ‘Photography’ package (worth about $20 USD), and a one-year free subscription to Mylio’s Creative online backup and organizer application… which is worth $50 all on its own. Now that is how you do a proper accessory list.
Also included, albeit on the hard drive itself, is Seagate’s Toolbox software. This is basically the exact same application as which ships with LaCie branded drives, just with a different skin. This is not all that surprising as Seagate does own LaCie as such both brands should get the same good software solution… that is worth the install to say the least. With it you can backup specific files, folders, even drives automatically. Better still is you can configure it to auto-copy any or all of the above via mirroring, which uses MS or Apple’s Shadow Copy (aka ‘VSS’) technology that can backup files even when they are in use. While this free application will never replace Acronis, for a freebie it is a nice little bonus feature that does help offset some of the asking prices.
As this drive does support hardware level encryption you will also see an extra feature: aptly labeled ‘Seagate Secure’. As the name suggests it will encrypt the drive with robust AES-256 level encryption. Needless to say… do not forget the password as you will not be ‘hacking’ this encryption unless you have access to a boatload of supercomputer processing time and a lot more luck than anyone should have.
Moving on. For a while, there Seagate toyed with the idea of offering consumers ‘flexible’ interface options. Of all the models that were released to the market, the GoFlex Slim did stand out for us. It was ultra slim, rather generous in the capacity options (back then 320GB was ‘big’) and came with a removable attachment that could change the interface. For example, want USB 3.0? Snap on the USB 3.0 GoFlex adapter. Want USB 2.0 use the proper adapter. Etc. Etc. The idea never really caught on with buyers and instead, the Slim philosophy lived on in the Seagate Backup series, which removed the adapter abilities and replaced it with a lower asking price. The other tweak to the recipe was swapping out the 7200rpm Momentus HDD for a 5400rpm version. This resulted in being able to use plastic for the chassis instead of metal (like the GoFlex series used)… and further reduced the asking price.
This trend has continued in the ensuing years with the capacity increasing, the size slightly shrinking, and the USB to SATA bridge controller being upgraded. In this iteration the form-factor has been shrunk all the way down to a minuscule 11.7mm Z height (or only 2.7mm thicker than the NAND based LaCie Mobile SSD series), 114.8mm width (16.4mm wider the LaCie Mobile SSD series) and only 78mm in length (or about 0.4mm shorter than the LaCie Mobile SSD). Yes, this is a rather small external device series that crams a lot of capacity and performance into one small package.
In a break from previous trends, the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch has gotten a nice upgrade in the overall aesthetics department. On just a quick glance you can see the cloth covering that has been glued directly to the plastic chassis. Seagate calls it ‘woven textile’ so a pessimistic person would call it ‘carpet’, but we think it is more like a very durable clothing similar to tweed in texture. This gives the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch a rather striking look to say the least. One that almost makes up for the copious use of plastic. In either case, this textile covering also has one nifty bonus benefit: it keeps the drive from sliding around your desk while in use. At least will as long as it is cloth side down.
Since this is the continuation of the Slim series, it should come as no surprise that the hard disk drive housed inside is a Seagate BarraCuda ST1000LM038 1TB 2.5-inch hard disk drive. This is actually a pretty decent choice as it is fair quickly for a 5400rpm drive, comes with 128MB of onboard cache (that is ultra-advanced as this making use of Seagate’s proprietary MCT, aka “Multi-tier Cache Technology”) and is only 7.2mm tall (z-height). Equally impressive, this specific drive retails for more than the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch 1TB costs at about $80 all by its lonesome. Cost aside, it also incredibly power efficient and during typical r/w workloads will only consume a mere 1.7 watts of power. This, in turn, translates into very little waste heat to say the least.
The last is very important as, somewhat like the LaCie drives tested recently, Seagate uses a copious amount of EMI blocking tape. In this case of the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch, this is not copper based and instead is aluminum. The end result is the same, but it certainly does keep heat in and temperatures of the hard drive higher than they could/should be.
In a very interesting tweak this tape is not just there to block EMI, but also to keep the small PCB attached to the hard drive. This is unfortunate as a couple of screws, as the LaCie division does things, would have gone a long way to making this a much more robust, impact resistant drive. As it stands a bad drop could dislodge the PCB enough to cause errors. Of course, this is unlikely… or at least unlikely to be enough to dislodge the PCB but not break the plastic exterior, but it is a possibility. To be blunt the only nod to protection is the small foam bumpers that are strategically located on the plastic chassis itself. They are good enough to reduce damage from some of life’s bumps and bruises, but mostly they are here to reduce vibrations that could shake the drive apart.
Housed on this incredibly – pardon the pun – slim PCB is a JMicron JMS577 controller. This is an interesting choice in that this bridge IC was released back in 2014. Then again this is a USB 3.0 / USB 3.1 Gen 1 based device… so ‘cutting edge’ is not exactly needed. On the positive side, the firmware for this IC has had years of refinement and is about as good as it can be. It will however be a bottleneck at deeper queue depths – which are unlikely in the real world as this is a portable device not a system drive.
Overall, given the space restrictions, Seagate’s engineers had to work with the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Touch is not too shabby. Not perfect, and certainly showing its age with its outdated USB 3.0 only interface, but not too bad all things considered.