Having an external drive is always a good thing. As a backup device or a quick and convenient way to move large (or large numbers of) files from one device to another, it’s almost an essential tool to anybody with more than one computer. Like many other hard drive manufacturers, Seagate has a full line of external drives with various size and interface options to fill this need.
With the GoFlex Satellite, however, they’ve gone a step further and turned a normal external hard drive into a full-fledged media server for iOS and Android devices.
At first glance, just a hard drive
The GoFlex Satellite is a USB 3, 500gb external hard drive in a sleek plastic and aluminum enclosure, with a single power button, a small port for power, and a rear cover that opens to reveal a SATA interface. There are two indicator lights; one for power/charge and one for Wi-fi. It includes an on-board battery that Seagate claims powers the media server up to 7 hours.
Included in the box are a backpanel adapter to hook up the drive to your computer:
Update: A reader has pointed out that this is not a proprietary connector; it is a standard USB 3.0 Micro B connector.
Even though the cable is USB 3 capable, it is backwards-compatible with USB 2.0.
It also includes a small power block if you want to charge the battery, a 12v car charger-to-USB adapter if you want to charge the device in a vehicle (and it’s the sleekest car charger I’ve ever seen):
There is also a standard USB cable to connect the DC power input to the various power options.
The GoFlex Satellite pack-ins indicate that this is a device that is ready for any sort of mobile road-warrior task you can throw at it. So what makes it so special?
More than just a hard drive
On the Google Play marketplace or the iOS App Store, you will find the Seagate GoFlex Satellite app. This is what makes the device so wildly different. On-board the sleek, black and silver box is a full-fledged wireless media server. You can connect to the device either through the app, or through a web interface, and stream media to your mobile. This means you are not limited to your device’s on-board storage; rather, you have 500gb of space available. As someone who will soon be taking a 12-hour flight, this suddenly becomes tremendously important to me. The GoFlex Satellite can sit in my carry-on luggage and blast out a private Wi-fi hotspot that I can then stream whatever I want off of—my entire music library fits, my entire photo library fits (hey, I can now show the person sitting next to me all the pictures of my kids and dogs!), and I could cram a lot of movies into the remaining space if I so chose.
The Satellite’s Wi-fi is pretty slick, too—it acts as a pass-through for any other Wi-fi access, so you can still access the internet with your mobile device even while connected to the GoFlex’s internal hotspot (this is actually a firmware update that they just released last month—before that, it wasn’t possible).
With the current firmware, you can also share the device amongst three users. This means it can also act as a very quick way to get large files from one mobile device to another without any annoying cable hoodoo. The media server app is nice in that it also just acts as a straight-up file server so you can move, copy, make folders, manage the files on the drive, etc. It’s not just a streaming app.
For MacOS users, it comes with an NTFS agent for OS X so that the drive can remain NTFS formatted for cross-platform compatibility.
It’s important to note that the GoFlex software does not do any media transcoding; anything that you want to watch on your mobile needs to be in a format that your mobile can display before it will work.
The Seagate GoFlex Satellite is a really cool device. Besides just being a normal USB 3.0 external hard drive, it can make travel, trade shows, and meetings a lot more convenient by being a mobile file server for you. There are even some stranger use cases, such as making it easy to share files between Android and iOS devices.
There are some nitpicks; 500gb is not the biggest external hard drive available, especially for the price the Satellite retails for. 1tb or higher as options would be nice, but 500gb is currently the only size available. The drive is mechanical (it’s an HDD instead of an SSD), so it is susceptible to shock and dropping damage (like any external drive). The supplied USB 3 Micro B cable is very short; excellent if you have a laptop, but on a desktop PC with the USB 3 ports in the rear, it’s a pain.
Regardless of those minor things, the GoFlex Satellite fills a niche that is really relatively unexplored. It’s a simple, sleek, and relatively inexpensive device that works as advertised, enjoys the support of a large and well-established company, and looks really good while doing it.
UPDATE: Seagate reached out to me to clarify a point about some of the precautions they’ve built in to address the potential for damage when dropping:
“This drive has gone through some extensive drop tests and has been designed to stop the head in the event of a fall. We’ve taken some extra steps to ensure this drive is rugged enough to withstand the bumps and bruises of the road. We do expect to see this drive in operation while carried in a backpack or sitting on a dash or arm rest in a car. We’ve had it designed with this type of use case in mind.”
Seagate calls their drop sensor “G-Force Protection™ Freefall Sensor Technology”, which “Protects data by returning the internal drive to a nonoperating state in the event of a drop, making the device ideal for use in mobile environments.”