Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim 2TB review

Seagate's tiny Ultra Slim external hard drive is both pocketable and affordable

Lightweight and tiny, the Seagate Ultra Slim lets you carry 2TB of data with you anywhere.
Lightweight and tiny, the Seagate Ultra Slim lets you carry 2TB of data with you anywhere.
Lightweight and tiny, the Seagate Ultra Slim lets you carry 2TB of data with you anywhere.

Highs

  • 2TB of portable storage for $100
  • Extremely thin and light
  • USB 3.0 compatible
  • Has NTFS drivers for Mac compatibility

Lows

  • Can be loud during disk access
  • Modest warranty

It is staggering how fast hard drive storage is evolving. A decade ago, most people had never heard of a terabyte. Now, 2TB drives aren’t uncommon. And they’ve become small enough to fit in your pocket. Seagate’s new Ultra Slim line shows just how dense data storage can be, and does so at a reasonable price — a mere $100 for 2TB, and $70 for 1TB.

There are cheaper drives with the same amount of storage, but Seagate is hoping the drive’s form factor and design will help make up the difference. Is the company right? We grabbed a 2TB silver model to find out.

Slim and sturdy

Are we allowed to call a hard drive cute? Because this thing is tiny, and has dimples.

The metal plate on top, available in silver and gold color aluminum, is covered in an alternating series of indented bubbles. Not much breaks this pattern up, save for an indicator light and a logo in opposite corner dimples. The bottom and the sides, meanwhile, are a single piece of lightweight plastic. None of the material feels tough, but it does the job well enough.

Can a hard drive be cute? Because this thing is tiny, and has dimples.

Seagate calls this an “ultra slim” drive, and that’s not an exaggeration. The unit is only .38 inches thick, which is downright tiny for a mechanical hard drive in an enclosure. The already-thin Western Digital My Passport Slim is .49 inches thick, by way of comparison, and that was about the thinnest device on the market until now. The other dimensions are standard: 4.47 inches long, 2.99 inches wide, which is about the size of every portable drive on the market at this point. All told this hard drive is likely smaller than your phone, and at 4.8 ounces it probably weighs a little less too.

The included cable connects over USB 3.0, with the standard type-A connector on one side and a type-B micro connector on the other. At 15 inches long, it’ll work for most scenarios, but you may need a different cord if you don’t plan to rest the drive on top of your desktop.

If we have one criticism of this drive, it’s the sound. When you plug in the Seagate, you’ll hear that it’s on, thanks to the extremely thin case. It’s not too obnoxious, but its slight hum is audible in a quiet room.

Fast as a mechanical drive can be

Despite its small form factor, the Seagate Ultra Slim has a traditional, mechanical hard drive inside. Does cramming moving parts into a small case compromise speed?

Apparently not, if our CrystalDiskMark sequential tests are anything to go by. Over USB 3.0 we saw a read speed of 130.8 megabytes per second, and a write speed of 129.8MBps. That’s about the fastest speed you can expect from an external mechanical hard drive, and is in fact nearly identical to the speeds we saw from LaCie’s Porsche Design. It’s also similar to internal mechanical hard drives we’ve tested, though there are faster models.

Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim 2TB HD box
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Our HD Tune benchmark, which runs a longer file transfer, gave us lower numbers. We saw a read speed of 91MBps, an access time 12.4ms, and a write speed 94.9MBps. These figures are mediocre, but not unusual for a compact mechanical drive.

Given the speed limitations of a mechanical drive, you might be wondering if USB 3.0 is even worthwhile. Our answer – yes! Over USB 2.0 this drive offers a read speed of 41.1MBps, and a write speed of 42.8MBps. That’s considerably slower, so do make sure you plug this drive into a USB 3.0 port whenever possible.

Are there faster USB 3.0 drives out there? Yes, but most are SSDs. The Samsung T3 portable SSD, for example, offers read speeds of 422MBps, and a write speed of 393MBps. But that speed comes at a price — $850 for 2TB.

Product registration, NTFS drivers for Mac

Mac users will be pleased to have access to NTFS drivers for Mac, free of charge, meaning Mac users can write to the drive even if it’s formatted for Windows. Western Digital does not offer this software with its comparably priced hard drives.

Seagate also offers a backup program offered for Windows users, called Seagate Backup. It seems to do its job, but we’re doubtful most users will prefer it over other free or paid backup solutions.

Two-year warranty

Seagate offers a two-year warranty for its hard drive. One year warranties are more typical, so this is generous, especially given the low price point of the drives themselves. But Seagate’s main competitor, Western Digital, offers a three-year warranty on many of its external drives.

A solid little drive with good performance

If you want a physically small external drive that’s big on space, and at a competitive price point, you could do worse than Seagate’s Ultra Slim. There are cheaper drives out there, but not with this form factor. And seeing as no mechanical drive can offer anything resembling a speed advantage in the USB 3.0 era, form factor and price are the main things you should be considering.

The thin case does a poor job of silencing the drive’s hard disk.

You can find heavier and bulkier drives for $10 to $20 cheaper. The Western Digital My Passport Ultra-Portable, for example, sells for $90 with 2TB of storage, and comes with a three-year warranty. That combination of lower price point and warranty coverage means it’s well worth considering, but Seagate’s Ultra Slim is both smaller and lighter.

You could also look at a more “premium” drive, like the LaCie Porsche Design, but it’s bigger, heavier, and $50 more expensive (because it’s named after a car). If you want extreme speed, you could look into an external SSD like the Samsung T3, but at nearly eight times the price you’d better absolutely need that performance.

For most people, Seagate’s Ultra Slim is a great value in a tiny form factor. We recommend it if you need a basic, yet extremely portable, external drive.

Mobile

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks of the best portable chargers.
Home Theater

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Gaming

How do Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X compare to each other? We find out

The Nintendo Switch is innovative enough to stand apart from traditional consoles, but could it become your primary gaming system? How does the Switch stack up against the Xbox One?
Gaming

Xbox One S vs. PlayStation 4 Slim: Which console is worth your money?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?
Computing

Secure your Excel documents with a password by following these quick steps

Excel documents are used by people and businesses all over the world. Given how often they contain sensitive information, it makes sense to keep them from the wrong eyes. Thankfully, it's easy to secure them with a password.
Computing

Which Macs are compatible with MacOS Mojave?

Is your computer ready for Apple's big Mojave update? Here's what you need to know about MacOS Mojave compatibility, what Macs can successful download Mojave, and the requirements you need to know about.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Computing

Change your mouse cursor in Windows with these quick tips

The standard mouse cursor is boring, so change it! With this guide on how to change your mouse cursor in Windows, you can choose to use one of Microsoft's pre-installed cursors or download something a bit more extravagant.
Gaming

The DualShock 4 is one of the best controllers ever, and you can use it with a PC

Sony's new DualShock 4 controller has become a fan favorite, and some people want to use it with a PC. Here's how to connect your DualShock 4 and start using it, either with an official adapter, or unofficial software.
Computing

MacBook Pro battery replacement: Everything you need to know

Looking for a new battery for your MacBook Pro? It's important you know what to look for, what model you have, and what options Apple gives you! We'll cover everything you need to know about Apple MacBook Pro battery replacement.
Computing

Lost your router? Here's how to find its IP address to help track it down

Changing the login information for your router isn't always easy, that's why so many have that little card on the back. But in order to use it, you need to know where to go. Here's how to find the IP address of your router.
Computing

Acer Swift 7 vs. Apple MacBook Air

The Acer Swift 7 accomplishes its goal of being the world's thinnest notebook, and it's well-built to boot. But is that enough to take on the Apple MacBook Air in terms of being the better to actually use?
Computing

Asus ZenBook 14 UX433 vs. Dell XPS 13

The Asus ZenBook 14 UX433 has some incredibly tiny display bezels, in an effort to jam a 14-inch notebook into a 13-inch chassis. That pits it against the Dell XPS 13, the icon of small clamshells.
Computing

Intel’s 28-core monster Xeon CPU might cost upwards of $4,000

Intel's new-generation 28-core Xeon CPU will debut with a hefty price tag. Although not quite as expensive as some of its predecessors, early pre-order pricing has it costing between $4,000 and $5,000.