Seagate has updated their Backup Plus line of desktop external hard drives with the Backup Plus Hub, a similar drive that adds two USB 3.0 ports to help users charge devices or plug peripherals directly into the external drive. They’ve also upped the capacities available, although the extra color options are no more — it’s all black this time around (or white, if you get the Mac version). But, the biggest question is whether or not Seagate has been able to fix the high operating temperatures that affected some of the last generation Backup Plus drives. We had our fingers crossed, and fortunately, it looks like the prognosis is good. After spending some time with the new Backup Plus Hub, we think Seagate’s gotten their thermal management sorted out.
The Backup Plus Hub is an external hard disk drive that comes in massive 4 TB, 6 TB, and 8 TB capacities (only 4 TB and 8 TB for the Mac). It’s a beefy desktop drive that requires its own power, and must be plugged into a wall outlet. On the back, you’ll find a SATA connector to attach the drive to your desktop or laptop using the including SATA-to-USB 3.0 cable. On the front are two USB 3.0 ports that give the drive its Hub name — both can be used to charge devices, and any device with storage will show up on your laptop or desktop as a separate drive. It’s pretty handy for daisy chaining storage drives, especially if you’re low on open USB ports.
There are separate models for Mac and Windows that have been formatted in Hfs+ and NTFS, the native drive formats for their respective operating systems. But, Seagate has drivers available for both that guarantee complete interoperability, so the only real difference is that the Windows drive is black and the Mac drive is white. They also have a Seagate Mobile Backup app for iOS and Android, which will automatically back up phone data to the drive when the phone is plugged into the Backup Plus Hub. The drive itself comes with Seagate Dashboard software, which helps users save and share files to social media accounts, back up a PC, back up a mobile device, or restore data from backup. Cloud storage can also be connected, so users can manage all of their files from that one dashboard — the dashboard works with Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.
Being a desktop drive, there’s nothing special about the construction. The Backup Plus Hub has a plastic housing with open vents on the bottom, which is slightly raised from the surface by small rubber feet. We figure it’s been designed this way to keep dust out, but fortunately, it seems that the bottom vents do a good enough job of dissipating heat this time around. It’s a bit heavy, but it’s unlikely you’ll be traveling around with this one much — there are plenty of excellent portable drives made for that purpose, including some from Seagate and Western Digital. It’s a bit unfortunate that there’s no wireless connectivity, though, which does seem like it would be handy in the home. There are no RAID features for redundant storage, either.
Below, you can see the results of our CrystalDiskMark performance test. The everyday numbers are the sequential read/write speeds on the third row — 205.7 MB/s read and 185.0 MB/s write are pretty solid for an HDD, and are actually better than the 160 MB/s Seagate is advertising for the Backup Plus Hub. In a more informal test, I copied 88.9 GB worth of files to the drive, which took 20 minutes and 31 seconds. That was a much slower rate than the CDM test. It’s slower than Seagate’s more expensive Backup Plus Fast line, which got 287 MB/s read and 239 MB/s write speeds when we reviewed it.
The Backup Plus Hub can be a bit noisy when running files, and when idle you can still hear the hum of the drive spinning. The noise is just from the drive — there’s no cooling fan in the Backup Hub Plus. Whereas the Backup Plus was meant to be used in a horizontal orientation, the Backup Plus Hub is meant to stand up vertically, which helps make Seagate’s passive cooling system more effective. I spent about an hour and a half running a movie and playing music from the drive simultaneously while keeping an eye on temperatures using CrystalDiskInfo. The drive ran at 20º C initially, then ticked up to 45º gradually over the next hour and fifteen or so, after which it plateaued. What does that mean? Well, it runs a lot cooler than last year’s Backup Plus, and that means the drive is under a lot less stress. The Backup Plus Hub should last much longer as a result.