With all of today's tech needs and the speed that tech is evolving at, pretty soon we'll all have terabyte memory slots in the base of our skulls. Until that time we have things like Seagate's Free Agent: GoFlex Net.
The GoFlex Net is a dock designed to work in conjunction with Seagate's Free Agent GoFlex portable hard drives. The dock allows a user to connect to either installed drives from anywhere over the internet and access pictures, music, and movies. You can even connect from your smart phone via an app.
The design of the actual dock is sleek with its hard angles and black gloss finish. The angles give it a futuristic and masculine feel that I'm really into. It holds up to 2 2.5" SATA drives. The drives don't have to be Free Agent drives as I tested with a Samsung SSD that I have for testing as well. The only difference is that if you're not going to use a Free Agent drive, the drives are only being held in place by the SATA connects. It's not the sturdiest thing ever, so I would suggest putting it some place where it's not going to get bumped. The LED's on the front are great. There are 2 sets of white LEDs that are broken into 4 little rectangles, which show how close to full each drive is. There's also a dim LED in the center for when a drive is being accessed. I'm happy that Seagate didn't use blue LEDs, as they are the bane of my existence (see my Sharkoon X-Tatic Digital review). Also, there is a USB input port on the back. This allows another hard drive to be connected and accessed.
Also in the box is a large power adapter and a 6' Ethernet cable. I was really disappointed with the power adapter because I felt that if a non-mobile product can't be designed to house the power in it, then it's a failure of design. I want a power plug that isn't going to take up more that one outlet in my surge protector. And let's not get into external power bricks as they're right up there with blue LEDs in my book (I'm looking at you Xbox 360).
Installation is quick and rather painless. Setup the GoFlex Net, then go to the website in the single page instructions and register the dock. Once that's done, you're presented with a net interface that allows you to sync desktop folder with the GoFlex's drives and access files on there. There is even an application that allows you to do this without going through the web interface once installed. All you have to do is open a folder just like you were going to any folder on your computer.
There's also an app versions for iOS, Android, and according to the box, Blackberry and Palm Pre. I don't know anyone with the latter two, so I couldn't test them. Accessing the media server from you smartphone is pretty painless as well. Download app, login, and presto! You're getting everything on the drive wherever you are.
As great as this media server idea is, I have some major gripes. One of the biggest is that only Seagate Free Agent Go-Flex/2.5" drives fit. There is a shroud that can be removed to fit larger Free Agent drives, but they can cost anywhere from $80 to $120 and up for a 500GB or 750GB drive. I wouldn't use a 2.5" drive when the price per gigabyte is so much cheaper on 3.5" drives. A quick trip to Newegg found a few drives in the 2 terabyte size for $99.99.
Another HUGE gripe was that video either doesn't play at all or it'll play for 10 seconds on the mobile apps. I tried using some old .avi's I had on disc that were all XVID encodes. There were 6 total and of those 6 only 2 played for 10 seconds. Being on Wi-Fi or 3G didn't make a difference. Music and pictures streamed fine, but videos were a no go on mobile.
On a much smaller scale, there was an issue with an unknown drive showing up when I enabled "multi-drive" mode. The drive I was given to test this with was a FreeAgent GoFlex 500GB (STAA500108). With multi drive enabled, I had access to the folder structure, which is great. But another, 4 TERABYTE, drive would show up that had nothing on it, but mysteriously already exactly half full. I mean it was exactly half full, down to the byte. It decided to call itself "Files shared with me" and wouldn't allow me to add any files to it. The documentation that comes with the server isn't worth the sweat on my forehead and the site is better, but it didn't help me figure out what this drive was.
On a side note, I did try to set this up as a media server to send files to my XBMC setup.
It was a nightmare.
I eventually did get XBMC to find the movies and TV folders and scrape them, but I never got them to show up in the proper location. I always had to go into videos, then where ever I was going, not directly into movies, TV shows, or what have you.
Overall, the Seagate GoFlex Net is an ok product that ultimately becomes an exercise in redundancy. If video streaming only works with devices connected to the LAN, then what's the point in having it? Why not just carry the GoFlex drive you plugged in with you? It's a lot simpler and cheaper. Streaming photos and music to mobile is cool and all, but I can already connect to my Picasa and Pandora accounts with my phone and have anything I want with me. Out of TOV 5 stars, the GoFlex Net barely scrapes by with a 3.