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The Seagate Personal Cloud is a new network attached storage (NAS) device from one of the leading hard drive manufacturers. It’s available in 1 and 2-bay models that offer between 3 and 8 terabytes of storage. Prices start at $160 for a 1-bay 3TB model, up to $450 for the 2-bay 8TB. I tried out the 4TB 1-bay version ($200). You can pick any version that takes your fancy up from eBuyer in the UK, or Amazon in the US.
I warn you now: this is a review of a hard drive. If that sort of thing is your bag, awesome, get reading. If not, the short answer is that the Seagate Personal Cloud works as promised, is simple to use, and a reasonable NAS. Although the app is a little lacking, it’s worth picking up if you don’t need the extra features offered by a Synology or custom build. It’d definitely worth entering our competition.
The Personal Cloud is made by Seagate so there should be no surprise that it contains Seagate hard drives, though there’s nothing to stop you swapping them out for your own. The casing is solid, sleek, black and shiny — which means it collects fingerprints easily. If you can get by without touching it too often, it’ll sit nicely next to your router (to which it has to be connected by an Ethernet cable) without being an eyesore.
As well as the ethernet port, there are also two USB ports; one 3.0 and one 2.0, for connecting extra external hard drives (not a printer). The included Ethernet cable is a little short for my taste. It’s fine for putting the Personal Cloud immediately next to your router, but doesn’t give you a lot of flexibility to tuck it away somewhere else.
It’s powered by a 12 volt, 2 amp supply, so leaving it plugged in is not going to significantly contribute to your power bill.
The Set Up
The set up is the best thing the Personal Cloud has going for it. I connected it to the power and my router and within a few minutes my Mac had detected it as a shared storage device. Once connected, you click on the Personal Cloud.url file to launch the set up. The device will take about twenty minutes downloading and installing the latest version of its software. Afterwards, set up your account on the Personal Cloud to enable all the features.
Using the Personal Cloud
The Personal Cloud does what it sets out to do with very few caveats. When your using your computer, it works as a standard network attached hard drive. Drag and drop files and they’ll be copied between your computer and Personal Cloud. It’ll take a lot longer than if you’re connected using USB because it’s over the network but that’s the price of not having wires.
The iOS app is decent. It works, though it’s a little basic. I don’t have an Android device to test it with but the app seems to be similarly featured. You can download files from your Personal Cloud and save them to your iPhone. Images can be uploaded from your phone to the Personal Cloud, automatically. Unfortunately, this falls a bit short of Seagate’s claim that it can be used to backup all your devices. Just backing up photos doesn’t really count.
On the computer front, backups are a little better. Surprisingly it played nice with OS X’s Time Machine which doesn’t normally work well with non-Apple network storage; this alone is impressive.
Another nifty feature is that the Personal Cloud creates a media server, such that a device like the Roku can stream directly from it. As soon as it was set up on my network, the Roku detected it and was able to play media immediately. It’s not as polished an experience as using something like Netflix or Plex, but it’s simple and functional. If you have a Chromecast, you can use the Seagate media app to cast content from your drive to your TV.
The same is true of cloud access. Once you’ve got the Personal Cloud set up and you’ve created an account, you can log in using the mobile apps from anywhere. I tried it; it works. As a simple way to access files remotely, the Seagate Personal Cloud might just be your Dropbox or Google Drive replacement, shifting the data cloud back under your control. Or if you’d rather, you can configure traditional cloud services to sync with the Personal Cloud.
The Seagate Personal Cloud is a decent, if a little basic, NAS. It doesn’t bring anything to the table that can’t be done with other commercially available devices or by building your own. Where it does excel is it’s simplicity. Not everyone needs the sort of redundant multiple drive arrays and feature-set offered by prosumer devices like a Synology Diskstation, and for them the Personal Cloud is a great fit. The more expensive 2-bay does offer data duplication to the second drive, though.
The media streaming in particular works very well.
The software end of things leaves a bit to be desired. I’d like to see a desktop app for accessing it when you’re working elsewhere and the mobile apps need a little more polish. Seagate’s claim that the device is a backup solution for all your devices isn’t fully realised – it can’t backup iOS devices, but the Time Machine compatiblity for Macs is impressive.
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