Freecom Mobile Drive mg 1TB review

Freecom now makes several version of this portable drive, all based around the same slim and understated magnesium-bodied case.

While some portable drives like the Elgato may be seen as reassuringly solid, the Freecom feels almost too light for its size, such is the nature of the lightweight alloy construction. The Mobile Drive mg was one of the first mobile drives to offer the benefit of both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 connections; this flexibility is especially useful for users of older Macs with only a single Thunderbolt port that required by a monitor connection.

Also now available as an SSD version with 128 or 256 GB capacity, the 1 TB model here takes a Toshiba MQ01ABD100 9.5 mm notebook hard disk. This returns much better value in terms of capacity per pound but also forsakes various benefits of solid-state storage such as shock-proof and silent operation.

It’s relatively quiet in use but still needs to be carefully handled when powered up. The 5400 rpm Toshiba disk has three platters and proved itself one of the best available when we reviewed it previously as a bare disk.

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Build quality of the Freecom Mobile Drive mg is good, comprising two well-finished shells of magnesium casting that slide together to form a tough enclosure. As a bus-powered Thunderbolt drive, there’s only one Thunderbolt port, joined by a wide Micro-USB 3.0 port. A white LED flashes to denote drive activity.

Freecom Mobile Drive mg 1TB review: Performance

Tested first as a Thunderbolt drive, small-file random transfer speeds were much lower than solid-state-based drives as can be expected, and averaged just 19 and 17 MB/s for reads and writes. Presented with files larger than 2 MB though the little Freecom could get into its stride and easily sustained over 100 MB/s for both reads and writes, plateauing at 108 MB/s.

Running the same tests again with a USB 3.0 connection instead, we saw essentially the same speeds – either connection is capable of much faster speeds of course but the laptop hard disk is the limiting factor on overall performance here.

Remember though that these are best-case read/write figures when testing an empty drive. Regardless of connection type, as the drive fills up it will inevitably become slower, with top sequential performance typically dropping to around half of our measured maximum speeds.

(Curious to discover the ceiling of the enclosure electronics, we slipped a Toshiba SSD inside and tested again on both ports. With flash storage the Freecom could reach 392 MB/s reads on Thunderbolt, and 417 MB/s over USB 3.0. This is likely an indication of what is possible from the newer Mobile Drive mg SSD models.)

OUR VERDICT

If you’re looking for an unfussy, lightweight portable drive to connect by Thunderbolt or USB 3.0, the Freecom Mobile Drive mg is one smart solution to look out for. It’s available in 1 TB or 500 GB capacities using disk technology and offers a better balance of capacity against price compared to flash drives.

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