Review: Seagate FreeAgent DockStar

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dockstar-5I like innovative products and after spending some time with the Seagate FreeAgent DockStar, I think it’s just that. This thing is cool. The concept is simple, and thankfully, so is the product. All you do is insert a Seagate FreeAgent Go hard drive in the dock – or use a USB flash drive – and then the dock becomes not only a local network share, but also an Internet-connected storage device through Pogoplug. I’m pleased to report that it works without any hassle, but I still don’t think you should buy it.

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To set this thing up, all you need to do is plug-in the power and Ethernet and dock a Seagate FreeAgent Go portable hard drive. Wait a few seconds for the little light to turn green – which tells you that the dock is connected to the Internet – and then navigate to this activation website. The website asks you a couple quick questions and then the device is activated. From there, it’s simply another Pogoplug device.

Well, what’s Pogoplug, Matt? I’m glad you asked, friend. It’s a service that allows you to easily share locally-stored info online. This dock turns a Seagate FreeAgent Go external hard drive or flash drive into a NAS that also has access to the Pogoplug service. Seagate has included one year’s worth of service with the device, but after that trial is up, you will be required to pay $30 a year to use the service. (keep reading, more on this farther down)

pogo-01aRead our review or watch the two demo videos on Pogoplug’s site for a good run down of the service. I found it easy to use and thorough. In fact, I think it’s the easiest way to share local content online either through a direct URL, email, iPhone app, RSS feeds or through social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace. There is even an option to send out a notification when files have been added or removed.

Seagate fail chatHere’s the downside though: The Dockstar must use the Pogoplug service even though the retail box states something different. The box states, “Files on your home network may be accessed by devices on the same network without subscribing to Pogoplug service” but Seagate’s chat support disagrees and I can’t figure it out either. If the drive is removed from the Pogoplug service, it doesn’t show up on the local network.

It’s kind of crazy that the dock doesn’t act like a NAS without subscribing to the service anyway. It’s such a simple ability to leave out. Sure, once Pogoplug knows your device, it’s available as a network share, but that seems hokey to me. It should be the other way around.

dockstar-4Here’s the main problem though, this dock doesn’t offer nearly enough benefits over the standalone Pogoplug device. For the same upfront cost of $99, you get the same exact Pogoplug service as the Seagate DockStar offers expect there isn’t a subscription free. Plus, you could use the same exact Seagate FreeAgent Go hard drives with the Pogoplug device because they are USB-powered or any other USB drive for that matter. The DockStar does have three more USB ports (2 rear, 1 side) but that isn’t nearly enough to compensate for the $30-per-each-additional-year fee that the dock requires.

Now, if the DockStar could be used as a standalone NAS and the Pogoplug service is just an added benefit, my conclusion might be something different. Consider this an open invitation to Seagate to show me how to use this device without subscribing to an online service. Until then, I cannot see a single reason to buy the DockStar over the standalone Pogoplug model.

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