At a glanceExpert’s Rating
Pros2TB, 4TB, or 5TB options30% recycled (by mass)Live backup with Seagate ToolkitConsPerformance is HDD levelNo support for USB-A, only USB-COur Verdict
The eco angle on this product is limited, and might add a premium to the price, but any effort at genuine recycling shouldn’t be snubbed. This is a solid device, and we especially liked the included software Toolkit.
Best Prices Today: Seagate Ultra Touch (2023)
Each year some technology journalist predicts the final demise of the humble hard drive, and in each new product season, that obituary proves premature.
For those companies that make conventional hard drives, like Seagate, these operations have years of experience making these products reliably and profitably. Unless NAND flash modules ever reach price parity per GB, we’ll see these things for some time yet.
The Seagate Ultra Touch is a simple but effective external USB hard drive, which comes in 2TB, 4TB, and 5TB capacities from a 2.5in mechanism inside its minimalistic case. Each of those options provides a substantial amount of space, an amount that is ideal for those wanting to carry a large data set around or to back up a local machine.
The unique pitch of this product series is that it has eco-friendly aspirations, in that a healthy percentage of this product is made of recycled materials.
Is buying the Ultra Touch a true contribution to saving the planet, or is it merely another item for the pitch of diminishing resources?
Design & build
30% recycled by weightIncluded cable is USB-C only
Seagate went out of its way to make the Ultra Touch as basic and minimalist as possible. From the outside, it’s a two-tone block of plastic with a USB-C port and an activity LED on one end. It comes in Pebble Grey and Cloud White, and these colours have a natural speckling like a subtle granite finish.
According to the Seagate promotional material, “This drive contains at least 30% post-consumer recycled materials by weight for eco-minded backup”.
The packaging is 100% recycled, and printed on the box is a note declaring that 30% of the drive is made up of reclaimed aluminium and plastics. The 30% number is based entirely on weight. Therefore, weighing 267g, it contains about 80g of recycled metal and plastics.
That doesn’t sound much but should Seagate make 100,000 of these, that would constitute 8,000 metric tons of recycled content, which isn’t insignificant. The trouble here is that the other 70%, making drives and chips and distributing them across the planet, probably outweighs whatever recycling Seagate is doing.
The computing industry has a genuinely abysmal environmental record, and any attempts to address those shortcomings must be saluted
As with most external drives, the enclosure can’t be opened, and therefore the amount of recycling that Seagate is willing to embrace patently has limits. Our review sample was manufactured and assembled in Thailand and dated 2023.
But, irrespective of that, those behind the Ultra Touch made being more responsible with resources the focus of this product, and if it sells well, that might be an impetus for more recycling. The computing industry has a genuinely abysmal environmental record, and any attempts to address those shortcomings must be saluted, even if the results are modest.
Included in the box is a 50cm USB-C cable. A decent length, but the lack of support for those with USB-A ports is a little jarring. Did Seagate not realise that those using older equipment are more likely to be eco-warriors than those with more modern systems with USB-C?
Along with the cable Seagate has several paper-based offerings that include a 6-month Mylio Photos subscription, a 6-month Dropbox backup plan, a quick install guide, and some notes about the Seagate Toolkit Software and Rescue Data recovery services. The Toolkit software is discussed in more detail in our ‘user experience’ section below.
The Mylio and Dropbox offers aren’t globally available due to the restrictions on both these products in some regions, like China.
Specs & features
Standard 5400 RPM driveEncryption supported
Inside the Ultra Touch shell is a conventional 2.5-inch hard drive, and CrystalDisk Info reveals that it is a Seagate Guardian BarraCuda ST5000LM000, a five-platter design with ten heads that has a rotational speed of 5400 RPM.
It’s a better mechanism than we’d typically see in an external drive, and the retail cost of the hard drive alone is usually more than the asking price of the Ultra Touch.
In this design, like so many others, the drive uses a SATA to USB interface, and the limiting factor on performance is the physical platters and heads. Connecting by USB 3.2 Gen 1, the performance of USB in this context is far greater than the drive is capable of, making the drive the bottleneck.
Not much bigger than the 2.5-inch drive inside, the Ultra Touch is highly portable
One nice aspect of this product is that it supports encryption, something missing from many of the cheaper external drive solutions.
The retail cost of the hard drive alone is usually more than the asking price of the Ultra Touch
There is relatively little else to report. It’s an external hard drive that uses USB, like a million or more that we’ve seen before.
Seagate Toolkit software is excellentFree backup and restore options
Probably the best aspect of this product, other than the recycling angle, is that Seagate engineers thought reasonably deeply about this product, those that might use it. and what they might need.
On the drive are some applications designed for Windows, Mac, and Android users that come with the banner title of Seagate Toolkit. We’ve seen tools like these with many external drive products, and they’re usually a hook to get the customer to invest in something better. But that’s not the case here, as the functionality provided is precisely what most owners will require to get the most out of this hardware.
The Seagate Toolkit provides many of the critical function users need to make best use of the drive.
It offers four functions: Secure, Backup, Restore, and Mirror. As you’ve probably already guessed, the Secure functionality allows drives with integrated encryption to be secured and unlocked. However, using this assumes that you can run an unlock application on the drive for all the devices you are likely to connect.
Technically, this feature is password encryption, but the Ultra Touch does support full AES-256 Encryption in hardware, allowing the OS to encrypt the drive and provide a means to unlock it elsewhere without extra software.
The password unlock security is connected to a MySeagate account that you need to create, but that does allow you to reset the password using your email should you forget what you used to configure it. But if you use hardware encryption of the entire drive, then forgetting that password consigns whatever was stored on the Ultra Touch to oblivion because there is no backdoor means to recover that token.
These are the best tools we’ve seen on a small external drive
Backup and Mirror are essentially the same facilities: a live backup that syncs between the system and the drive. Backup is the quick and easy method where all the critical data areas of the system are copied to the drive, and Mirror allows specific folders that might be outside of that hierarchy to be duplicated to the drive. Providing an easy means to duplicate files from one device to another by configuring the same mirror rules across them.
Finally, Restore is merely an automated tool for pulling back damaged or deleted files from a backup.
Overall, these are the best tools we’ve seen on a small external drive, and they elevate the Ultra Touch above what is typically provided (if anything) with external storage.
Bog-standard performanceBest suited for incremental backups
When the eco-friendly curtains of the Ultra Touch are pulled back, they reveal conventional hard drive technology. While a reliable technology these days, it isn’t the fastest or most power-efficient storage for those that need to move data to and from a PC rapidly.
The performance of the Seagate Ultra Touch is in line with what an external HDD connected by USB can achieve
With disks of this size, a rotational speed of 5400 RPM, and five heads, the results are predictably average. Those that estimate around 150MB/s for both reading and writing will be in the right ball park, although that value represents the edge of the disk, and as the drive fills up, the speed will decline.
Those numbers imply that if you need to catch a plane, train, or automobile and are waiting on this drive to secure data to take on that journey, you might miss your ride.
If that’s an issue, this isn’t the product for you, and Seagate has some excellent USB-connected One Touch SSDs that can transfer eight times this speed.
It’s also worth noting that at this transfer speed, it will take 33,333 seconds to move the entire contents to or from the Ultra Touch, or at least 9.2 hours. Therefore, it’s debatable if the entire contents could be transferred overnight in either direction.
What the Ultra Touch is best made for is incremental backups that take place over a longer period rather than dumping 5TB of data. And, as we’ve already mentioned, the software Seagate provides is well suited to that process.
The Ultra Touch starts from $79.99/£99.99 for a 2TB model, going up to $124.99/£139.99 for 4TB, and $139.99/£164.99 for 5TB, making this one of the pricier external hard drives around – though in practice it’s already on sale for less than these figures.
You’ll be able to find either Seagate’s One Touch or Expansion Portable drives for less, so you are paying a premium for the eco-friendly design and smooth software.
Read our ranking of the best portable hard drives for a few more options.
Eco-products with an additional cost over less environmentally friendly solutions can be problematic to promote. The hard economics of many buying decisions often trumps being environmentally friendly, even if they’re ultimately not sustainable choices. That’s not to say it should, but people and companies have budgets and additional costs from recycling might exceed those limits.
The new 2023 Ultra Touch is made primarily for laptop users
That said, the new Ultra Touch HDD isn’t much more expensive than the One Touch series at the same capacities, and by buying this product, you might encourage Seagate to go harder on recycling than it might have previously considered.
Green credentials aside, the Ultra Touch is a well-considered product combined with the new Seagate Toolkit software specified to perform the backup or mirror jobs most users need on a laptop.
That Seagate has included a proper backup tool with this drive could have an impact well beyond this company, as others might now scramble to offer something as useful with their external drives.
It’s not fast, and the provided cable only supports USB-C computers, but adapters are cheap, and it is quick enough to perform live backups during a working day.
Overall, the launch price might be slightly high, but once market forces come into play, this could be the external HDD to own, if only for the Seagate Toolkit and its ability to secure data progressively from the computer.
Model No.: STMA5000400Capacities: 5TB/4TB/2TBCapacity tested: 5TBTested sequential performance (Read/Write): 148.42/146.95 MB/sConnection: USB 3.2 Gen 1 (USB3.0) using Type-CEncryption: Password + AES-256 EncryptionDimensions: 115.3 x 80 x 23.1 mm (WxHxD)Weight: 267gWarranty: 3 years