Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD 500GB Review

by Robert Tanner on April 22, 2013 in Storage

Have you ever had a craving for a hard drive the same size as those Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies? Seagate has just the drive for you, and anyone else who’s in the market for a svelte 7mm laptop drive but needs performance at an affordable price. Seagate’s Solid-State Hybrid Thin drive may be small, but it may just be the drive you’re looking for.

Page 1 – Introduction

SSDs are a hot market right now; they offer the most direct, tangible boost to overall performance and system responsiveness on a level that hasn’t been seen since the migration away from single-core processors. If you have used a system that had the OS & programs installed on an SSD, then you know. Even if not, it probably isn’t too hard to imagine what using a smartphone or tablet would feel like if it had a mechanical disk drive whirring inside instead of flash memory.

The secret to an SSD’s success starts with the lower access latency that NAND flash offers compared to magnetic drives. They aren’t just a single order-of-magnitude lower, but actually a whopping 2-3 times faster (14ms vs 0.1ms, typically) when seeking data. It’s one of the reasons smartphones and tablets ship exclusively with the same sort of NAND flash memory, even if the average laptop or desktop doesn’t. Laptops and PCs need significantly more storage capacity than a tablet or smartphone, so a comparable amount of NAND in them still raises the overall cost of a computer beyond the point where it would be uncompetitive versus others in the industry.

Seagate is not just looking to change that but is doing something about it. It started with the launch of the Momentus XT family, a hybrid drive that paired a mechanical drive with SLC flash NAND. The only drawback was that the XT still commanded an unfortunately high premium over regular mechanical drives. That’s where Seagate’s new “SSHD” comes in.

Seagate’s Solid-State Hybrid Drive family is the 3rd generation of hybrid drives, and what differentiates it over past models is the use of MLC NAND, and price. Sporting an MSRP ranging from $0.08-0.15 cents per gigabyte (or was that Gibibyte?) it is priced competitively with other mechanical drives while still promising to offer “SSD like” levels of performance. For comparison, as of this writing even the best priced SSD still slots in at $0.60 cents per GB/GiB, with lower capacity models running closer to $0.80.

  Seagate SSHD Family
Capacity Size Thickness Platters Speed NAND Price
Seagate Laptop SSHD 500GB 2.5″ 7mm 1 5400 RPM 8GB MLC $79
Seagate Laptop SSHD 1TB 2.5″ 9.5mm 2 5400 RPM 8GB MLC $99
Seagate Desktop SSHD 1TB 3.5″ ??? 1 7200 RPM 8GB MLC $99
Seagate Desktop SSHD 2TB 3.5″ ??? 2 7200 RPM 8GB MLC $149

The SSHD name is the new designation for Seagate’s hybrid drives and makes it easy to distinguish it from previous generation XT models. On average, Hybrid models will feature a greater areal density (fewer platters) compared to the XT generation which will improve performance; on the flipside, all 2.5” laptop models are limited to just 5400RPM. All models include a fixed 8GB of MLC NAND which will operate as cache for both reads and writes for most frequently accessed data. Unlike typical caching solutions, the entire caching process takes place at the drive level, meaning no software, no special drivers, and no special OS consideration is needed with an SSHD. Users can treat it as a normal hard disk drive in all respects (even including defragmentation tools) which makes the Seagate’s Solid-State Hybrid Drive family as easy to use as any other hard drive.

Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD 500GB

Seagate sent us a pair of the most exciting model in the SSHD family, the “Seagate Solid-State Hybrid Laptop Thin” which is an astonishingly tiny 500GB, 7mm tall laptop hybrid drive with 8GB of MLC NAND. These “Thin” model drives will be especially important for laptop users, most of which only have space for only a single drive and don’t have physical space for both an SSD for performance and an HDD for capacity to the laptop.

Before jumping into our results, we need to first explain how we conducted our testing. Our readers know that when benchmarking SSDs we normally run all tests five times, drop the highest and lowest results and average the middle three for our final result. That testing methodology isn’t exactly fair nor exactly accurate when it comes to hybrid drives like the SSHD. So in our graphs we have decided to include the best, worst, and our standard result from all five runs.

We included a representative, budget model SSD and a 7200RPM desktop drive as the best comparison points to showcase where the SSHD performs in relation to a typical HDD and SSD. Additionally, although desktop SSHDs are more applicable for and would give much better performance due to their higher rotation speed, we went ahead and added results for both Laptop Thin drives in a RAID 0 setup just for the heck of it!

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