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.
Real-world results are surprisingly hard to come by when testing SSDs. It is extremely easy to showcase just how much faster any SSD on the market is compared to even a modern mechanical disk drive. However, when we try to compare SSD to SSD, differences can amount to just a few seconds or even a fraction of a second, often well inside the margin of error (and human reflexes), making any results obtained meaningless.
We are always eager to hear about any demanding storage workloads our readers may have, but in an effort to get around this problem, we have put together three batch test files that target three levels of intensity.
Firstly we have our light batch file, which we drop into the Windows Startup folder. Windows 7 will execute and load various programs and commands as it boots, making it perhaps the most easily pertinent of our three tests. Almost everyone has an array of programs that starts with their OS, ranging from background applications like anti-virus to programs like a browser or music player.
This batch file will load four websites in Firefox, start Photoshop CS5 and load five 5MB or greater images, and load 15MB of data in Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents. Several background utilities will also load; a PDF file and compressed file are opened for viewing, and of course, since nobody likes to work without listening to some music, we have our favorite 56MB FLAC file playing the entire time. Obviously, all of this takes place while Windows 7 itself is still loading. We start timing from the moment the machine is powered on to the moment the last program finishes loading – and it isn’t as long as you might think. (We provide raw cold boot times on the next page for direct comparison).
Our medium batch test is similar although we apply the use of timers to space apart the commands. Instead of booting, time begins from the moment we execute the batch file until the moment all tasks have completed. The medium test also consists of the following:
- Playback of a 56MB FLAC music file in Winamp
- 50 ~8MB JPEGs queued to open in Photoshop CS5 64-bit
- Launching of Adobe Lightroom
- Opening of three Excel, three Word, and one PowerPoint files (various large sizes; for example one Excel file consists of a 72MB database)
- Browsing to four different websites in Firefox
- Copy of a 4.5GB file to a separate location on the same drive
- Viewing of two PDF documents & compressed archives
- Execution of multiple small system utilities
To keep things simple, the heavy batch test is identical to the medium test in all respects, save for one important addition. Computer users coming from HDDs will be familiar with the slowdown or even molasses-like feeling that occurs from having an anti-virus or anti-malware scan running in the background. SSDs scoff at this sort of thing however, and the typical SSD user wouldn’t think twice about running an anti-virus scan at the same time as playing a fullscreen game since framerates will remain relatively unaffected.
The heavy test will capitalize on this by running an anti-virus scan from Microsoft Security Essentials on a static, unchanging 5.1GB test folder that contains 19,748 files and 2,414 sub-folders copied from the Program Files directory. Also worth noting is that because the medium and heavy batch tests are identical save for the AV scan, results between them are directly comparable.
Our batch results are well-suited for caching drives and give some telling results. Firstly, the SSHD Thin is able to deliver fast boot times while loading a couple applications nearly as fast as our sample SSD. Seagate’s SSHD Laptop Thin literally is able to boot and load programs in less than a third of the time of the mechanical drive after it has initially had time to cache the data.
Moving onto our medium test we see the hybrid drive shave a minute and a half once it caches some data, although its best time shaves another full minute off its average result and gives it a 15 second lead over the 2TB drive.
Although the medium results are still good and show that the SSHD will deliver performance far better than a typical 5400RPM laptop hard drive, the limitations of an 8GB cache are coming into play here. Almost 5GB is being written to the disk and more than 1GB in file reads will take place. With 8GB of space to work with, data has to be evicted from cache if new data is being more actively utilized which will lead to some programs bumping others out of that limited 8GB. The best result shows that given enough runs the drive will continue to optimize itself, but for extreme users it is a problem. The heavy batch test again brings the lower rotational speed into play as the anti-virus scan seeks slow down the overall performance.