Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Seagate ST1000LX001 review
We test Seagate's hybrid 'SSHD' 2.5-inch hard disk
- Low cost per GB compared to SSD
- 5-year warranty
- Good for games consoles
- Laptop 2.5-inch disk market has collapsed
- Feels like a 5,400rpm laptop drive too often
- Improvements in cloud and external storage diminish usefulness
If you can only use one disk and need cheap capacity then this is worth looking at. It's especially useful as an upgrade for gaming consoles.
Price$ 183.00 (AUD)
Seagate’s Solid State Hybrid Drives (SSHD) have been around for a while. They are 2.5-inch form-factor, SATA 3, 5,400rpm mechanical hard disks but with an extra-large portion of ‘intelligent’ solid-state memory which, under the right circumstances, gives SSD-like performance.
How it works is that once you've installed your operating system and software, the SSD learns which are your favourite – or most used – applications and stores those in the faster, solid-state memory. As such while installation can take a long time - thanks to the lowly 5,400rpm platter rotation - once the software has run a few times it gets much quicker to load and operate. In theory. But that's not the main advantage.
The Seagate ST1000LX001 SSHD costs around $185, has 1TB capacity on its mechanical platters and 32GB of 'NAND' (SSD-like) capacity. The amount of NAND really hikes the price up though: the ST1000LM014 model also has 1TB of storage but just 8GB of NAND and can be had for $75 less.
This means Seagate’s 1TB SSHDs come in at 10.5c per GB for the 8GB NAND model and 18.5c per GB for the 32GB model. This compares favourably to the SSDs which are 37c/GB for 240GB models, 41c/GB for 500GB models and 45c/GB for the 1TB models. So it’s fair to say that the SSHD wins the price versus capacity battle. Meanwhile a regular Seagate 1TB, 2.5-inch, internal hard disk costs $90 (9c/GB), so if performance is irrelevant to you, there is still a cheaper option.
Performance: Booting up
Our first test involved simply booting our Windows 10 test rig. This usually runs on a standard 240GB AMD R7 SATA 3 SSD. It takes 20 seconds to boot to desktop. We cloned the disk and switched to the SSHD which then took 30 seconds to boot to desktop - 50% slower. But the story doesn’t end there. We kept rebooting and, over the course of 10 reboots saw the boot time drop gradually down to a consistent 22.5 seconds - just 12.5% slower.
We can’t get away from the fact that things can still feel very slow with this disk – background updates made our system hang for the first time in a while. Virus scans, once again, become downright unpleasant. However, apps like Word and Photoshop do get noticeably quicker at launching over time so the performance boost will vary depending on your usage and background tasks.
Benchmarking wasn’t kind to the SSHD as the process cares little for the non-standard hard disk operation. What we saw was the stark difference between an SSD and a 2.5-inch, 5,400rpm laptop drive.
The CrystalDiskMark benchmark showed that Sequential Read and Write speeds are one-fifth slower. Random Read and Write IOPS were crushed and the SSD dominated across the board as expected. We ran the test a few times to check whether if the drive would learn anything, but only the sequential reading and writing improved a little before flattening out.
|Test||240GB AMD SSD||Seagate 1st run||Seagate 5th run|
|Sequential Read (Q32,T1) MB/s||526.035||98.488||111.299|
|Sequential Write (Q32,T1) MB/s||506.891||106.842||114.042|
|Random Read 4KiB (Q32,T1) [IOPS]||205.899 MB/s [50268.3]||0.722 MB/s [176.3]||0.788 MB/s [192.4]|
|Random Write 4KiB (Q= 32,T= 1) [IOPS]||109.896 MB/s [26830.1]||0.841 MB/s [205.3]||0.891 MB/s [217.5]|
|Sequential Read (T=1) MB/s||443.103||108.421||106.958|
|Sequential Write (T=1) MB/s||461.593||70.257||110.731|
|Random Read 4KiB (Q1,T1) [IOPS]||25.262 MB/s [6167.5]||0.354 MB/s [86.4]||0.344 MB/s [84.0]|
|Random Write 4KiB (Q1,T1) [IOPS]||74.847 MB/s [18273.2]||0.701 MB/s [171.1]||0.816 MB/s [199.2]|
The main beneficiaries of SSHDs used to be laptops which all used to have 2.5-inch hard disks. Nowadays however, most laptops use mini-SATA SSDs (which resemble microchips on a plug-in) card because they are smaller, lighter and need less power. Still, if you have a laptop that uses a 2.5-inch SATA unit and need to boost capacity without relying on external storage this could be tempting.
Perhaps the main beneficiaries of an SSHD upgrade are gaming consoles. These come with low-capacity, slow, 2.5-inch mechanical disks as standard. With games now frequently taking up some 50GB of space and with loading times dragging on horribly sometimes, having a high-capacity SSD would make a big (but very expensive) difference. It’s also tricky moving huge game installs around so this is perhaps the most attractive market for an SSHD.
It could also attract PC gamers on a budget. Fitting multiple AAA games on small SSDs can lead to frequent transferral of massive game files from an SSD to large-capacity mechanical drives. Having everything in one place would be more convenient although PC gamers would still shudder at the thought of having 5,400rpm rotation speeds anywhere near their beast systems.
In the days of 2.5-inch drives being associated with laptops the SSHD made for a compelling choice, but that market has all but vanished now. Even so, it’s been a long time since we saw a PC hang while multi-tasking, as we did frequently with the SSHD, showing that an SSD’s near-instant performance represents our base-level expectations nowadays. Cloud storage, media streaming and high-capacity, fast external memory sticks and hard disks all now mean that we’re running out of room less frequently these days so the SSHD's prime selling point of a low-cost-per-GB isn't high on many people's requirement lists any more.
We’d still rather have a ‘lower’ capacity SSD for general computing use as life’s too short to wait for anything on a computer these days. However, if you have a gaming console or a niche usage requirement that allows for only one, small hard disk to be used, Seagate’s SSHDs can still be an attractive purchase. If this is you and your computing requirements aren’t high, the 8GB NAND model offers better value as the expensive extra NAND won’t add much benefit unless you’re using powerful programs or you're gaming.
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