Seagate SSHD Thin 500GB Review

Author: AkG
Date: April 28, 2013
Product Name: Seagate Laptop SSHD Thin 500GB
Part Number: ST500LM000
Warranty: 3 Years
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Seagate's so-called "hybrid" solutions have been around for a while, successfully combining the capacity of a hard drive with the speed of an SSD. This technology had been previously carried over into the desktop Barracuda XT and notebook-focused Momentus XT lines. Now on its third generation, Seagate’s hybrid lineup is being switched up a bit with the advent of the Laptop Thin SSHD series, supplanting the Momentus nomenclature.

As with all of Seagate’s other Hybrid storage solutions, the SSHD includes a small amount of ultra fast, ultra low latency NAND to optimize performance and speed up those all-important boot times. While this design won’t speed up every single application, your most-used programs will load quicker and overall system responsiveness will be noticeably improved. Naturally, going this route will be extremely beneficial for anyone with an upgradeable notebook. Desktop users meanwhile aren’t being targeted by the Laptop Thin SSHDs but expect this technology to once again trickle down into other markets as well.

While the original Momentus XT was a 500GB, 7200rpm 2.5” hard drive that was paired with a mere 4GB of SLC NAND, technological evolution has necessitated some changes. For its time, the XT was quite innovative and its performance showed great promise for the future of Seagate’s notebook solutions.

The second generation boosted capacity to 750GB, doubled the size of NAND to 8GB, and used the same Momentus XT name. Performance was once again impressive but an initial price of over $200 was a bit more than budget-conscious users could stomach.

The SSHD series (short for Solid State Hybrid Drive) also comes in 500GB and 1TB capacities and starts at a frugal $80, marking a large departure from previous iterations. This should make it more accessible to a larger cross section of the market.

As its name suggests, the SSHD Thin uses the thinner 7mm form factor. While a 2.5mm height reduction may not sound all that important, it does allow Seagate’s Laptop SSHD Thin to fit inside Ultrabooks, unlike the larger 9.5mm drives.

What is not as blatantly obvious is this reduced ‘thin’ form factor has necessitated an areal density increase. 7mm hard drives such as this one are by perforce single platter drives. This explains the ‘reduction’ in capacity from the last generation’s 750GB to this generations 500GB. It also explains why the 1TB version uses the more standard 9.5mm form factor as it requires two 500GB platters.

Increased areal density should certainly help this drive’s spindle and platter based performance and that’s important since the SSHD’s rotational speed has been reduced from 7200 RPM to a more sedate 5400 RPM. This has been done to increase battery performance while still offering near SSD-like speed for any blocks of data housed on the NAND.

Unfortunately, this brings us the next potential issue: the 500GB drive only has 8GB of NAND. Even ignoring the move from longer lived SLC NAND to shorter lifespan (but potentially quicker) MLC chips, this is still the same amount used on the Momentus XT so nothing has changed on this front. As we stated in that review, once the limited 8GB of space is filled, the rest of your data will be only be read at typical HDD speeds.

On the positive side, the amount of ram cache has been doubled to 64MB from 32MB, the SSHD uses a newer HDD controller and even incorporates an updated SSD controller. Hopefully these hardware improvements will minimize the rotational speed decrease, but there is little hope of it helping on the NAND front. Once the 8GB is full, faster controllers will do little to help the situation.


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