Seagate 600 Pro 400GB SSD Review
The advent of SSDs and their eventual plunge into lower price brackets caught many traditional hard drive manufacturers by surprise. Seagate on the other hand had already invested heavily into solid state technology, utilizing it as an enhanced feature on some of their drives. Now, with the recently released $570 Seagate Pro 600 400GB they're taking the next logical step towards becoming a company that can offer the best of both worlds.
Admittedly, Seagate's move towards this point has been leisurely and without a hint of panic. They've thoroughly analyzed the market and have determined that at this point, focusing on the higher end professional market is the way to go. With that in mind, the 600 Pro is priced higher than most mainstream SSDs but incorporates protective technologies designed to keep your information safe.
The Pro series doesn't represent Seagate's first foray into the SSD market either. However, after two rather half-hearted attempts, the Pulsar and Pulsar 2, they are hoping this third time is the charm and have fully embraced the idea of a high performance, highly reliability SSD based on proven technology.
Externally the 600 Pro does not appear to be all that different from any of the other enthusiast orientated options on the marketplace. Like most, it makes use of a 7mm form factor allowing it to easily fit inside the cramped confines of UltraBooks and mini desktops.
While a touch more subdued than some, the all metal case and basic labeling is quite subtle in its branding and appears to be very similar to that of Seagate Hard Disk Drive offerings.
This is not just another rushed to market, ‘me too’ drive meant to quickly stem the loss of consumers while a ‘real’ solution is found. Unlike many newcomers who want to quickly gain a foothold in this cutthroat industry, Seagate have not simply rebadged an existing drive and sold it as their own. Rather that taking the safe approach they looked further afield than LSI and their SandForce SF2281 controller and opted for a less known – but arguably more powerful – Link A-Media controller.
One of the more tangible benefits to using a LAMD controller is their acceptance of custom firmware and this is exactly what the 600 Pro has: custom in house firmware which should provide a noticeable advantage over other LAMD based drives.
One such instantly noticeable advantage to using custom firmware is the 600 Pro series is actually two rather distinct models under one banner. The 120, 240, 480 GB capacities may reside right alongside their 100, 200 and 400 GB counterparts, but they are in fact distinctly different products meant for separate marketplaces. For example, the 400GB version this this review is orientated towards business ‘Enterprise’ customers whereas the 480GB model is meant for home user environments. With that in mind, the 400GB is rated for an impressive 1.05 Petabytes of data writes whereas its 480GB counterpart is only rated for 350TB and is of course priced accordingly.
Further helping to distinguish the 600 Pro series from the competition, its performance and power consumption is actually variable. Much like a modern CPU design, this model will only scale up to full power when I/O demands call for it. The rest of the time it will idle at a power conserving lower state that will help keep cooling needs and electricity costs lower. All of these features are a direct result of the custom firmware.
To populate this drive, Seagate has opted for 19nm Toshiba Toggle Mode NAND ICs which should provide the 600 Pro with a high level of performance. Even the massive 112GB of over-provisioning is not all that unheard of but Seagate has only opted for just eight NAND ICs instead of the typical 16 found inside most ‘professional’ grade drives.
If history is any indication this may create some issue when dealing with full drive performance drop-off but the massive over-provisioning combined with the LAMD controller may just be able to make up for this potential shortfall.
Seagate has branded this as a ‘Pro’ model and helping to reinforce this marketing is the onboard capacitors which will allow for Flush in Flight abilities. As mentioned in the past, this feature allows the drive to write –i.e. ‘flush’ - any data in the event of power loss and thereby removes the possibility of data corruption. Very few consumer grade drives feature this ability and having it on the 600 Pro does give it excellent potential as an enterprise-class SSD.
As with all LAMD controller based drives, this one makes use of external ram cache. In this instancetwo Micron DDR2-800 256MB chips are used for a total of 512MB of cache for the Link A-Media Controller.
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