Lining up the contenders
At the moment, Seagate's SSHDs are without peers outside the firm's own lineup. The fact is that nobody else sells hybrids right now—at least not ones that fit inside the 2.5" mobile form factor. We have assembled a collection of solid-state and mechanical notebook drives to put the Laptop Thin SSHD's performance into perspective, though. Seagate wasn't able to provide us with the standard Laptop SSHD for testing, so we'll have to make do with the Thin model for now.
Seagate's older Momentus XT hybrids are also in the mix, of course. The 500GB model belongs to the first generation, and the 750GB variant is its successor. Keep in mind that both XTs have 7,200-RPM spindle speeds.
|Interface||Cache||Spindle speed||Areal density|
|Seagate Momentus XT 500GB||3Gbps||32MB||7,200 RPM||394 Gb/in²|
|Seagate Momentus XT 750GB||6Gbps||32MB||7,200 RPM||541 Gb/in²|
|Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD 500GB||6Gbps||64MB||5,400 RPM||705 GB/in²|
|WD Caviar Black 1TB||6Gbps||64MB||7,200 RPM||400 Gb/in²|
|WD Scorpio Black 750GB||3Gbps||16MB||7,200 RPM||520 Gb/in²|
|WD VelociRaptor 1TB||6Gbps||64MB||10,000 RPM||NA|
Western Digital's Scorpio Black 750GB represents the purely mechanical notebook field. This drive is devoid of flash memory, but it has a faster spindle speed than the Laptop Thin. Like the Momentus XTs, it also has a thicker 9.5-mm chassis.
To provide some broader context, we've also tossed WD's Caviar Black 1TB and VelociRaptor 1TB into the ring. The former is a 3.5" desktop model, while the latter is a 10k-RPM monster.
Naturally, these desktop drives aren't direct competition for the Laptop Thin. 2.5" solid-state drives are more appropriate rivals, especially since a handful of them are similarly skinny 7-mm cases. Here's the collection we've rounded up for comparison:
|Corsair Neutron 240GB||256MB||LAMD LM87800||25nm Micron async MLC|
|Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB||256MB||LAMD LM87800||25nm Intel sync MLC|
|Crucial m4 256GB||256MB||Marvell 88SS9174||25nm Micron sync MLC|
|Intel 320 Series 300GB||64MB||Intel PC929AS21BA0||25nm Intel MLC|
|Intel 335 Series 240GB||NA||SandForce SF-2281||20nm Intel sync MLC|
|OCZ Agility 4 256GB||512MB||Indilinx Everest 2*||25nm Micron async MLC|
|OCZ Vector 256GB||512MB||Indilinx Barefoot 3||25nm Intel sync MLC|
|OCZ Vertex 4 256GB||512MB||Indilinx Everest 2*||25nm Micron sync MLC|
|Samsung 840 Series 250GB||512MB||Samsung MDX||21nm Samsung Toggle TLC|
|Samsung 840 Pro 256GB||512MB||Samsung MDX||21nm Samsung Toggle MLC|
These ten drives pretty much cover the gamut of popular controller and NAND combinations on the market right now. None of them can match the Laptop Thin's 500GB capacity, a fact that our value analysis will take into account.
Our testing methods
If you're already familiar with our storage test system and methods, now would be a good time to skip ahead to the performance results. I'll only be offended if you jump straight to the conclusion.
We used the following system configuration for testing:
|Processor||Intel Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz|
|Motherboard||Asus P8P67 Deluxe|
|Platform hub||Intel P67 Express|
|Platform drivers||INF update 18.104.22.1680
|Memory size||8GB (2 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz|
|Audio||Realtek ALC892 with 2.62 drivers|
|Graphics||Asus EAH6670/DIS/1GD5 1GB with Catalyst 11.7 drivers|
|Hard drives||Corsair Neutron 240GB with M206 firmware
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB with M206 firmware
Crucial m4 256GB with 010G firmware
Intel 320 Series 300GB with 4PC10362 firmware
Intel 335 Series 240GB with 335s firmware
OCZ Agility 4 256GB with 1.5.2 firmware
OCZ Vector 256GB with 10200000 firmware
OCZ Vertex 4 256GB with 1.5 firmware
Samsung 840 Series 250GB with DXT07B0Q firmware
Samsung 840 Pro Series 256GB with DXM04B0Q firmware
Seagate Momentus XT 500GB with SD22 firmware
Seagate Momentus XT 750GB with SM12 firmware
WD Caviar Black 1TB with 05.01D05 firmware
WD Scorpio Black 750GB with 01.01A01 firmware
WD VelociRaptor 1TB with 04.06A00 firmware
Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD 500GB with SM11 firmware
|Power supply||Corsair Professional Series Gold AX650W|
|OS||Windows 7 Ultimate x64|
Thanks to Asus for providing the systems' motherboards and graphics cards, Intel for the CPUs, Corsair for the memory and PSUs, Thermaltake for the CPU coolers, and Western Digital for the Caviar Black 1TB system drives.
We used the following versions of our test applications:
- Intel IOMeter 1.1.0 RC1
- HD Tune 4.61
- TR DriveBench 1.0
- TR DriveBench 2.0
- TR FileBench 0.2
- Qt SDK 2010.05
- MiniGW GCC 4.4.0
- Duke Nukem Forever
- Portal 2
Some further notes on our test methods:
To ensure consistent and repeatable results, the SSDs were secure-erased before almost every component of our test suite. Some of our tests then put the SSDs into a used state before the workload begins, which better exposes each drive's long-term performance characteristics. In other tests, like DriveBench and FileBench, we induce a used state before testing. In all cases, the SSDs were in the same state before each test, ensuring an even playing field. The performance of mechanical hard drives is much more consistent between factory fresh and used states, so we skipped wiping the HDDs before each test—mechanical drives take forever to secure erase.
We run all our tests at least three times and report the median of the results. We've found IOMeter performance can fall off with SSDs after the first couple of runs, so we use five runs for solid-state drives and throw out the first two.
Steps have been taken to ensure that Sandy Bridge's power-saving features don't taint any of our results. All of the CPU's low-power states have been disabled, effectively pegging the 2500K at 3.3GHz. Transitioning in and out of different power states can affect the performance of storage benchmarks, especially when dealing with short burst transfers.
The test systems' Windows desktop was set at 1280x1024 in 32-bit color at a 75Hz screen refresh rate. Most of the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.