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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:

  Cache Flash controller NAND
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
Bios revision 1850
Platform hub Intel P67 Express
Platform drivers INF update
Memory size 8GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz
Memory timings 9-9-9-24-1T
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:

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.