Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD 500 GB HDD Review
By Rafael Otto Coelho on July 9, 2013
The Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD 500 GB hard disk drive is part of the third generation of 2.5” hybrid drives that combine a hard disk drive and flash memory to act as a non-volatile cache to store the user’s most frequently accessed data. Let’s test it!
There are, to date, four models in the Seagate SSHD family, which replaces the Momentus XT family. Three of them (500 GB, 750 GB, and 1 TB models) are 0.37” (9.5 mm) thick, while the “Laptop Thin SSHD”, model ST500LM000, that we are testing is only 0.275” (7.0 mm) thick, which is a standard height for netbooks, ultra-slim laptops, and ultrabooks.
A hybrid disk drive is actually a hard disk drive with a built-in non-volatile cache. The idea is the same as the Intel Smart Response Technology: to use a flash memory to cache the most frequently accessed data.
The Laptop Thin SSHD is a 500 GB, 5,400 rpm hard disk, with 8 GB of MLC flash memory as its “SSD portion.” The drive uses an adaptative algorithm to “learn” the most accessed files and write them in the flash memory, so the true speed gain will be noticeable only after a few times of accessing the file. The main benefit is, of course, the reduction of the operating system boot time, since the files needed at the boot initiation will be the most likely to be cached, as well as frequently launched programs.
Figures 1 and 2 present the Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD 500 GB hard disk drive.
In Figure 3, you can compare the thickness of the Laptop Thin SSHD 500 GB (at the left) to a “regular” 2.5” unit.
We tested the Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD using DiskSpeed32, CrystalDiskMark, and PCMark 7 programs. In order to determine the performance of the portrayed drive, we also ran the tests on three other 500 GB hard disk drives. The models and characteristics of the tested units are shown in the table below. Prices were reseached at Newegg.com in the day this review was published.
|Hard Disk Drive||Capacity||Size||rpm||Buffer||Interface||Price (USD)|
|Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD||500 GB||2.5”, 7 mm
|Seagate Barracuda 7200.12||500 GB||3.5”||7200||16 MiB||SATA-600||NA|
||500 GB||2.5”, 9.5 mm
|Hitachi Z5K500-500||500 GB||2.5”, 7 mm
The drives were connected to an internal SATA-600 port. The only variable component between each benchmarking session was the HDD being tested.
Operating System Configuration
We adopted a 3% error margin in our tests, meaning performance differences of less than 3% can’t be considered meaningful. Therefore, when the performance difference between two products is less than 3%, we consider them to have similar performance.
DiskSpeed32 is a disk drive benchmarking program that makes a read test of the entire drive, thus taking a long time.
The first graph compares the average access time (in milliseconds) measured by DiskSpeed32.
In this test, the Laptop Thin SSHD performed more like an SSD, not showing the typical value for a hard disk drive.
The graph below shows the burst read speed for each tested hard disk drive, in kB/s.
In this test, the speed of the SATA-600 interface is crucial. The Seagate Thin SSHD performed 51% faster than the Hitachi Z5K500-500 and 65% faster than the Seagate ST500LM012, both with SATA-300 interface, but 14% slower than the Seagate Barracuda 7200.12.
The next graph shows the maximum sequential read speed for each tested drive, in kB/s.
In this test, the Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD outperformed all other disks, being 4% faster than the Barracuda 7200.12, and 11% faster than the Seagate ST500LM012.
The following graph shows the average transfer speed in kB/s.
In the average speed test, the Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD presented the same performance of the Hitachi Z5K500-500, was 8% faster than the ST500LM012, but 14% slower than the Barracuda 7200.12. As this test measures the average read speed of the entire disk, it is expected that the SSD cache wouldn’t make a difference.
CrystalDiskMark is a disk drive benchmarking program that measures the write and read speed in different block sizes. We compared the results in sequential read and write, and in 512 kiB block size read and write. We configured it for five repetitions of each test of 1 GB of random data.
The graph below shows the sequential read speed for each drive, in MB/s.
In this test, the Laptop Thin SSHD was the worst performer, being 17% slower than the Barracuda 7200.12, 8% slower than the ST500LM012, and 5% slower than the Z5K500-500.
The next graph shows the write speed of sequential data, in MB/s.
In sequential write, the Laptop Thin SSHD performed the same way than the other 2.5” drives, and 11% slower than the Barracuda 7200.12.
The following graph presents the random read speed with 512 kB blocks, in MB/s.
In the 512 kiB block random read test, the Laptop Thin SSHD reached the lowest performance of the included drives, being 6% slower than the Z5K500-500, 13% slower than the ST500LM012, and 29% slower than the Barracuda 7200.12.
The following graph presents the random write speed with 512 kB blocks, in MB/s.
In the 512 kiB blocks random write test, the Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD outperformed the Hitachi Z5K500-500 by 71% and the Seagate ST500LM012 by 40%, but was 13% slower than the Barracuda 7200.12.
We ran the “Secondary Storage Suite” on PCMark 7 Professional Edition. This software performs some “real world” tests, such as importing pictures, video editing, starting applications, and gaming, among others. The result is shown as a score.
In the graph below, are the scores achieved in the PCMark 7 Storage Score by each tested drive. We’ve ran this test five times, and the results remained very consistent.
In those “real world” tests, the Latptop Thin SSHD drive performed superbly, achieving a score 74% higher than the Barracuda 7200.12, and about 110% higher than the conventional 2.5” units we tested.
The main specifications for the Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD 500 GB hard disk drive include:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
It is hard to verify the real advantage of a hybrid hard disk drive. Synthetic tests don’t take advantage of the SSD portion, since the drive controller only places data there when it “learns” it is frequently accessed. But even in those tests, the Laptop Thin SSHD 500 GB unit didn’t disappoint, being faster than its competitors in several tests.
In the PCMark 7 test, which simulates “real world” utilization, the Seagate hybrid drive showed its weapons. It performed superbly, which indicates that in the day-by-day usage of the computer, booting the operating system and launching programs, this tiny drive will be far better than a regular hard drive.
If you have an ultrabook or slim laptop that only fits 7 mm drives and want the big storage space found on a hard disk drive with the speed advantage of an SSD, but don’t want to pay the fortune that a high-capacity SSD costs, the Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD 500 GB drive is an excellent option. It receives our Golden Award.