Seagate Makes A Splash
Seagate has long been a player in the storage industry, best known for its hard drive products and more recently, its hybrid HDD/SSD drives. As such, it may be surprising that it's taken so long for them to jump into the pure SSD consumer market as so many other already have. At this point, we are seeing drive makers reduce in number as component prices and sales margins fall, somewhat of an echo of sorts of how the spinning platter drive market evolved. Nevertheless, Seagate has chosen to power their latest 600 series drives with the Link_A_Media Devices (LAMD) LM87800 controller (now owned by SK Hynix) and pair it with Toshiba NAND - a configuration we've seen before with good results.
The 600 series is actually available in two configurations - one with a z-height of the familiar 7mm and another with a rarely seen 5mm (part numbers end 1). Both are available in capacities of 120GB, 240GB and 480GB. There is also a pro model with similar capacities plus higher overprovisioned capacities of 100GB, 200GB and 400GB. They are essentially the same drives as the non-pro but offers a few extras such as greater endurance and on-board capacitors as an extra measure to prevent data loss should power be suddenly interrupted. Here's a quick little overview video produced by Seagate:
The drives have admirable performance specifications of 550MB/s reads and 450MB/s writes and IOPS performance of 80,000/70,000 reads/writes respectively. All carry a three year warranty and Seagate's track record of quality.
Seagate 600 (ST240HM000) SSD Features and Specifications:
|Interface Options:||SATA 6Gb/s||SATA 6Gb/s||SATA 6Gb/s|
|Nonrecoverable Read Errors per Bits Read:||1 in 10^16||1 in 10^16||1 in 10^16|
|Annualized Failure Rate (AFR):||0.58%||0.58%||0.58%|
|Endurance (Total Bytes Written (TBW)):||72TB, 73TB||72TB||36.5TB|
|Idle, Typical Operating (W):||1.1||1.1||1.1|
|Height (in/mm):||0.197/5.00, 0.276/7.00||0.197/5.00, 0.276/7.00||0.276/7.00, 0.197/5.00|
|Weight (lb/g):||0.148/67, 0.170/77||0.148/67, 0.170/77||0.170/77, 0.148/67|
|Current Pricing:||$499.00 USD||$209.00 USD||$124.00 USD|
Sustained Seq128KB Read
|Sustained Seq 128KB Write||Avg Operating Power||Shock Operating||Shock Duration|
Our test sample arrived bare in nondescript packaging so we have no images of that but the drive comes as is with no other frills such as adapter plates, cables, stickers or software. Although not relevant to performance, the exterior of the drive is quite attractive with the black textured surface and a white wave accent flowing down the left side. Definitely different than any other drive on the market. How about the inside? Let's see...
Inside The Seagate 600
To start, before we even had a chance to look at the drive, Seagate advised us against opening the drive as damage would likely occur. They were spot on with that bit of advice and of course we had to give it a go - especially after the warning.
Fortunately, we managed to overcome the passive measures designed to prevent tampering without too much hassle by prying the metal tabs a bit. However, in the process we mangled the back aluminum piece enough to make it obvious the innards were accessed. No damage to the fragile bits occurred and we made sure we performed all testing prior to cracking it open just in case. No screws were present to further hamper our efforts to remove the PCB.
One side of the circuit board is devoid of notable features.
All the important pieces are on the other side where we find the NAND, cache chips and the controller which is concealed by a thermal pad.
The MLC NAND is Toshiba branded carrying part number TH58TEG8DDJBA8C with a lithography of 19nm. On this particular drive (240GB) there are eight modules of 32GB capacity each for 256GB total on board.
The twin DDR2-800 DRAM cache chips are Micron and each carry part number D9LHP with a combined capacity of 256MB (1Gb each).
The Link_A_Media Devices (LAMD) LM87800 controller, recently purchased by SK Hynix, is the very same we've seen on the Corsair Neutron and Neutron GTX drives. It's performance has proven to be pretty darn good and without the need for compression of data to boost performance. As such, performance is relatively consistent regardless of the data employed. As we mentioned in the Neutron reviews, it leverages what SK Hynix terms eBoost technology to improve drive endurance through proprietary "adaptive signal estimation techniques" and also takes care of error correction duties. Error correction is critical on this drive as the 19nm NAND is much more prone to errors as is the case the further the architecture shrinks.
Test System & Comparison Drives
Legit Reviews Storage Benchmark Test System
All tests were performed on a fresh and up-to-date install of Windows 8 Pro x64 with no other applications running while using AHCI mode set through the BIOS. Synthetic Benchmarks were run with the OS loaded on a 120GB Corsair Force SSD. In between every test, the test drive was secure erased using an instance of Parted Magic. As such, all results should be indicative of optimal performance. All components were set to their default speeds and are listed below.
Z77 Test Bench
|Intel LGA 1155 Test Platform|
|Core i5 2500k|
|ASUS Maximus V Gene Z77|
|Kingston HyperX KHX16C9B1RK28 8GB|
|Corsair Force 120GB (FW 2.4)|
|Antec Basiq BP550W Plus-EC|
|Windows 8 Pro 64-Bit|
Comparison Drives And Other Models We Have Tested
Since there are so many SSDs out there now with different controllers, we started a reference table of which controllers are used by each drive to help you compare results. Different controllers definitely perform differently and each has various strengths and weaknesses. Like CPU's, even identical drives will have variations in performance and part of that variance may be attributable to the NAND flash used. Since the tests of the drives listed have spanned different test benches and represent different interfaces, we have listed the most recent ones for easy reference.
|OCZ Vertex 450 256GB||Indilinx Barefoot 3 M10||SATA III|
|Crucial M500 480GB||Marvell 88SS9187||SATA III|
|OCZ Vertex 3.20 240GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||SATA III|
|Samsung 840 Pro 240GB||Samsung MDX||SATA III|
|Sandisk Ultra Plus 256GB||Marvell 88SS9175||SATA III|
|Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB||LAMD LM87800||SATA III|
|Intel 520 Series 240GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||SATA III|
|OCZ Vector 256GB||Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00||SATA III|
|Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||SATA III|
|Samsung 830 Series 256GB||Samsung S4LJ204X01-Y040||SATA III|
CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0 Readout:
For the Seagate 600 240GB drive, the readout on CrystalDiskInfo 5.2.0 shows that both NCQ and S.M.A.R.T. are enabled, as well as TRIM and the interface is confirmed at SATA III (6Gbps). This is a great free tool to see lots of detailed information about the drive such as the firmware version for which we are running the latest available at the time of testing - B660.
Let's look at some benchmarks...
ATTO & AS-SSD Benchmarks
ATTO is one of the oldest drive benchmarks still being used today and is still very relevant in the SSD world. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that can be very easily interpreted. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5KB through 8192KB transfer sizes with the total length being 256MB.
ATTO - Intel Z77 Platform:
Benchmark Results: While reads on this benchmark are equal to the best drives we've seen the writes on the Seagate 600 are a little below the mark set by others but modestly above the 450MB/s specification.
AS-SSD (1.6.4237.30508) Benchmark - Intel Z77 Platform:
We have been running the AS-SSD Benchmark app for over some time now and found that it gives a broad result set. The programmer has worked very hard on this software and continues to make updates often so if you use it, show him some love and send him a donation. There are now three tests that are found within the tool and we'll show the results from two of them.
Benchmark Results: Here we see that the controller is data agnostic as it performs pretty much just as well with incompressible data as it did on the compressible data in the ATTO benchmark.
Benchmark Results: This graph further illustrates that point with a lines for both reads and writes that have no slope.
CrystalDiskMark and Anvil IOPS
CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) for the last listed benchmark score. This can skew some results in favor of controllers that also do not support NCQ.
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 - Intel Z77 Platform
Benchmark Results: As with the AS-SSD benchmark, we see little reduction in performance from max specifications and while posting the best scores, it was near the top.
Anvil Storage Utilities 1.050 RC6- Intel Z77 Platform
Along with the move to a new platform, we decided to make a change in one of the benchmarks. There's a relatively new benchmark called Anvil Storage Utilities that is in beta but close to production. It's a very powerful tool that measures performance through a variety of tests which can be customized. Since some of the tests more or less duplicate what we get from other benchmarks we use already, we decided to use the IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) testing on 4kb file sizes at a queue depth of 32. IOPS performance is something SSD makers tout quite a bit but we generally don't do a lot of IOPS testing because frankly a lot of users can't relate to IOPS metrics as well and it tends to be more meaningful to the enterprise/server crowd. Still, it is another performance indicator with relevance and while some drives post good MB/s numbers, their IOPS scores aren't always commensurate which this test will prove out.
Benchmark Results: IOPS performance was very good, exceeding the published specification of 80K/70K read/writes by a modest margin and near the marks set by the best drives we've tested.
Real World Copy & Boot Tests
File Copy Times Via Teracopy 2.27:
One of the most common operations performed on a PC is moving/copying files. Using a free application called Teracopy, we copied large numbers of two file types from one folder to another on the same drive. Teracopy allows us to objectively measure the time of transfer and using the same drive prevents other devices from tainting the outcome. The operation requires the drive to perform both sustained read and writes simultaneously. The first set of files is a 5GB collection of JPG's of variable size and compression levels with a few movie (.MOV) files thrown in for good measure since most cameras now take video as well as stills. The second is a collection of MP3 files of various sizes which totals 5GB collectively. These file types were chosen due to their wide use and mixture of file sizes and compression levels.
Install Results: The filecopy times were very quick, nearly dead on what we saw with the comparably equipped Neutron GTX drive.
Windows Boot Times Via BootRacer:
Windows start up/shutdown time is always something people are interested in and we haven't done it in a while because there was little variation with the majority of the SSDs. We recently began using an application called BootRacer to objectively measure the startup times of the drives. All of the instances of Windows were identical and freshly installed with only the video driver installed.
Test Results: On our boot test, all of the times turned in are within a few seconds of each other and the Seagate 600 falls right in the middle.
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
For the Seagate 600 240GB drive, the user ends up with a healthy 223GB that addressable for use. This is similar to the level of overprovisioning we see on SandForce drives after the conversion from GB (1GB byte = 1,000,000,000 bytes) as expressed in hardware storage to GiB (1Gib = 1,073,741,824 bytes) as expressed in virtual storage.
Seagate is certainly one of the titans when it comes to PC storage options - both consumer and enterprise. It makes sense for them to use their considerable infrastructure to make their mark on the SSD market segment - something they've been slow to do. With the 600 series of drives, they do offer up a consumer version and a pro version for enterprise. One thing the Seagate 600 brings that you can't find on another SSD that we're aware of is the 5mm z-height. Not many devices call for it but it's nice to have the option. Otherwise, you get the already thin 7mm form factor.
We found performance on our 240GB drive to be very good with the Link_A_Media Devices (LAMD) LM87800 controller handling all the heavy lifting. The specifications of 550MB/s reads and 450MB/s writes were hit without a problem and even on incompressible data, speeds were solid. IOPS performance was very good as well, exceeding the 80,000/70,000 reads/writes by a bit to place in the upper portion of the comparison list. Its performance is not unlike that of the Corsair Neutron GTX drive which has similar components; each giving very consistent performance. With the recent acquisition by SK Hynix, it remains to be seen what will happen with the controller as far as licensing options go.
For the consumer version of the 600 that we had a look at, it's offered at capacities of 120GB, 240GB and 480GB for $124.41, $209.00 and $499.00 respectively. For the 240GB drive, that pans out to be about $0.94 per usable GB. That's a pretty competitive price at a time when margins are shrinking and the player pool is shrinking. Seagate should be able to remain competitive in this space with their strong brand in the storage industry and existing infrastructure. They also stand to get in on the bread an butter of the SSD market which is OEM sales. It's not clear how much of the controller firmware is customized by Seagate but it may be a good way to differentiate them from others using the same controller, similar to what Intel did with the SF-2281 controller.
Legit Bottom Line: The Seagate 600 is a solid drive based on the LAMD LM87800 controller with consistent performance, competitive pricing, and a brand consumers know very well.