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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: Seagate 4TB Solid State Hybrid Hard Drive

I realize that I'm a member of a dying breed: the desktop user. While the rest of the world is content to shoot crappy videos and photos with smartphones, processing on the same, and then posting onto Facebook and instagram, I'm still shooting with high end cameras, processing 20-25MB images on a powerful desktop on Lightroom, post-processing video on Adobe Premiere Elements. With the additional of a kid in the house, I'm shooting more than ever before, and my 5 year old computer with an upgraded 1.5TB HDD simply ran out of storage. In addition, the desktop is pretty good as a media server for recording video, so adding storage is a good idea.

The result of the recent change in the majority of users means that it's nearly impossible to find a 7200rpm 4TB HDD at a reasonable cost. The majority of high capacity hard drives now run at 5400rpm and are intended for enterprise NAS use, rather than consumer desktop use. Amazon had a sale on the 4TB 3.5" SSHD drive, and at $140 it wasn't more expensive than other slow 4TB drives, so I bought it to try.

The Seagate SSHD has a rotational speed of 5900rpm, which is slower than the 2TB version which run at 7200rpm. If the rotating platter had had a higher density, this wouldn't affect transfer speeds much, but this version of the drive has 4 1TB platters, so it's actually lower density than the 2TB drive. Nevertheless, copying data over to the new drive via eSATA got me peak speeds around 50-60MB/s via robocopy, indicating that for sequential writes, the drive wasn't bottle-necked.

In use, the drive is mostly used for photo and video processing as well as recording shows off the air, so reads and writes large sequential files. The 8GB SSD cache is tiny, but on the other hand, each import into the Lightroom catalog is usually around 1-2GB, and when comparing photos and processing photos, the files get read repeatedly while changes get written to a sidecar XML file, so this is as good a scenario as you can get for a SSHD. I would very occasionally get an initial stutter when reading the files, but once everything was in cache the experience was more than acceptable compared to the prior 1.5TB HDD.

For processing video, the machine's bottle-necked by the (quad core) CPU, which turbos to the maximum frequency and stays pegged at 100% for the entire duration, so it was definitely not limited by the drive write speed. Copying to my NAS got me 32MB/s on a wired connection, which was more than reasonable.

All in all, having an additional 2TB of storage gives me plenty of headroom for at least another few years. When this dekstop dies, I will probably switch to a chassis that lets me add drives rather than having to replace drives wholesale, but in the mean time this is a fairly cost effective upgrade.


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