Print 32 comment(s) - last by Silver2k7.. on Sep 11 at 7:12 AM

Seagate claims that its 500GB will offer the performance of a 16GB SSD

When it comes to devices like consumer tablets, we've all just grown accustomed to the use of fast and reliable onboard NAND flash for our storage needs. The use of NAND makes sense because of the performance and inherent robust nature of the storage medium when used in a highly mobile (and sometimes dropped) tablet.
However, using NAND flash isn't exactly cheap, so most tablets that we see these days top out at either 128GB in consumer devices or 256GB for professional devices. Seagate, a company that is deeply invested in producing HDDs, is maneuvering to extend its reach into the booming tablet market with new storage solutions.
The company is introducing its new 2.5" Ultra Mobile HDD that is only 5mm thin and weighs 3.5 ounces. Seagate says that this new HDD will offer 500GB of space (with an 8GB flash buffer), while offering power consumption that mirrors a 64GB SSD and performance that matches a 16GB SSD.
Naturally, Seagate says that its 500GB Ultra Mobile HDD solution would be cheaper than either the aforementioned SSDs.

Seagate's 500GB Ultra Mobile HDD (pictured on the left)
“Coupling an ultra-thin, high-capacity HDD with software designed to optimize integration into tablets at a value-add price has allowed us to deliver a truly ground-breaking solution, enabling our partners to reimagine the mobile device,” said Steve Luczo, president, CEO and chairman of Seagate. “By empowering our OEMs with this revolutionary new technology, we have invited the industry to re-think the mobile market making this offering a true game-changer in the world of storage.”
While the idea of getting 500GB of storage space with SSD performance at a lower price point sounds intriguing, we also have to realize that this is still a 2.5" form-factor device in a slimmer package. That means that the footprint of the drive will still take up a lot of real estate within the tablet's chassis. And that extra space gobbled up by the drive's packaging will mean less space for things like the internal battery.

Source: Seagate

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OK, I'll ask.
By Denigrate on 9/10/2013 9:05:09 AM , Rating: 2
Would anyone "need" 500 GB on an Android or iOS tablet? Would be great for Win8 tablets I suppose.

RE: OK, I'll ask.
By Cheesew1z69 on 9/10/2013 9:38:57 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, some people do...

RE: OK, I'll ask.
By othercents on 9/10/2013 9:39:59 AM , Rating: 4
To be able to carry your complete video, music, and training library everywhere you go. Great for those who travel a lot, but also good for everyone else who wants their libraries available anywhere they go.

RE: OK, I'll ask.
By CaedenV on 9/10/2013 10:05:05 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed. Just because something is ultra portable does not mean that there are not situations (especially in business) where you do not need tons of storage. Cloud storage is available... but 500GB of cloud storage is going to be costly (both for storage and for bandwidth), slow, and not always available everywhere.

500GB would be a bit overkill for my mobile needs as somewhere between 120-240GB would suit me just fine, but I would much rather have 500GB with room to spare than the 32-64GB available today which is never really enough.

RE: OK, I'll ask.
By talonvor on 9/11/2013 3:29:01 AM , Rating: 2
I am going to need at least 5 of those things if I am supposed to take all of my music and movies with me ;)

RE: OK, I'll ask.
By CZroe on 9/11/2013 12:58:12 AM , Rating: 2
I can see it being perfect for x86 tablets like Surface 2 Pro, the next-gen Razer Edge Pro, etc.

I'd also love to see an Ultrabook versions of my fat little Alienware M11x notebook. :)

Wait a second...
By CaedenV on 9/10/2013 9:58:31 AM , Rating: 2
When exactly have tablets and other flash based consumer products had 'fast and reliable' SSD performance? I have SSDs in every computer that I use, and they are gloriously fast (though not necessarily reliable lol). While I do not own any tablet devices I have been forced to use them in several situations, and I do have a high end smart phone. The flash memory in tablets and phones is not fast, and while more reliable than some storage mediums like SD cards, they are still hardly what I would consider 'reliable'.

Or put in another way: On my computer I can transfer big files like video between my SSD and HDD at about 160-180MB/s, which is plenty quick, but nowhere near the speed of what you can get with performance equipment. Transferring these same files from/to a phone or tablet (and I mean just about any phone or tablet) you are looking at speeds under or around 20MB/s, with very few devices and situations where you can max out the USB2 port at ~25MB/s. At first I thought that it was just the performance of the USB2 bottleneck, but then you start to think about how small the OS and apps are on these devices, and the eternity it takes to boot them up and get apps running. These devices are just plain slow when it comes to on board storage.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I would hope that these new 500GB HDDs are AT LEAST as fast as the storage traditionally built into these systems. That does not mean that it will be fast, merely that it would be able to keep up with a 10 year old desktop HDD but in a much smaller form factor. Let's not get grand ideas that these are going to be magical performance parts for tablets, and will somehow be the magic bullet. These are merely HDDs bringing HDD performance which just so happens to be much faster than the crap that is normally used in these devices.

If nothing else, this will hopefully prompt the use of true SSD style parts in future tablets (and phones!) in the future. I mean, we don't need desktop 500MB/s performance in our portable devices... but 20-50MB/s is just sad no matter how you slice it, especially when the tech is there to make is much faster.

RE: Wait a second...
By kleinma on 9/10/2013 10:00:49 AM , Rating: 2
You have run read write tests on the tablets or are you trying to compare performance of an arm based phone with a 64 bit Windows machine?

RE: Wait a second...
By CaedenV on 9/10/2013 1:17:36 PM , Rating: 2
Nothing official, just large file transfer comparisons and general observations, and keeping the ear to the ground from things mentioned in various articles and tech podcasts (Brian had some great complaints in an Anandtech podcast a while back). simply no matter how you slice it, phone and tablet storage can use a dramatic increase in performance to bring a much better user experience... and even after such improvements it would still be considered slow compared to modern HDD and SSD tech used in modern desktops and laptops.

What I mean by 'Fast' is not a scientific remark based on raw horsepower, it is a subjective opinion based on observation. Let's take my wife's and my computers as an example of this: My computer (while nowhere near the fastest thing available) has a 4GHz i7 CPU, 480GB of SSD space, and an older high-end GPU. My wife's computer is a much more humble i3 system with an older 128GB SSD running basic onboard graphics. While there is a huge difference in scale of the capability of what both systems can do both systems are on the exact same subjective level of how 'fast' they are because they can both boot in under 10 seconds, and open most programs in 1 sec or less.

Today's portable devices have plenty of capability... they are just subjectively 'slow' from a user perspective. The issue is not raw capability, but the perceived speed. It should not take a minute or more to boot a phone, or 5+ sec to open a flashlight app, or upwards of 20-30 sec to open some silly mini-game. Once everything is in RAM it runs smooth as butter, it is just getting it to the RAM that is a problem.
I guess it irks me because this is a solvable problem. I cannot imagine that it would take that much cost or effort to move from the 20MB/s of today's devices to the 80-100MB/s which would give 10 sec boot times and open normal apps instantly. Still a far cry from the 200MB/s of a modern HDD or 500MB/s of a SSD, but these portable devices don't need that kind of raw horse power to be 'fast' like a PC does.

RE: Wait a second...
By jimbojimbo on 9/10/2013 10:29:17 AM , Rating: 2
An SSD drive's true performance gain is not in general throughput. It's in the minute seek times so random IO is handled much more quickly. You really can't compare a full computer to a tablet or phone performance wise otherwise you can just compare anything to anything and say something butt slow.

RE: Wait a second...
By CaedenV on 9/10/2013 1:45:53 PM , Rating: 2
And that brings up another issue:
They are claiming that this HDD is going to be 'as fast as' a 16GB SSD. The first issue there is that 16GB SSDs are extremely old by today's standards, hitting a max read of some 250MB/s and a max write of ~80MB/s, with very similar marks for random IO as it has for sequential throughput.

There is no way on earth that this tiny low power HDD is going to come close to that kind of performance. Maybe, just maybe, it will be able to beat the 80MB/s write performance on a sequential write... but it is not going to meet any of those other specs. There are just physical barriers to it that are not ready to be broken any time soon.

On top of that, this drive is WAY too large to fit into something that would have 16GB of storage. This would fit in something like a thick tablet along the lines of a Surface Pro, or an ultrabook. An iPad or other traditional tablet is simply not going to have the physical space to cram this drive in. So rather than competing with devices that have 32-128GB of slow embedded storage where this could be a big selling point, it is going to compete with devices that have 256GB of very fast storage.

If it was a difference between a 64GB device getting slightly slower performance but a ton of extra space then I would choose the HDD option without a 2nd thought. But a slow 500GB device vs a fast 256GB device? Even with a $100 price drop I would be hard pressed to choose the HDD option, especially if this is supposed to be a fast premium device.

Besides, we are on the verge of a new gen of controllers, a die shrink for traditional SSDs, and new resistive memory all coming this fall; all of which have the promise of bringing the $/GB down on SSD tech again. I am sure this new drive will still be cheaper than an SSD, but if we are seeing $0.30/GB SSDs in a few months then I am not sure that the price difference could possibly be worth the performance hit. A low performance $80 500GB HDD is tough to swallow compared to a much faster $80-100 256GB SSD.

platter drive
By kleinma on 9/10/2013 9:59:21 AM , Rating: 2
As if dropping your tablet now wasn't enough risk for damage, let's put fragile platter drives in them instead of pushing ssd tech to higher capacity.

RE: platter drive
By jimbojimbo on 9/10/2013 10:36:40 AM , Rating: 2
Do you realize there are SSD drives as big as 3TB? The key here is cost and size. A tablet costs roughly $500 and putting a 500GB SSD drive, even a big one, could add an additional $200 and additional bulk.

The funny thing about all this is Apple fans are now willing to pay $200 more for 48GB more storage so if they offered 500GB of storage they would probably charge $500 more and people would still pay. 16=200, 32=300, 64=400, 128=500, 256=600, 512=700

RE: platter drive
By AstroCreep on 9/10/2013 12:22:18 PM , Rating: 2
I think the comment was more to the point that HDDs have moving parts and introduce new potential issues for tablets/phones (e.g. in the event of a dropped device and the HDD's heads crash). I too am curious about this.

How much "Shock" can these HDDs absorb if they are dropped? What about if I am running or working out? As an example, I listen to music on my phone when exercising. How will that (albeit small) level of shock affect the phone while it is in use?

I'm not saying it is a big deal, as if they are confident in the performance of it, but I am skeptical of the potential reliability implications it may have.

RE: platter drive
By Silver2k7 on 9/11/2013 7:12:28 AM , Rating: 2
The largest SSD is 10.2TB PCI-E, but it's pricepoint is like that of a fancy car $100K or somesuch.

Way too big
By max_payne on 9/10/2013 10:26:00 AM , Rating: 2
I don't see any tablet manufs going for this. It's way too big and it's a rotating motor going on and off. That will have terrible effect on the device battery. Why bring this 50 years old technology while we are moving to SSD-Nand which is the only way to go. Btw they do also have 5mm ssd (600) but the price is prohibitive.

RE: Way too big
By Guspaz on 9/10/2013 10:59:01 AM , Rating: 2
You'd never put a 2.5" SSD in a tablet, at worst you'd stick one of the gumstick form factors in there (or an mSATA), and at best you've got stuff soldered to the tablet's motherboard.

Sticking a 2.5" 5mm drive into a tablet adds 35 cubic centimetres to the volume. That'll result in a pretty decent increase in thickness of the overall tablet.

RE: Way too big
By max_payne on 9/10/2013 5:49:42 PM , Rating: 2
That's what I am saying too man. Read the article first, that's what it's all about for that new drive, putting a 2.5 in. in a tablet is ridiculous ! That is an HD or SSD.

By BRB29 on 9/10/2013 10:25:11 AM , Rating: 2
Apple will buy a smaller version of this. Build a 320GB ipod classic and charge $500 for it.

By XZerg on 9/10/2013 11:03:24 AM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't mind something like this in say Surface pro style or "pc" tablets but with a beefier ssd to pair with till ssd prices at that size (storage) do not cost more than rest of the components or even relatively up there. this has no place in android/ipad size tablets as there are plenty of better options in terms of performance, power and physical size (not storage) and dimensions out there already. Also the growing trend is moving towards "NAS" storage while keeping only more regularly used data on tablets.

Tablets Don't Have SSDs
By kyuuketsuki on 9/10/2013 11:47:21 AM , Rating: 2
The author of this article and many of the people commenting seem to be pretty woefully misinformed about what storage technology is actually used in tablets. Generally you're getting the same stuff that goes in smartphones: eMMC. eMMC is nowhere near the performance of an SSD, *especially* for random access (which is where SSDs excell and which accounts for their greater responsiveness).

The only exception is in some of full-fledged Win8 tabs like the Surface. The Atom-based onces generally use eMMC, though.

Honestly, I'm willing to bet that this HDD with a cache is comparable if not superior in performance to eMMC. Also, I'm quite sure they've implemented shock-protection technologies (which have existed for HDDs for quite some time now) to make the usual minor falls and bumps a non-issue. The power draw is probably not an issue either.

The only real concern is if they can fit these inside a tablet form factor without giving up space for the battery or compromising on other areas.

I see possibilities
By dgingerich on 9/10/2013 5:22:45 PM , Rating: 2
While I don't see this getting used in any tablets anytime soon due to the sheer size of it, I do see a great possible use: low power raids. I'd love to get 8 of these together on a decent raid controller. All 8 together would probably use less power than a 3TB 3.5" hard drive, and the performance raided together would be huge. I'd put that in my home server for network storage.

By Reclaimer77 on 9/10/13, Rating: -1
RE: Impossible
By Myrandex on 9/10/2013 9:54:48 AM , Rating: 2
I believe they make this claim due to the 8GB of solid state buffer on the drives. Seagate has been working on hybrid drives to try and deliver performance of an SSD, capacity of a traditional hard drive, at a good price point.

RE: Impossible
By jimbojimbo on 9/10/2013 10:25:47 AM , Rating: 2
Sure, you're not going to get exactly the same amount of performance constantly otherwise nobody would buy SSD drives. However, you get comparable due to the cache. You do realize that all the leading storage platforms are now using SATA drives in an array with large SSD caches right? Yes, all that heavy IO data is sitting on SATA drives. It's the cache that makes it less relevant and for a single drive an 8GB flash buffer is pretty good for a personal computer anyway.

RE: Impossible
By FITCamaro on 9/10/2013 10:33:12 AM , Rating: 3
I wouldn't exactly call my 3TB hard drives obsolete technology. SSDs are still a long way from offering extremely large capacities at prices most people can afford. Today you can either buy a 256GB SSD or a 3TB hard drive for $130ish.

RE: Impossible
By Reclaimer77 on 9/10/2013 3:22:13 PM , Rating: 2
SSD's are gaining ground at an incredible rate. Hard drives are really reaching a plateau as data density increases become more difficult.

Think about it, the first commercial 1TB drive was in 2007. So in about seven years we've only been able to increase that to 4TB. There's also been no significant gains in various other performance factors. HDD makers are reduced to cramming platter after platter into the same form factor, because there's nothing else they can do to remain competitive.

The only caveat HDD's have left is large capacity, and they won't have that too much longer. They've been surpassed in every other metric, which is why I referred to them as obsolete. They are certainly still useful, I have a few large ones too for media storage.

RE: Impossible
By ritualm on 9/10/2013 6:07:37 PM , Rating: 2

A single 960GB SSD right now costs some $600+ before taxes. During a sales event.

That $600 before taxes can buy me either 3x 4TB 3.5" HDDs OR 5x 2TB 2.5" USB3 external HDDs. And this is while we're dealing with an effective HDD duopoly.

Keep pratce.

RE: Impossible
By Reclaimer77 on 9/10/2013 7:08:43 PM , Rating: 2
A single 960GB SSD right now costs some $600+ before taxes. During a sales event.

So what?

SSD's have only been on the market for a handful of years. Do you understand that? I remember paying that much for hard drives with capacities in the MEGABYTES!

Does a Ferrari cost the same as a Toyota? Sure if you take the same money as an SSD you can buy a bigger hard drive. But that's telling only half of the story.

Weren't SCSI drives and Raptor HDD's more expensive than slower hard drives of their era? Yeah, I rest my case. There's ALWAYS been a premium on performance, SSD's are no different.

And this is while we're dealing with an effective HDD duopoly.

Yes, today. In about 5 years the HDD will be done, over. It will have no niche left.

So yeah, I'm "seriously". It's only taken SSD's a handful of years to reach acceptable cost/performance/storage levels. Compared to HDD's, which took - what - 20 years?

RE: Impossible
By Samus on 9/10/2013 1:24:54 PM , Rating: 1
You cannot get SSD performance out of a physical hard disk.

Tablets don't offer SSD performance as it is. Most eMMC's are ~40MB/sec. Virtually no tablet or smartphone has a storage interface that is comparable to SATA1.

And aside from the bandwidth, mobile OS's are tiny. Android is something like 500MB now (for the whole OS) and apps are anywhere from 10-50MB. Music and video are not performance-dependent on their storage medium.

So the issue isn't the speed. It's the reliability and power consumption.

RE: Impossible
By Reclaimer77 on 9/10/2013 3:04:54 PM , Rating: 2
It's all marketing. Fast drive you say? Until it takes ten times longer to load apps or do anything, because it's still a mechanical drive, so the seek times suck. The random reads suck too.

Why are we even debating this? My goodness, it's 2013 and people are still thinking hard drives can touch flash memory?

Any device reliant on this product is going to leave the user with a miserable experience. And we haven't even touched on reliability yet. How shock resistant is this thing? One good drop of your tablet and it's probably bricked.

RE: Impossible
By ritualm on 9/10/2013 6:12:45 PM , Rating: 2
Archos already did it with a tablet using a HDD, and it has a diehard following despite the very claims you make here that amount to a miserable experience.

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