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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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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.

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