Seagate has officially introduced its fifth-generation solid-state hybrid drives (SSHDs) under the FireCuda brand name. They have a thinner form-factor compared to previous-gen solutions. The drives use Seagate’s 1 TB SMR platters as well as the company’s multi-tier cache technology. The FireCuda 2.5” are the first SSHDs to use shingled magnetic recording (SMR).

The Seagate FireCuda 2.5” family will offer 500 GB, 1 TB and 2 TB capacities and will be compatible with both desktops and thin laptops, thanks to its 7 mm z-height (down from 9.5 mm in case of the Laptop SSHD drives). To a large extent, the Seagate FireCuda SSHDs resemble the recently announced BarraCuda 2.5” HDDs: the drives are also based on the 1 TB SMR platters which have an areal density of more than 1.3 Tb/in2 (note that the areal density of the FireCuda products is higher compared to that of BarraCuda devices). They feature 5400 RPM spindle speed and come with 128 MB of DRAM cache buffer. The maximum transfer rate and average latency for the BarraCuda 2.5” and FireCuda 2.5” are the same: 140 MB/s and 5.6 ms.

Seagate FireCuda 2.5" SSHDs
  2 TB 1 TB 500 GB
Platters/Heads 2/4 1/2
Spindle Speed 5400 RPM
Cache 128 MB + multi-tier caching technology
Transfer Rate 140 MB/s
Avg Latency 5.6 ms
Areal Density 1327 Gb/in² avg
Recording Density 2296 Kb/in avg
Track Density 580 Ktracks/inch avg
Idle Power 0.5 W 0.45 W
Read/Write Power 1.7/1.8 W 1.6/1.7 W
Interface SATA 6 Gbps
Form-Factor 2.5"/7 mm
Model Number ST2000LX001 ST1000LX015 ST500LX025

The differentiating aspect of the FireCuda SSHDs is their 8 GB NAND buffer. It caches data from frequently used sectors to enable faster boot times and shorter load times for certain applications. Therefore, when it comes to real-world performance, FireCuda 2.5” SSHDs should provide better performance compared to the BarraCuda 2.5” HDDs. However, it is unknown how the FireCuda 2.5” drive stack up against the Laptop SSHDs based on PMR platters. Seagate has not revealed whether the new FireCuda SSHDs use a new caching algorithm compared to the previous-gen hybrid hard drives, but this is certainly a possibility given the use of SMR platters. As before, the company says that the algorithm is continuously trying to optimize performance of FireCuda SSHDs.

Seagate has started to ship the FireCuda drives to its customers, but has not listed official prices or market availability dates. The latter depends on retailers and/or PC makers. Seagate tells us that the FireCuda 2.5" 2 TB will cost around $100, but the supply/demand situation is bound to affect that pricing. Meanwhile, Amazon offers the FireCuda 2.5" 1 TB for $70. All of the previous-gen Laptop SSHDs ended up in retail, so, it is a question of time before the whole FireCuda 2.5" family will be up for grabs. One of the advantages of Seagate’s hybrid drives is their five-year warranty, which is longer than that of typical HDDs.

Source: Seagate

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  • LordanSS - Friday, October 21, 2016 - link

    Yes, 32GB of NAND should be minimum. I don't mind the lower spindle speed tho, platter density is good so sequential transfers should be reasonable.

    Lower spindle speed makes less noise and heat, which is a good thing.
  • Einy0 - Friday, October 21, 2016 - link

    It's funny that so many people have commented that 8GB of NAND is not enough. That is the first thing I thought. I've used the hybrid drives with 8GB many times. 8GB only seems to be enough to help with boot times. Even then they still don't compare to a real SSD, even a crappy one.
  • SunnyNW - Friday, October 21, 2016 - link

    Probably a stupid question but what is that a picture of on the sshd in the article?
  • DanNeely - Friday, October 21, 2016 - link

    At this point in time I think a very small nand cache makes more sense than a much larger one.

    A few years ago when a $200 SSD wasn't enough space for many users, and most laptops only had a single 2.5" bay, a $80-110 SSD + $50-70 HDD package for $150-200 (assuming $20 for the bridge hardware/software) would've been a reasonable option. Now a $200 SSD can service >95% of the consumer market (outliers primarily being gamers and people with large media collections) the potential market for a premium SSHD is largely gone. Instead 2.5" HDDs are mostly used in race to the bottom laptops sold to very price sensitive customers. Adding more than a few dollars to the BoM would either wipe out the miniscule profit margins or push up the price causing the consumers who buy them to go for the other one that's "almost the except its silver plastic instead of black and $25 cheaper".

    I'd be interested in seeing one of these benchmarked; but conventional tests probably wouldn't be well suited. The heavy IO of most storage benches would quickly crush them into pure HDD mode, which'd defeat the whole point. Things like the PCMark Suite (simulating day to day usage) with something in the background tracking IO delays to see if/how much it cuts down on latency spikes would probably be the best bet. I doubt the raw PCMark scores would shift a lot; but if there're 25% fewer pauses for the user to swear at, that's not a bad return for a marginal upgrade of a cheapo product.
  • name99 - Saturday, October 22, 2016 - link

    I think the skepticism is based on the price. A traditional (non-shingled) 1TB 2.5" drive costs around $45..$55. This thing costs 40% more than that. For 40% more, you'd expect a SUBSTANTIALLY better experience, but most of us expect that the 8GB of flash will not be enough to cover the lousiness of the SMR experience. (SMR has its place, as a backup drive, but do you want to swap to it?)

    You're suggesting that the tradeoffs here make sense given the economics of these drives in general; our point is that they don't. There is no obvious reason why OEM CheapLaptopsRUs would use this drive rather than a low-end Hitachi or Toshiba or Samsung.
  • DanNeely - Sunday, October 23, 2016 - link

    Not quite. My point was that a premium SSHD is DOA, only tiny cache models still make any sort of sense in the current market. I wasn't commenting on its current price/value; because I'd assumed with nothing in the article it was a paper launch with no prices available yet.

    I agree that if it actually stays at launch price, you're right about it not going anywhere. OTOH I expect its baseline non-sale price to drop to around $60 fairly quickly (just like all the budget SSDs that try to launch at Samsung prices before dropping precipitously because their controllers suck); at that point it might be worthwhile. Depends how well the flash cache actually works at hiding the SMR suckage. It's really make more sense paired with a conventional PMR drive IMO.
  • extide - Monday, December 12, 2016 - link

    Remember , this is a 2TB drive, not 1TB. Right now on newegg you can get a 2TB (I ASSUME PMR) drive for $100 -- this goes for $120 on newegg right now. If the performance is any better, I'd say it's worth the $20. I would be using it as a storage drive so mostly write once read many anyways so it would be very well suited to my workloads.
  • extide - Monday, December 12, 2016 - link

    Well, I guess you can get 500GB, 1tB and 2TB versions -- I only compared the 2TB because I already have a 1TB in there and want more space. I wonder if a 15MM drive would fit, then I could get 4-5TB
  • piroroadkill - Saturday, October 22, 2016 - link

    Make them 7200 RPM and give them at the very least 32GiB of NAND, and then it's probably worth it for laptops that only have one bay and need a lot of storage. As it is.. uh..
  • Lolimaster - Sunday, October 23, 2016 - link

    This things should inclue 16-32GB of SLC nand, REAL SLC and maybe 2-4GB LDDR3-4 as buffer cache.

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