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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  • jabber - Monday, October 24, 2016 - link

    WD should have slapped out a Raptor with 16GB of flash at least 4-5 years ago. Now I would rather have just a really good quality 2.5" 7200rpm drive with pre flood tolerances.
  • TheWrongChristian - Monday, October 24, 2016 - link

    To all the naysayers, I say wait until representative benchmarks are available. Consider the performance implications of SMR:

    - Small writes can be slow, as you can't write in place, and instead have to write large blocks (multiple overlapping shingled tracks).
    - Sequential large writes can be as fast as regular HDD, as the writes might be sufficiently multi-track to be able to written in SMR blocks in their entirety.
    - Sequential reads can be slow, as sequential data may be spread between blocks of tracks, depending on how writes are combined.
    - Random reads are no different to random reads on regular HDD. The randomizing element will send the head all round the disk in both cases, so average latency should be roughly the same.

    These characteristics look a lot like FLASH blocks to me, and the same tricks used in FLASH controllers can be used here. The controller can write data in a log structured fashion, combining writes chronologically into a single block of SMR tracks. Over time, GC in the controller can unpick the randomly written SMR blocks, and compact then into multiple sequential blocks, thus potentially solving the sequential read issues.

    In fact, writes in general need not be the bottleneck in SMR, as write combining all the outstanding writes into a single SMR block would write them quicker than if they had to be updated in place as in a regular HDD.

    For all other latency bottlenecks (usually random reads), the NAND flash can fill the void so long as the working set of data in the cache is carefully chosen. And modern computers have sooooo much memory these days that the working set of data is often in RAM already anyway. I've not upgraded my 16GB RAM laptop to an SSD simply because I'm not limited by the HDD performance, because my entire working set of data is RAM resident already.

    That said, the value proposition needs to be more compelling over regular HDD before I'd consider buying one. I'm not sure it is at the prices mentioned.
  • jravak - Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - link

    Forgive my ignorance, but why is it referred to as a "hybrid drive" at the end of the article?
  • Koenig168 - Friday, October 28, 2016 - link

    Hybrid drives are standard hard drives with solid state memory added. For example, the FireCuda 2TB has 8GB of solid state memory in addition to the usual 2TB of magnetic recording capacity. Don't confuse this 8GB of solid state memory with the usual buffer cache memory, which is typically 32MB to 128MB.
  • bhvm - Friday, March 17, 2017 - link

    They're still sticking to 8GB flash as they started out with Seagate Momentus XT 500GB. That tech is like many years older now.
    Wish they had sometthing like 128GB flash. Even bootup won't fit in 8gb cache. Let alone games etc.
  • danwat1234 - Saturday, July 15, 2017 - link

    Well, the Momentus XT500GB was 4GB Flash. The 750GB XT was also 7200RPM, but 8GB Flash. Then came the crappy 500GB and 1TB 5400RPM "SSHD" branded ones.
    Now this. And I can't tell if it's 5400 or 7200RPM really. Newegg's page for it says 7200RPM. Hmm
  • chrcoluk - Monday, December 31, 2018 - link

    I was considering updating my older gen seagate 1tb sshd to the 2tb variant of these and now I wont.

    Sadly seems a lot of bait and switching happening here.

    Older gen sshd's have SLC nand and dont use shingled platters.

    These latest models have the horrible shingled platters, and have downgraded SLC to MLC, that might be ok if it meant something like more NAND but its still the same size, so its not like we trading less SLC for more MLC, its same SLC for same MLC. Bear in mind the NAND is probably going to get a lot of writes and with there not been much of it then wear levelling will be more limited than what would expect on a typical SSD. Although its entirely possible its planar SLC been changed to 3D MLC.

    Sadly a ps4 storage review site is recommending these drives, without realising how slow shingled can be.

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