Hard drives continue to remain the storage media of choice for cost-conscious consumers with bulk storage requirements. HDD vendors have typically used their 2.5" drives for bus-powered high-capacity models. This market segment has been stuck at the 4TB mainstream capacity point for a few years now, with the z-height of the models coming in at well over 15mm. Earlier this year, Seagate announced an update to their massive 5TB Backup Plus Portable, while also introducing a new svelte 2TB Backup Plus Slim external hard drive. Both of them adopt SMR platters (similar to the Backup Plus models being sold since late 2016), and given the performance impact of SMR, today we'll be taking a detailed look at how SMR in bus-powered hard drives behaves for consumer workloads.

Introduction and Product Impressions

The number of vendors delivering portable, bus-powered hard drives is limited: only Seagate, Western Digital, and Toshiba serve this market. Of these, only Seagate has a 5TB model in the market currently. While Western Digital and Toshiba use conventional magnetic recording (CMR) for their 2.5" hard drives, Seagate makes use of shingled magnetic recording (SMR). This enables higher data storage density in their platters, which, in turn enables them to deliver the highest capacity 2.5" hard drives. The high density platters also allows them to deliver slim hard drives (at industry-leading capacity points taking thickness into consideration). Today, we are taking a look at the high-capacity Seagate Backup Plus Portable 5TB drive and the ultra-thin Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB dual-platter drive.

Mass-market bus-powered hard drives typically employ a USB 3.0 micro-B interface port (contrast this with the LaCie Porsche Design Mobile Drive that comes with a Type-C port). The Seagate Backup Plus models we are looking at today belong to that category. Seagate's portable drives have come with different value additions over the last several years. A few years back, the drives came with free cloud storage (OneDrive) for a limited time. Recently, we have seen them bundle a two-month subscription to Adobe's Creative Cloud package with select models. The Seagate Backup Plus models also come with value additions: In addition to the aforementioned Creative Cloud, Seagate also offers the Mylio Create cloud-based photo organization feature.

Package-wise, the two drives are remarkably similar. They come with a 18 inch. USB 3.0 Type-A male to Micro-B male cable. The cable color depends on the color of the drive itself. Other than that, we have a quick-start guide and a bunch of papers describing the value additions.

The drives come pre-formatted in exFAT, guaranteeing compatibility with both Macs and Windows-based systems. A setup executable is also available to help users get step-by-step guidance for product registration, warranty activation, and redemption of the value additions.

Moving on to the technical details, we get a quick understanding of the internals using CrystalDiskInfo.

Internal Drive Characteristics

Typical of bus-powered hard drives, both the Seagate Backup Plus Portable and Slim are 5400 RPM drives. It turns out that the internal drive of the Portable (the ST5000LM000) is available in the retail market as a Seagate BarraCuda Compute drive, while the one in the Slim (the ST2000LM007) is marketed as a Seagate Mobile HDD.

We have reviewed a number of bus-powered hard drives over the last few years. The table below presents the detailed specifications and miscellaneous aspects of all those units and how the two Seagate Backup Plus models being reviewed today compare against them.

Comparative HDD-Based Direct-Attached Storage Device Configurations
Bridge Configuration SATA III to USB 3.0 Micro-B SATA III to USB 3.0 Micro-B
Power Bus-Powered Bus-Powered
Internal Drive ST5000LM000-2AN170
5TB 5400 RPM 2.5" SATA Hard Drive
Seagate Barracuda Compute
2TB 5400 RPM 2.5" SATA Hard Drive
Seagate Mobile HDD
Physical Dimensions 115.3 mm x 20.9 mm x 80 mm 114.8 mm x 11.7 mm x 78 mm
Weight 265 grams 126 grams
Cable USB 3.0 Micro-B to Type-A USB 3.0 Micro-B to Type-A
Evaluated Capacity 5TB 2TB
Price $95 $70
Review Link Seagate Backup Plus Portable 5TB Review Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB Review

The key things to note here include the thickness of the Backup Plus Slim and with its weight. With a z-height of 11.7mm, it is comfortably the thinnest external hard-drive we have reviewed. At 126g, it comes in at barely half the weight of the other models in the above table.

In the rest of this review, we first take a look at our standard direct-attached storage benchmarks. Following this, we have some performance measurements from a typical external HDD real-world use-case. Finally, we talk about power consumption and provide some concluding remarks.

Direct-Attached Storage Benchmarks
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  • MASSAMKULABOX - Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - link

    It should soon ... (?) be able to get a 1tb SSD for 80GBp .. at those sorts of prices I would prefer SSD to HDD. But anything larger is still too expensive ...QLC ????
  • MASSAMKULABOX - Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - link

    BTW those graphs are JAckson Pollocks
    (cockney RS)
  • Cygni - Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - link

    imagine still using "LUL" in 2k19
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - link

  • cbm80 - Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - link

    "While Western Digital and Toshiba use conventional magnetic recording (CMR) for their 2.5" hard drives, Seagate makes use of shingled magnetic recording (SMR)."

    I don't think so. They all use SMR for current models.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - link

    I demonstrated that the WD My Passport 4TB drive is not SMR-based in the review, and WD has not updated the capacity point since that drive was launched. All the Toshiba Canvio drives top out at 4TB - at that capacity, there is no need to use SMR.
  • Sunday Afternoon - Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - link

    Your WD drive is from 2016. Are you sure that 4TB WD drives from 2019 are CMR?
  • cbm80 - Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - link

    The "need" is you can build a 4TB drive with 4 platters instead of 5. WD could have made a 5TB model but chose not to for some reason.
  • MGJ - Wednesday, June 19, 2019 - link

    Again as said in this thread (https://forums.anandtech.com/threads/what-consumer... for 2.5 inches hard disk drive:
    WD Blue WD20SPZX (2TB) and WD10SPZX (1TB),
    Toshiba HDWL120EZSTA (2TB), HDWL120UZSVA (2TB), HDWL110EZSTA (1TB), HDWL110UZSVA (1TB), HDWJ110EZSTA (1TB), HDWJ110UZSVA (1TB), MQ04ABD200 (2TB), MQ04ABF100 (1TB)
    These products are largely integrated in external USB enclosure (Toshiba Canvio, WD Elements, WD My Passport)
  • kepstin - Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - link

    These SMR drives seem to behave a lot more like SSDs than classic hard drives. The CMR section works similarly to SLC cache, the SMR regions are sort of like erase blocks, and I assume the drives do background GC to move data from cache to SMR regions. It's not clear from this review if there's performance degradation on a full drive like SSDs?
    I wonder if trim support would help the controller keep consistency up.

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