Month: April 2017

Toshiba Launches N300 HDDs for NAS: Up to 8 TB, Up to 240 MB/s

Toshiba this week launched its new lineup of high-reliability hard drives for NAS units. The drives offer up to 8 TB of capacity and are based on enterprise-grade platforms. According to Toshiba’s specifications, these and are among the highest-performing 3.5” HDDs on the planet.

The Toshiba N300 family of hard drives consists of three models with 4 TB, 6 TB and 8 TB capacities, a SATA 6 Gb/s interface, a 7200 RPM spindle speed and a 128 MB buffer. All three HDDs are based on a high-reliability platform that attaches a spindle to both sides of a drive (to curb system-induced vibration), has rotational vibration (RV) sensors, shock sensors and temperature sensors as well as supporting error recovery features. The new HDDs are designed for 24/7 availability, 1 million hours MTBF and have a 180 TB/year workload rating, which is in line with other hard drives for NAS devices with 8 bays and is considerably higher than the workload rating of typical desktop HDDs.

Toshiba’s N300 HDDs resemble the company’s MN05-series drives introduced in February (which are also designed for enterprise-class NASes) and are likely based on the same PMR platters (perpendicular magnetic recording) with up to 1.33 TB capacity per platter (the 8 TB version features six of such discs). In addition to the same platters, the N300 drives also have the same power consumption as the MN05 HDDs, but offer slightly different performance, according to the specifications.

Toshiba N300-Series HDDs
Capacity 8 TB 6 TB 4 TB
RPM 7200 RPM
Interface SATA 6 Gbps
DRAM Cache 128 MB
Data Transfer Speed
240 MB/s 210 MB/s 200 MB/s
MTBF 1 million hours
Rated Annual Workload (read and write) 180 TB/year
Acoustics (Seek) 35 dB 34 dB
Power Operating 9.2 W 10.1 W 9.6 W
Active Idle 6.2 W 6.7 W 5.2 W
Warranty 3 years

As for performance, Toshiba claims up to a 240 MB/s sustained data transfer rate as well as a 4.17 ms average latency time for the N300 8 TB model, which is slower compared to the MN05 8 TB. Meanwhile, since the 6 TB and 4 TB N300 HDDs use different platters, their performance is a bit lower (due to the lower areal density).

Toshiba is already shipping its N300 HDDs to partners and the drives are expected to be available in stores this month. Exact prices will depend on the retailer, but keep in mind that although the N300 are aimed at consumers, they are based on advanced platforms and support numerous enterprise-grade features.

Seagate Confirms Plans for 12 TB HDD in Near Future, 16 TB HDD Due in 2018

The CEO of Seagate has confirmed plans to release new nearline harddrives with 12 TB capacity in the coming months, and HDDs with 16 TB capacity over the course of the next several quarters. The latter are believed to be based on HAMR technology and the comment by the CEO essentially means that the company is on track with its next generation of heat assisted magnetic recording technology.

12 TB HDDs Incoming

Seagate’s CFO confirmed plans to release nearline HDDs with 12 TB capacity in early November, 2016. Last week Steve Luczo, CEO of Seagate, said that such drives had been evaluated by the company’s customers for about two quarters now and the feedback about the drives had been positive. He did not elaborate on the exact launch timeframe for the product, but given the fact that the drive is nearly ready, it is logical to assume that the 12 TB HDD should be announced formally in the coming weeks or months.

The hard drive maker has not revealed many details about its 12a TB Nearline HDD so far, but previously Seagate disclosed that this drive is filled with helium and is based on PMR technology, whereas last week the company implied that it uses eight platters. Keeping in mind that Showa Denko recently launched 1.5 TB platters for 3.5” drives, it is likely that Seagate uses eight of such platters for its 12 TB HDDs. In fact, Western Digital’s HGST Ultrastar He12 HDD with 12 TB capacity introduced last December comes with eight PMR disks as well.

“As you know, going from 8 to 10 to 12 to 16 [TB], you are going from six to eight disks, at least, on the nearline products,” said Steve Luczo, CEO of Seagate, during a conference call with investors and financial analysts.

16 GB HAMR HDDs in 12 to 18 Months

The 12 GB drive will be Seagate’s top-of-the-range model for enterprise and other demanding applications for quite a while and will become the company’s highest-capacity PMR-based drive. But, for the second time last week, the company mentioned 16 TB HDDs due in the next 12 to 18 months. Moreover, since such drives will be based on HAMR technology (Seagate discussed the feasibility of HAMR-based HDDs at 16 TB last year), they will cause a certain level of disruption on the market.

“During the next 12 to 18 months, we expect the nearline market to be diversified in capacity points for different application workloads, with use cases from 2 to 4 TB products for certain applications up to 16 TB for other use cases,” said Mr. Luczo.

Hard drives featuring heat-assisted magnetic recording technology will cost more to build compared to traditional HDDs because of the increased number of components and use of new materials. As a result, such drives will also be more expensive to actual customers. At present, we do not know specifics, but what Seagate says is that in the future the market of nearline HDDs will get more diverse and its lineup will get wider. In the past, the product stack used to remained similar, and as larger drives were introduced every year, previous-gen products were moved down the stack and low-capacity models discontinued. This may not be the case in the future and customers who need maximum capacity (i.e., who would like to store 3840 TB of data per rack and require 16 TB drives) in 2018 will probably have to pay more than they pay for leading edge HDDs today.

It is noteworthy that Seagate also mentioned 14 TB and 20 TB HDDs in the conference call, but without specifics, it does not sound like a good business to make assumptions about them. So far, the company has not explicitly announced any plans to release SMR-based 14 TB HDDs for specific workloads to compete against Western Digital’s Ultrastar He14.

Higher-Capacity Consumer Drives In Demand

Moving on with the comments made by the head of Seagate, we noticed that Mr. Luczo also mentioned higher-capacity HDDs for consumer applications. In particular, when talking about increasing amount of disks and heads per drive, CEO of Seagate indicated that the numbers are also increasing for consumer HDDs as well.

“We do think there [are] opportunities for more heads and disks on desktop and notebook, as people need higher capacity as well,” said Steve Luczo.

Keeping in mind that Seagate currently offers BarraCuda Pro desktop HDDs with 6 TB, 8 TB and 10 TB drives for consumers, and these drives use enterprise-class platforms (albeit with multiple changes). The remark by the CEO is an indication that the company will keep doing so in the future. Meanwhile it is interesting to note that the head of Seagate also mentioned mobile drives with increased number of platters and heads, hinting on increasing demand for higher-end 2.5” HDDs with more than one platter. At present, Seagate offers 5TB drives in a 2.5-inch form factor, although these come in at 15mm and typically tend not to fit in most mobile environments.

Best SSDs Q1 2017

The industry-wide NAND flash shortage has not abated, so there’s little good news for consumers since the holiday edition of this guide. The best deals are a few cents per GB worse than they were during the holiday season. Older SSD models are being withdrawn from the market and current models are often out of stock. At CES we noticed a pattern of companies being ready to launch new models and capacities, but many of them are holding off until they can launch with sensible pricing and volume.

The situation should improve later this year when the next generation of 3D NAND hits the market. With 64 layers or more and up to 512Gb per die for TLC parts, we should finally see 3D NAND from all four major manufacturers making its way into retail SSDs. In the near term however, there’s not much hope for improvement in prices and available drive capacities.

As always, the prices shown are merely a snapshot at the time of writing. We make no attempt to predict when or where the best discounts will be. Instead, this guide should be treated as a baseline against which deals can be compared. All of the drives recommended here are models we have tested in at least one capacity or form factor, but in many cases we have not tested every capacity and form factor. For drives not mentioned in this guide, our SSD Bench database can provide performance information and comparisons.

Premium SATA drives: Samsung 850 PRO

The SanDisk Extreme Pro has all but disappeared from the market, leaving the Samsung 850 PRO as the undisputed king of the SATA SSD market. No other consumer SATA SSD can match the 850 PRO’s combination of performance and a ten-year warranty. For now, the only other SATA SSDs with 3D MLC NAND are ADATA’s SU900 and XPG SX950, both based on Micron’s 3D MLC. Those SSDs offer slightly higher endurance ratings but warranty periods of only 5 and 6 years, and we don’t expect their performance to beat the 850 PRO.

Even the slowest PCIe SSD will outperform the Samsung 850 PRO in most ordinary usage scenarios, and some of those PCIe SSDs are cheaper than the 850 PRO. There are several SATA SSDs that offer performance that is close to the 850 PRO for a substantially lower price, most notably the Samsung 850 EVO. The appeal of the 850 PRO is far narrower than it was when this product first launched. If a new competitor does not emerge for this segment, we may retire this recommendation category entirely as it no longer serves any common consumer use case.

250/256GB 500/512GB 1TB 2TB
Samsung 850 PRO $139.99 (55¢/GB) $237.76 (46¢/GB) $448.99 (44¢/GB) $854.97 (42¢/GB)
Samsung 850 EVO $93.99 (38¢/GB) $169.99 (34¢/GB) $324.99 (32¢/GB) $689.00 (34¢/GB)

Value & Mainstream SATA: Crucial MX300, Mushkin Reactor 1TB

The value segment of the SSD market is where drives sacrifice performance and endurance to reach the lowest possible prices. Since SSD prices have tended to drop across the entire market, it is almost always possible to spend just a little more money to get a significant performance boost. The mid-range segment is a battleground between TLC drives with high enough performance, and any MLC drives that can get the price down without sacrificing their inherent performance advantage over TLC.

The Crucial MX300 continues to be one of the most affordable SSDs on the market. Its combination of Micron 3D TLC and a great Marvell controller allows the the MX300 to deliver performance that is a clear step up from the cheapest planar TLC SSDs, and the MX300’s power consumption is surprisingly low. MLC SSDs and the Samsung 850 EVO still perform much better under heavy sustained workloads, but the MX300 is good enough for most ordinary use.

250-275GB 500-525GB 1000-1050GB 2TB
Mushkin Reactor $89.99 (35¢/GB) $169.99 (33¢/GB) $246.99 (24¢/GB)
Samsung 850 EVO $93.99 (38¢/GB) $169.99 (34¢/GB) $324.99 (32¢/GB) $689.00 (34¢/GB)
Crucial MX300 $94.99 (35¢/GB) $149.99 (29¢/GB) $252.08 (24¢/GB) $549.99 (27¢/GB)

Standard & M.2 PCIe: Intel SSD 600p and Samsung 960 EVO

As they did in the SATA SSD market with the Samsung 850 EVO, Samsung’s 960 EVO has shown that the combination of 3D TLC and a great controller can hold its own against most MLC-based competitors. Now that it is widely available, we think the 960 EVO offers a good balance of affordability and performance for the PCIe SSD segment.

The Intel SSD 600p is the slowest PCIe SSD on the market, but also the cheapest by far. With pricing comparable to the Samsung 850 EVO, the Intel SSD 600p offers real-world performance that exceeds any SATA SSD. It won’t hold up very well under very heavy sustained workloads, but its performance on ordinary desktop workloads is the reason we’re not recommending the Samsung 850 EVO as a mid-range/mainstream SATA option.

128GB 250-256GB 500-512GB 1TB 2TB
Samsung 960 EVO $129.99 (52¢/GB) $249.99 (50¢/GB) $477.99 (48¢/GB)
Samsung 960 Pro $327.99 (64¢/GB) $629.99 (62¢/GB) $1299.99 (63¢/GB)
Intel SSD 600p $64.00 (50¢/GB) $99.99 (39¢/GB) $179.99 (35¢/GB) $349.00 (34¢/GB)

M.2 SATA: Samsung 850 EVO and Crucial MX300

M.2 has replaced mSATA as the small form factor of choice, and new product lines are no longer including mSATA variants. Selection of M.2 SATA SSDs is far more limited than 2.5″ drives, but there are enough options to cover a reasonable range of prices and performance levels. The Samsung 850 EVO is the high-performance M.2 SATA drive of choice, and anyone wanting more performance should look to M.2 PCIe SSDs. The Crucial MX300 covers the low end of the market and carries only a slight premium over its 2.5″ counterpart. ADATA and Western Digital offer M.2 versions of their latest entry-level SSDs, but they currently don’t offer the value of the MX300.

250-275GB 500-525GB 1TB
Samsung 850 EVO M.2 $97.99 (39¢/GB) $167.99 (34¢/GB) $354.95 (35¢/GB)
Crucial MX300 M.2 $89.99 (33¢/GB) $149.99 (29¢/GB) $279.99 (27¢/GB)

WD My Passport SSD: Up to 1 TB, AES-256, USB-C

Western Digital has announced its first external SSDs to be sold under the WD brand. The My Passport SSDs are shock resistant, support hardware-based AES-256 encryption, use USB 3.1 Type-C at 10 Gb/s and promise to offer up to 515 MB/s transfer rates.

Western Digital does not disclose too many details about its WD My Passport external SSDs, but only says that the family includes models with 256 GB, 512 GB and 1 TB capacities. From the rated performance point of view, the WD My Passport seems to be faster than many other external SSDs that typically come rated for ~450 MB/s read speed, but real-world performance will need to be tested.

WD My Passport SSD Specifications
256 GB 512 GB 1 TB
Speed Up to 550 MB/s
Interface USB 3.1 Type-C (10 Gbps), USB-C => USB-A adapter included
Color Grey and Black
Dimensions Height: 10 mm (0.39 in)
Depth: 90 mm (3.5 in)
Width: 45 mm (1.8 in)
Operating Temperature 5°C to 35°C
Non-Operating Temperature -20°C to 65°C
Price $99.99 $199.99 $399.99

Typically manufacturers use their internal SSDs for their USB-powered drives, so, it is logical to expect Western Digital to use either its current or next generation of its mainstream SATA offerings, with appropriate firmware, for the My Passport products. Given the fact that we do not know which drives are inside the external SSDs, we cannot say whether the My Passport SSD devices use planar or 3D NAND flash, but keep in mind that so far Western Digital has not announced a single 3D NAND-powered consumer SSD. Some good news is that the actual drive inside the My Passport SSD supports hardware AES-256 encryption (which indicates a more or less sophisticated controller) to improve performance for those who care about the security of their external data storage devices.

Unlike the WD My Passport hard drives, the My Passport SSD does not resemble an actual passport, but comes in a rugged 90×45×10 mm enclosure made of a gray metal that is tested to survive a 1.98 meters (6.5 feet) drop.

The drive is formatted as a single exFAT partition and is compatible with all modern versions of Apple macOS (Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan, Sierra) and Microsoft Windows (7, 8, 10). WD’s Backup software only works with Windows, whereas Mac owners can use only WD Security as well as WD Drive Utilities. Unfortunately, the My Passport SSDs do not support Google Android (at least for now).

Western Digital is currently offering its My Passport SSDs exclusively in Best Buy stores in the US, with wider global availability expected later this quarter. Each drive comes with a USB Type-C cable rated for 10 Gbps as well as a USB-C to USB-A adapter. As for pricing, WD plans to charge $99.99, $199.99 and $399.99 for the 256 GB, 512 GB and 1 TB models respectively.

OCZ RD400 & VX500 SSDs

In the mood for some free hardware? Well then you’re in luck: our awesome community team in conjuction with OCZ is holding a giveaway for a trio of SSDs. The prizes include the 512GB and 256GB PCIe (M.2 w/adapter) versions of OCZ’s top-tier M.2 SSD, the M.2-based RD400, along with the 512GB version of their VX500 SATA SSD.

Toshiba OCZ Giveaway Prize Specifications
Capacity RD400
256 GB
512 GB
512 GB
Controller Toshiba TC58NCP070GSB Toshiba TC358790
NAND Toshiba 15nm MLC
Sequential Read 2600 MB/s 2600 MB/s 550 MB/s
Sequential Write 1150 MB/s 1600 MB/s 515 MB/s
Random Read IOPS 210k 190k 92k
Random Write IOPS 140k 120k 64k
Form Factor M.2 2280 single-sided 2.5″ SATA
Protocol NVMe 1.1b over PCIe 3.1 x4 AHCI
Write Endurance 148 TB 296 TB 296 TB
Warranty 5 years


Toshiba Launches MG05ACA Enterprise HDDs: 8 TB, 7200 RPM

Toshiba Launches MG05ACA Enterprise HDDs: 8 TB, 7200 RPM, NAND Cache

Toshiba recently introduced its new generation of enterprise-class nearline HDDs for servers, surveillance, and higher-end NAS systems. The new MG05ACA-series hard drives offer up to 8 TB of capacity and 12% higher performance than their direct predecessors, but one of their key selling points is Toshiba’s NAND flash-based cache technology for data protection in case of power-loss events that was originally designed for mission-critical HDDs.

Toshiba’s MG05ACA-series HDDs are currently available only in 8 TB configurations and are based on multiple PMR (perpendicular magnetic recording) platters with either 4Kn or 512e sectors. The hard drives use a SATA 6 Gbps interface, feature a 7200 RPM spindle speed, a 128 MB cache buffer, and Toshiba’s persistent write cache (PWC) with power loss protection (PLP) that stores data that is not yet written to the HDD media. When it comes to performance, Toshiba declares up to 230 MB/s sustained host to media transfer speed as well as 4.17 ms average latency. As for power consumption, the MG05ACA-series hard drives are rated to consume up to 11.4 W during random reads and 6.2 W in active idle mode.

The Toshiba MG05-series HDDs are designed for nearline applications (i.e. somewhere between rapid access and cold storage) that operate for 24/7. The model is rated for 550 TB/year annual workload (read and write) as well as for 2 million hours MTBF. Typ enterprise-class hard drives are based on special platforms with improved endurance prone to operate under high vibration conditions (i.e., in rack servers) due to rotational vibration compensation technology as well as special spindle mounting mechanism.

Toshiba MG05ACA-Series HDDs
Capacity 8 TB
RPM 7200 RPM
Interface SATA 6 Gbps
DRAM Cache 128 MB
Data Transfer Speed
230 MB/s
Average Latency 4.17 ms
Sectors 4 KB native 512 B emulated
MTBF 2 million hours
Rated Annual Workload (read and write) 550 TB/year
Power Operating (read) 11.4 W
Active Idle 6.2 W
Warranty 5 years

The performance of the drives (and their positioning) indicates that we are dealing with PMR-based products, but Toshiba remains tight-lipped regarding the exact number and capacity (areal density) of the platters it uses. The only photo of the MG05ACA HDD that Toshiba has published depicts a hard drive with seven arms and six platters, but press images are not always accurate. Meanwhile, power consumption of the HDDs (well over 10 W) indicates that we see a typical air-filled HDD. Apparently, Toshiba plans to first use SMR (shingled magnetic recording) and helium for read-oriented drives designed for cold archives and only then use the latter helium drives for its enterprise-capacity HDDs. At this point not using helium puts Toshiba in a tough position as it has nothing to compete against 10 TB and 12 TB drives from its rivals.

It is noteworthy that Toshiba’s MG05-series HDDs are the company’s second-gen 3.5” nearline hard drives to feature its persistent write cache with power loss protection technology. The manufacturer does not disclose capacity of the NAND flash-based cache, but it does not have to be too high. There are several situations when the PWC with PLP comes into play, with the main one being when the HDD write cache contains data not yet written to media and a power loss occurs, the data is moved to non-volatile memory.

Toshiba’s MG05ACA800A and MG05ACA800E are available to the company’s customers now. We expect the MG05 lineup will over time be expanded with models featuring lower capacity as well as with versions that use the SAS 12 Gb/s interface. All the Toshiba MG-series drives are covered by the company’s five-year warranty.

Western Digital Expands Purple Lineup with a 10 TB

Western Digital has expanded its Purple lineup of hard drives, aimed at video surveillance applications, with a 10 TB helium-filled HDD. The drive is optimized for write-intensive workloads and supports various technologies that minimize the number of potential errors due to the high-number of incoming data streams. The new WD Purple is also the company’s first 10 TB HDD with a 5400 RPM spindle speed and a large cache.

The WD Purple 10 TB drive (WD100PURZ) is based on the HelioSeal platform featuring seven PMR (perpendicular magnetic recording) platters with ~1.4 TB capacity apiece, which it inherited from last year’s top-of-the-range HDDs. The increased areal density of the platters allowed the hard drive to increase its sustained transfer speed from host to drive to 210 MB/s, or by ~18% compared to the previous-generation helium-sealed WD Purple 8 TB HDD (WD80PUZX, 178 MB/s). This is at the same 5400 RPM spindle speed and at a slightly lower power consumption (up to 6.2 W vs up to 6.4 W). Just like other hard drives with a 10 TB capacity, the new WD Purple is equipped with a 256 MB DRAM buffer, which may further increase the real-world performance of the HDD against its predecessors.

Comparison of Western Digital’s WD Purple HDDs
Capacity 10 TB 8 TB 6 TB 5 TB
RPM 5400 RPM
Interface SATA 6 Gbps
DRAM Cache 256 MB 128 MB 64 MB
Helium-Filling Yes No
Data Transfer Rate (host to/from drive) 210 MB/s 178 MB/s 170 MB/s 150 MB/s
MTBF unknown 1 million hours
Rated Workload (read and write) 180 TB/year
Acoustics (Seek) 29 dBA 26 dBA
Power Consumption Sequential read/write 6.2 W 6.4 W 5.3 W
Idle 5 W 5.7 W 4.9 W
Sleep 0.5 W 0.7 W 0.4 W
Warranty 3 Years
Price (as of April 2017) $399.99 $281.99 $214 $200
$0.04 per GB $0.035 per GB $0.035 per GB $0.04 per GB
25 GB per $ 28.39 GB per $ 28.03 GB per $ 25 GB per $

Since the WD Purple hard drives are purpose-built for video surveillance applications, they support the ATA streaming extension of the SATA standard as well as a number of WD proprietary technologies, including AllFrame 4K cache policy management and firmware enhancements to optimize data flows during playback and writing. All WD Purple drives can work with up to 64 cameras and are rated for a 180 TB/year workload. In addition, high-capacity WD Purple HDDs are optimized for operation in NVRs and DVRs with more than eight drives and support time-limited error recovery technology (TLER), which prevents drive fallout caused by extended HDD error recovery processes.

Western Digital claims that the new WD Purple 10 TB is compatible with new and existing video surveillance systems (including chassis, chipsets, etc.) and thus can be used for new and current deployments (except those that require drives with 512B/512e sectors – the new WD Purple only support 4Kn sectors). The manufacturer has already started to ship the new hard drives to its partners and they will be available shortly for $399.99.

While the addition of a 10 TB HDD into the WD Purple series is a significant event, the fact that Western Digital began to roll out 10 TB helium-filled hard drives with a 5400 RPM spindle speed is even more important (until recently, WD used to offer only 8 TB helium-filled 5K HDDs). With the introduction of a 10 TB product with a reduced spindle speed, Western Digital can launch WD Red and WD My Book hard drives of the same capacity in the coming weeks or months. Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that recently Western Digital cut down the price of its WD Purple 8 TB HDD by 30% and it can now be acquired for $281.99 from Amazon.