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Seagate 600 Pro 400GB SSD Review

AkG

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The advent of SSDs and their eventual plunge into lower price brackets caught many traditional hard drive manufacturers by surprise. Seagate on the other hand had already invested heavily into solid state technology, utilizing it as an enhanced feature on some of their drives. Now, with the recently released $570 Seagate Pro 600 400GB they're taking the next logical step towards becoming a company that can offer the best of both worlds.

Admittedly, Seagate's move towards this point has been leisurely and without a hint of panic. They've thoroughly analyzed the market and have determined that at this point, focusing on the higher end professional market is the way to go. With that in mind, the 600 Pro is priced higher than most mainstream SSDs but incorporates protective technologies designed to keep your information safe.


The Pro series doesn't represent Seagate's first foray into the SSD market either. However, after two rather half-hearted attempts, the Pulsar and Pulsar 2, they are hoping this third time is the charm and have fully embraced the idea of a high performance, highly reliability SSD based on proven technology.


Externally the 600 Pro does not appear to be all that different from any of the other enthusiast orientated options on the marketplace. Like most, it makes use of a 7mm form factor allowing it to easily fit inside the cramped confines of UltraBooks and mini desktops.

While a touch more subdued than some, the all metal case and basic labeling is quite subtle in its branding and appears to be very similar to that of Seagate Hard Disk Drive offerings.



This is not just another rushed to market, ‘me too’ drive meant to quickly stem the loss of consumers while a ‘real’ solution is found. Unlike many newcomers who want to quickly gain a foothold in this cutthroat industry, Seagate have not simply rebadged an existing drive and sold it as their own. Rather that taking the safe approach they looked further afield than LSI and their SandForce SF2281 controller and opted for a less known – but arguably more powerful – Link A-Media controller.

One of the more tangible benefits to using a LAMD controller is their acceptance of custom firmware and this is exactly what the 600 Pro has: custom in house firmware which should provide a noticeable advantage over other LAMD based drives.



One such instantly noticeable advantage to using custom firmware is the 600 Pro series is actually two rather distinct models under one banner. The 120, 240, 480 GB capacities may reside right alongside their 100, 200 and 400 GB counterparts, but they are in fact distinctly different products meant for separate marketplaces. For example, the 400GB version this this review is orientated towards business ‘Enterprise’ customers whereas the 480GB model is meant for home user environments. With that in mind, the 400GB is rated for an impressive 1.05 Petabytes of data writes whereas its 480GB counterpart is only rated for 350TB and is of course priced accordingly.

Further helping to distinguish the 600 Pro series from the competition, its performance and power consumption is actually variable. Much like a modern CPU design, this model will only scale up to full power when I/O demands call for it. The rest of the time it will idle at a power conserving lower state that will help keep cooling needs and electricity costs lower. All of these features are a direct result of the custom firmware.

To populate this drive, Seagate has opted for 19nm Toshiba Toggle Mode NAND ICs which should provide the 600 Pro with a high level of performance. Even the massive 112GB of over-provisioning is not all that unheard of but Seagate has only opted for just eight NAND ICs instead of the typical 16 found inside most ‘professional’ grade drives.

If history is any indication this may create some issue when dealing with full drive performance drop-off but the massive over-provisioning combined with the LAMD controller may just be able to make up for this potential shortfall.



Seagate has branded this as a ‘Pro’ model and helping to reinforce this marketing is the onboard capacitors which will allow for Flush in Flight abilities. As mentioned in the past, this feature allows the drive to write –i.e. ‘flush’ - any data in the event of power loss and thereby removes the possibility of data corruption. Very few consumer grade drives feature this ability and having it on the 600 Pro does give it excellent potential as an enterprise-class SSD.

As with all LAMD controller based drives, this one makes use of external ram cache. In this instancetwo Micron DDR2-800 256MB chips are used for a total of 512MB of cache for the Link A-Media Controller.
 
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AkG

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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing a drive is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto folder on the drive in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account. There is also the SATA controller on your motherboard and how well it works with SSDs & HDDs to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for drives to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our test-bed will be a more standard motherboard with no mods or high end gear added to it. This is to help replicate what you the end user’s experience will be like.

Even when the hardware issues are taken care of the software itself will have a negative or positive impact on the results. As with the hardware end of things, to obtain the absolute best results you do need to tweak your OS setup; however, just like with the hardware solution most people are not going to do this. For this reason our standard OS setup is used. However, except for the Windows 7 load test times we have done our best to eliminate this issue by having the drive tested as a secondary drive. With the main drive being an Intel DC S3700 800GB Solid State Drive.

For synthetic tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HD Tune, Crystal Disk Benchmark, IOMeter, AS-SSD, Anvil Storage Utilities and PCMark 7.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long a single 10GB rar file took to copy to and then from the devices. We also used 10gb of small files (from 100kb to 200MB) with a total 12,000 files in 400 subfolders.

For all testing a Asus P8P67 Deluxe motherboard was used, running Windows 7 64bit Ultimate edition. All drives were tested using AHCI mode using Intel RST 10 drivers.

All tests were run 4 times and average results are represented.

In between each test suite runs (with the exception being IOMeter which was done after every run) the drives are cleaned with either HDDerase, SaniErase or OCZ SSDToolbox and then quick formatted to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

Please note:
Due to the unique nature of the hybrid setup certain tests results have been omitted as they require an unformatted drive to test or gave erroneous results.

Processor: Core i5 2500
Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Memory: 8GB Corsair Vengeance LP “blue”
Graphics card: Asus 5550 passive
Hard Drive: Intel DC S3700 800GB, OCZ 480GB RevoDrive3 x2
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
: 1.33
Crucial M4 256GB: 000F
Intel 520: 400i
SanDisk Extreme 240GB: R211
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB: M206
OCZ Vector 256GB: 2.00
Intel 335 180GB: 335t
Kingston SSDNow V300 240GB: 505
Crucial M500: MU02
Vertex 450 256GB: 1020
SanDisk Extreme 2 240GB: R1311
Seagate Pro 600: B660


SandForce SF1200 Drives:
OCZ Vertex 2 - ONFi 2 NAND

SandForce SF2281 Drives:
Intel 520 - custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND
Intel 335 - custom firmware w/ 20nm ONFi 2 NAND
SanDisk Extreme - stock firmware w/ 24nm Toggle Mode NAND
SSDNow V300 - custom firmware w/ 19nm Toggle Mode NAND


LAMD:
Corsair Neutron GTX - Toggle Mode NAND
Seagate 600 Pro - custom firmware w/ Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 'Monet':
Crucial M500 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
SanDisk Extreme 2 - Custom firmware w/ 19nm eX2 ABL NAND

Barefoot 3 controller:
OCZ Vertex 450 - 20nm ONFi 2 NAND
 
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AkG

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Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed which you are likely to experience with these hard drives. The long test was run to give a slightly more accurate picture. We don’t put much stock in Burst speed readings and thus we no longer included it. The most important number is the Average Speed number. This number will tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations. The higher the average the faster your entire system will seem.



Write Performance


For this benchmark HD Tune Pro was used. To run the write benchmark on a drive, you must first remove all partitions from that drive and then and only then will it allow you to run this test. Unlike some other benchmarking utilities the HD Tune Pro writes across the full area of the drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.


As expected the Seagate 600 Pro 400GB performs just as you would expect from any modern SSD in sequential file performance. Water is wet, the sky is blue and any solid state drive will post performance numbers which are sure to impress.
 
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AkG

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ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second.



The performance characteristics of this new drive really are interesting. The read performance is excellent, but the write performance profile is rather unique.

Toggle Mode NAND – especially 19nm – does have slightly lower write throughput when compared to previous generations and ONFi 2 models, but the Seagate 600 Pro still posts quite decent overall numbers. The lack of 500MB/s+ results on the large end of the spectrum really is neither here nor there.

The only issue worth paying attention to is the small file performance which is a touch low. Some of this drop-off is from the 19nm NAND in amongst older generation NAND, but what we're seeing is more likely firmware being tweaked for deeper queue depth performance. This would make sense as it is an Enterprise drive where shallow queue depths will be rare.
 
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AkG

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Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7

Crystal DiskMark


Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB.




PCMark 7


While there are numerous suites of tests that make up PCMark 7, only one is pertinent: the HDD Suite. The HDD Suite consists of numerous tests that try and replicate real world drive usage. Everything from how long a simulated virus scan takes to complete, to MS Vista start up time to game load time is tested in these core tests; however we do not consider this anything other than just another suite of synthetic tests. For this reason, while each test is scored individually we have opted to include only the overall score.


While the PCMark 7 score is merely good, the Crystal DiskMark results are simply amazing, though the lack of 16 NAND ICs and the greater interleaving it provides does cause some minor loss in performance. This is especially true at greater queue depths, an area this drive should dominate.

While the Seagate 600 Pro 400GB is unable to match our Neutron GTX 240GB in these charts, newer versions of Corsair's drive won't be able to match the numbers you see above. Simply put ‘our’ GTX is the first generation version which used older Toggle Mode NAND and not the newer 19nm based version. These differences in write performance profiles from one generation to the next are the main reason the Seagate 600 Pro’s numbers are impressive.
 
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AkG

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AS-SSD / Anvil Storage Utilities Pro

AS-SSD


AS-SSD is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and small 4K read/write speeds as well as 4K file speed at a queue depth of 6. While its primary goal is to accurately test Solid State Drives, it does equally well on all storage mediums it just takes longer to run each test as each test reads or writes 1GB of data.






Anvil Storage Utilities Pro


Much like AS-SSD, Anvil Pro was created to quickly and easily – yet accurately – test your drives. While it is still in the Beta stages it is a versatile and powerful little program. Currently it can test numerous read / write scenarios but two in particular stand out for us: 4K queue depth of 4 and 4K queue depth of 16. A queue depth of four along with 4K sectors can be equated to what most users will experience in an OS scenario while 16 depth will be encountered only by power users and the like. We have also included the 4k queue depth 1 results to help put these two other numbers in their proper perspective. All settings were left in their default states and the test size was set to 1GB.



Considering this drive’s Enterprise orientation its overall performance is very, very good. It’s single queue depth performance could be better, but considering the intended niche this new Seagate acquits itself more than adequately.
 
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AkG

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IOMETER

IOMETER


IOMeter is heavily weighted towards the server end of things, and since we here at HWC are more End User centric we will be setting and judging the results of IOMeter a little bit differently than most. To test each drive we ran 5 test runs per HDD (1,4,16,64,128 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 8 subparts were set to run 100% random, 80% read 20% write; testing 512b, 1k, 2k,4k,8k,16k,32k,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 8 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments.



As you can see the 600 Pro 400GB may start off at a fairly middle of the road pace, but once it ramps up, performance goes to an impressive level where the drive chews through deep IO queue depths like few drives available. Unfortunately, the lack of interleaving – i.e. 16 NAND ICs – does hamper its performance somewhat but the massive over-provisioning coupled with excellent NAND and top of the line controller does make for a very potent combination.
 
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AkG

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Windows 7 Startup / Adobe CS5 Load Time

Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance


When it comes to hard drive performance there is one area that even the most oblivious user notices: how long it takes to load the Operating System. Where Windows 7 has become nearly ubiquitous for solid state drive enthusiasts we have chosen Windows 7 64bit Ultimate as our Operating System. In previous load time tests we would use the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line; this however is no longer the case. We have not only added in a secondary Anti-Virus to load on startup, but also an anti-malware program. We have set Super Anti-Spyware to initiate a quick scan on Windows start-up and the completion of the quick scan will be our new finish line.



Adobe CS5 Load Time


Photoshop is a notoriously slow loading program under the best of circumstances, and while the latest version is actually pretty decent, when you add in a bunch of extra brushes and the such you get a really great torture test which can bring even the best of the best to their knees. Let’s see how our review unit faired in the Adobe crucible!


Unlike the synthetic test results, in real world testing, the 600 Pro couldn't have performed better.
 
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AkG

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Firefox Portable / Real World Data Transfers

Firefox Portable Offline Performance


Firefox is notorious for being slow on loading tabs in offline mode once the number of pages to be opened grows larger than a dozen or so. We can think of fewer worse case scenarios than having 100 tabs set to reload in offline mode upon Firefox startup, but this is exactly what we have done here.

By having 100 pages open in Firefox portable, setting Firefox to reload the last session upon next session start and then setting it to offline mode, we are able to easily recreate a worse case scenario. Since we are using Firefox portable all files are easily positioned in one location, making it simple to repeat the test as necessary. In order to ensure repetition, before touching the Firefox portable files, we have backed them up into a .rar file and only extracted a copy of it to the test device.




Real World Data Transfers


No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it can not really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, using MS RichCopy and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found.




Once again we are seeing excellent results from this drive and while we do believe even more potential performance is hidden in the immature firmware there is no denying that it is a very good option of home users. For enterprise customers, there isn't a better option right now.
 
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AkG

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Partial and Full Drive Performance

Partial and Full Drive Performance


While it is important to know how a drive will perform under optimal conditions, more realistic scenarios are just as important. Knowing if a solid state drive will behave differently when partially or even nearly full than when it is empty is very important information to know. To quickly and accurately show this crucial information we have first filled the drive to 50% capacity and re-tested using both synthetic and real world tests. After the completion of this we then re-test at 75% and 90% of full capacity.

Synthetic Test Results

For our synthetic testing we have opted for our standard PCMark 7 test.



Real World Results

For a real world application we have opted for our standard Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance test.


With such levels of over-provisioning it comes as little surprise to see this drive excel at partial and full drive testing. With that being said, the lack of 16 NAND IC’s does hamper its performance somewhat and allows lesser drives to come within spitting distance.
 
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