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Samsung M9T 2TB (2.5-inch) & Seagate SSHD 2TB

Samsung M9T 2TB (2.5-inch) & Seagate SSHD 2TB

November 24, 2014 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Samsung SpinPoint M9T 2TB

2.5-inch Hard Drive
Seagate Desktop SSHD 2TB

3.5-inch Hard Drive
Manufacturer
Seagate
Street Price
US$120 US$105

Today we look at a pair of a very different hard drives from Seagate. They share the same capacity, but have differing form factors and motor speeds. That being said, each has an interesting angle to play.



The Samsung SpinPoint M9T 2TB.

The last time we reviewed a Samsung hard drive was in 2010, before the hard drive division was acquired by Seagate. Since then, things have been relatively quiet. We haven't seen any big innovations or product launches since then, to the point where we almost forgot they still made storage products. The SpinPoint M9T may be the first notable Samsung/Seagate release in all that time, a 2.5 inch hard drive with a 5400 RPM motor available in capacities of 1.5TB and 2TB. This in itself isn't remarkable, as both Western Digital and Toshiba have 2TB notebook drives available for sale. However, the M9T is the first and currently only high capacity model using a standard 9.5 mm thick form factor. Competing drives are 15 mm thick, making them incompatible with the majority of devices that accept 2.5 inch drives. The M9T uses a 3 x 667GB platter design to achieve this feat while its competition is still stuck on a 4 x 500GB layout.



The Seagate Desktop SSHD 2TB.

The Seagate Desktop SSHD 2TB, being a year old, is not as cutting edge technology-wise, but it's still an intrigue drive nevertheless. As the name implies, it's a 3.5 inch hybrid model, a 7200 RPM desktop hard drive combined with a small amount of NAND Flash (in this case, 8GB). It's an attempt to give consumers the responsiveness of a solid-state drive without sacrificing capacity. It works by automatically identifying the most commonly used files and storing them on the NAND portion in order to lower access times. We tested their first attempt with the technology, the Momentus XT 500GB, which showed some promise at the time, though it failed to come close to replicating the speed of a true SSD. Hybrid drives are much more common in today's climate, particularly in notebooks, so it will be interesting to see how far things have come.

The SSHD is available in 1TB and 4TB (5900 RPM) varieties as well, and utilizes 1TB platters, so the 2TB model weighs a mere 540 grams. With only two platters, the drive has less substantial casing with a deeper inset, which can be a problem acoustically as it doesn't provide as much damping. Combined with the 7200 RPM spindle, this could be a recipe for vibration disaster.



Labels.

Despite being a newer drive, the M9T was manufactured in December 2013, while the date code of the SSHD indicates it rolled off the assembly line in February 2014. Also of interest is the "Momentus" on the M9T's label — there seems to be confusion among some retailers as to what the drive is actually called. Some refer to it as a Seagate SpinPoint while others play it safe, designating it a Samsung Seagate Momentus SpinPoint to cover all their bases. However, the only references on the Seagate website call it the Samsung SpinPoint M9T, so that's the nomenclature we'll be using.


Samsung SpinPoint M9T 2TB & Seagate Desktop SSHD 2TB: Specifications
Model Number ST2000LM003 ST2000DX001
Interface SATA 6 Gb/s NCQ SATA 6 Gb/s NCQ
Rotational Speed 5400 RPM 7200 RPM
NAND Type/Size N/A MLC/8GB
DRAM Cache 32 MB 64 MB
Average Seek Time

(Read / Write)
12 ms <8.5 ms / <9.5 ms
Average Latency 5.6 ms 4.16 ms
Average Data Rate, Read, All Zones N/A 156 MB/s
Average Data Rate From NAND Media N/A 190 MB/s
Max Sustained Data Rate 169 MB/s 210 MB/s
Load/Unload Cycles >600,000 300,000
Acoustics

(Performance Seek / Idle)
2.7 bels / 2.5 bels 2.7 bels / 2.6 bels
Typical Power

(Operating / Idle)
2.3 W / 0.7 W 6.7 W / 4.5 W
Dimensions

(H x W x D)
0.37 x 2.75 x 3.95 in or

9.5 x 69.9 x 100.4 mm
1.03 x 4.0 x 5.8 in or

26.1 x 101.6 x 147.0 mm
Weight 0.29 lb or 130 g 1.18 lb or 535 g

On paper you can see the SSHD has a big advantage. Its motor spins faster, it has the NAND Flash of course, as well as twice as much traditional cache. The specified transfer rates and access times are all in the hybrid drive's favor. The M9T seems to have a slight advantage in acoustics and rated load/unload cycles, but the latter is understandable as notebook drives almost always have a head-parking feature.

TESTING

Our samples were tested according to our standard
hard drive testing methodology
. As of mid-2008, we have been conducting
most acoustics tests in our
own 10~11 dBA anechoic chamber
, which results in more accurate, lower SPL
readings than before, especially with sub-20 [email protected] devices.

Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:

  1. Airborne acoustics
  2. Vibration-induced noise.

These two types of noise impact the subjective
perception of hard drive noise differently depending on how and where the drive
is mounted.

Both forms of noise are evaluated objectively and
subjectively. Airborne acoustics are measured in our anechoic chamber using a lab reference
microphone and computer audio measurement system
. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter from the top
of the drive using an A-weighted filter. Vibration noise is rated on a scale
of 1-10 by comparing against our standard reference drives.

As of late-2011, we have been conducting performance testing. A combination of timed real-world tests is used to represent a workload of common activities for a boot drive including loading games, running disk-intensive applications, copying files, and installing programs. Synthetic tests are also run to better judge the performance across the entire span of the drive.

Summary of primary HDD testing tools:

Key Components in LGA1155 Heatsink Test Platform:

Real World Performance Test Tools:

Real World Benchmark Details:

  • Boot: Time elapsed between pressing the power button to the desktop and the Windows start sound playing (minus the time for an average SSD to get to the "loading Windows" screen, 12 seconds on our test system)
  • COD5: Combined load time for the "Breaking Point" and "Black Cats" levels.
  • Far Cry 2: Load time for one level.
  • ExactFile: Creating a MD5 check file of our entire test suite folder.
  • TrueCrypt: Creating a 10GB encrypted file container.
  • 3DMark Vantage: Install time, longest interval between prompts.
  • PowerDVD 10: Install time, longest interval between prompts.
  • Small File Copy: Copy time for a variety of small HTML, JPEG, MP3, ZIP, and EXE files.
  • Large File Copy: Copy time for 4 AVI files, 2 x 700MB and 2 x 1400MB
    in size.

A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments
are relevant to the samples we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There
are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without
telling everyone.

Ambient conditions at time of testing were 10.5 dBA and 20~23°C.

Synthetic Performance

We start off with synthetic tests results. They don't tell the whole story of course, but it's a quick and dirty way of gauging relative performance between drives, and of course, it's easily reproducible by our readers at home.

HD Tune



HD Tune main benchmark: Samsung M9T 2TB.



HD Tune main benchmark: Seagate SSHD 2TB.






With average sequential transfer speeds of ~160 MB/s, the SSHD 2TB is right in line with other 7200 RPM models, while its access times are very SSD-like, at less than 1 ms. Meanwhile, the M9T 2TB exhibits faster than average transfer speeds for a 5400 RPM notebook drive but high latency.

CrystalDiskMark



CrystalDiskMark benchmark results. M9T 2TB on the left, SSHD 2TB on the right.






The SSHD seems to do well in synthetics, scoring a nice result in CrystalDiskMark as well. Its random performance at the 512K block size outpaced the WD Se 4TB, an Enterprise class model, while the NAND Flash cache helped boost its 4K block results significantly. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the M9T comes dead last among the drives compared; This suggests it is a good drive for storing and transferring files but not much else.

Real World Performance

Our real world performance testing begins with a Windows 7 image, loaded with our test suite, being cloned to a 50GB partition
at the beginning of each drive. The suite is run start to finish three times with a defragmentation (except for SSDs and hybrid drives) and reboot
between runs.
Average times were collected for comparison. For hybrid drives, we perform six runs with only the last three averaged to give it some time to learn and cache frequently used files.

The SSHD is noticeably faster in our loading tests than the rest of the field, but the boot time is still quite slow compared to a real SSD (most complete this task in about 10 seconds). The M9T, as expected, places last, with particularly long delays during boot and loading Far Cry 2.

Along with the other 7200 RPM models, the SSHD excells at our application tests. The M9T has a decent showing in TrueCrypt, but it bogs down substantially during the ExactFile test, putting it at the bottom of the pack once again.

Both drives deliver middling performance in the file copy test, but for a notebook drive, the M9T acquits itself nicely, putting a considerable distance between itself and the other 2.5 inch models compared.

Our installation tests are usually characterized by very tight results, often with margins of fractions of a second. This time the standings are more decisive as both drives take a few seconds longer than average to get PowerDVD installed.

To get a sense of the overall performance of the drives, we've given each model a proportional score in each real world benchmark series (loading, application, file copying, and installation), with each set and each individual test within, equally weighted. The scale has been adjusted with the Seagate Enterprise Class v4, the fastest 7200 RPM drive we've tested, as our reference point at 100 points. SSDs are depicted in purple, 3.5 inch drives in blue, and 2.5 inch drives in green.

Buoyed by strong loading times, the SSHD 2TB scored 86.1 points putting it smack dab between the Barracuda 3TB (essentially an older 3TB version of the same drive without NAND), and the WD Se 4TB, an expensive Enterprise model. However, the slowest SSD on this chart is more than 50 points ahead, so while the NAND Flash certainly helps, there's only so much it can do. The M9T 2TB scores 67.2 which is about what you would expect from a 2.5 inch 5400 RPM mode. Incidentally, it finishes one place ahead of the Momentus XT 500GB, Seagate's first hybrid style drive.

Power Consumption

The M9T's energy efficiency is about average for a 2.5 inch drive, using 0.92W when idle and 2.22W during seeks (random read), but the difference is negligible considering the extra capacity.

The SSHD 2TB's power consumption was excellent for a 7200 RPM model. It used just 4.5W at idle which is about the same as most 5400/5900 RPM drives. Seeking brought that figure up to 7.1W, but this is still lower than the other 7200 RPM drives compared. The two platter design really helps in this regard.

Acoustics

The noise levels of the two drives are similar with the SSHD 2TB measuring about 1 dB higher, but given their respective form factors and motor speeds, they have a slightly different sound. Both are reasonably quiet and innocuous at idle with a gentle "whoosh" being emanated, but the SSHD emits additional high frequency noise, making it sound more hollow. The M9T's seeks are rather soft, so muted that they barely distinguishable. The SSHD's seeks arequiet as well but have a slightly harsher twang that is more pronounced.

Comparison Charts: Environmental Characteristics

2.5 INCH HARD DRIVES
Drive

Mfg date

firmware version
Vibration

1-10

(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics

([email protected])

Measured

Power

WD Scorpio Blue 500GB WD5000LPVT-22G33T0

March 2012

firmware 01.01A01
8
Idle
12
0.79 W (0.69 W heads parked)
Seek
14~15
1.65 W
WD Red 1TB

WD10JFCX-68N6GN0

August 2013

firmware 01.01A01
8
Idle
13~14
0.92 W (0.79 W heads parked)
Seek
14
1.95 W
Seagate Momentus XT 500GB ST95005620AS

June 2010

firmware SD22
7
Idle
13~14
1.34 W (1.16 W heads parked)
Seek
14~15
2.08 W
Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB ST9500420AS

March 2009

firmware 0002SDM1
7
Idle
14
1.1 W (0.9 W heads parked)
Seek
15
2.35 W
Seagate Momentus

750GB ST9750420AS

October 2010

firmware 0001SDM1
8
Idle
15
1.06 W (0.85 W heads parked)
Seek
15~16
2.60 W
Samsung SpinPoint M9T 2TB ST2000LM003

December 2013

firmware 2BC10001
9
Idle
15
0.92 W (0.77 W heads parked)
Seek
15~16
2.22 W
WD Scorpio Blue 1TB WD10JPVT-00A1YT0

July 2011

firmware 01.01A01
8
Idle
15
0.89 W (0.75 W heads parked)
Seek
16
1.86 W
WD Scorpio Blue 640GB WD6400BEVT

September 2009

firmware 01.01A01
7
Idle
15~16
0.87 W (0.74 W heads parked)
Seek
16
1.95 W
WD Scorpio Black 750GB WD7500BPKT

November 2010

firmware 01.01A01
7
Idle
16
1.18 W (1.01 W heads parked)
Seek
16~17
2.28 W

The M9T 2TB generates the same noise levels as the Scorpio Blue 1TB; It's a reasonably quiet drive for a 2.5 inch model, but can't compete with ultra-quiet models like the WD Red. What really stands out is the level of vibration it produces, that is, hardly any. It scores 9 on our subjective scale, which puts it ahead of every modern notebook drive we've examined.

3.5 INCH HARD DRIVES
Drive

Mfg date

firmware version
Vibration

1-10

(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics

([email protected])

Measured

Power

WD Caviar Green 2TB WD20EARS

August 2010

firmware 01.00A01
9
Idle
12~13
2.8 W (2.4 W heads parked)
Seek
6.5 W
WD Red 1TB

WD10EFRX-68JCSN0

June 2012

firmware 01.01A01
8
Idle
12~13
2.9 W
Seek
4.1 W
Samsung EcoGreen F4 2TB HD204UI

August 2010

firmware 1AQ10001
7
Idle
13
4.0 W
Seek
15
5.6 W
WD Red 3TB

WD30EFRX-68AX9N0


June 2012

firmware 80.00A80
9
Idle
13~14
3.6 W
Seek
4.9 W
WD Caviar Green 3TB WD30EZRS

September 2010

firmware 01.00A01
8
Idle
14~15
4.1 W (3.7 W heads parked)
Seek
7.5W
WD Red 4TB

WD40EFRX-68WT0N0


August 2013

firmware 80.00A80
8~9
Idle
15
4.0 W (3.2 W heads parked)
Seek
15~16
6.2 W
Hitachi Deskstar 5K3000 2TB HDS5C3020ALA632

April 2011

firmware 580
7
Idle
14~15
4.1W
Seek
15
5.6 W
WD Red 6TB

WD60EFRX-68MYMN1

July 2014

firmware 82.00A8
8
Idle
14~15
4.4 W
Seek
18
5.4 W
Seagate NAS HDD 4TB ST4000VN000-1H4168

September 2013

firmware SC43
7~9
Idle
15
4.8 W (4.1 W heads parked)
Seek
16~17
5.5 W
Seagate Barracuda 3TB ST3000DM001-9YN166

November 2011

firmware CC47
8
Idle
16
6.4 W

(5.6 W after 30 secs)

(3.9 W after 50 secs)
Seek
16~17
9.9 W
Seagate Desktop SSHD 2TB

ST2000DX001-1CM164

February 2014

firmware CC43
5~7
Idle
16
4.5 (4.0 W heads parked)
Seek
16~17
7.1 W
WD Se 4TB WD4000F9YZ-09N20L0

October 2013

firmware 01.01A01
7
Idle
16
8.1 W
Seek
18~19
9.7 W
Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 2TB HDS723020BLA642

August 2011

firmware MNGOA5C0
5
Idle
17
5.3 W
Seek
18
7.8 W
WD VelociRaptor 1TB WD1000DHTZ-04N21V0

March 2012

firmware 04.06A00
7
[bare]

Idle
[16~17]

18
4.0 W
[bare]

Seek
[27]

32
5.3 W
Seagate Enterprise Class 3.5 HDD v4 6TB ST6000NM0024-1HT17Z

May 2014

firmware SN02
3
Idle
19~20
7.5 W
Seek
20~21
9.2 W

The SSHD 2TB is a louder drive, but that's to be expected for a 3.5 inch variant. The noise levels we measured were equal to that of the Barracuda 3TB, so the two get to share the title of quietest desktop 7200 RPM drive. What we didn't expect is the characteristic clicking sound of the head parking after about 20 seconds in inactivity. This is highly unusual for a 7200 RPM desktop drive, though we noticed a similar power saving feature in the Barracuda.

Unfortunately it generates a significant amount of vibration, scoring an average of 6 on our subjective scale. We had four samples in total, two of which scored 6, while the remaining two scored a 5 and 7, so there was some sample variation. In recent memory, only the Seagate Enterprise Class 6TB drive has produced a significantly worse result. We used the SSHD in our recent Quiet ATX Gaming Build and the vibration-induced noise it made prompted us to suspend the drive with elastic cord in a 5.25 inch bay.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR's own 11
dBA ambient anechoic chamber
, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s.
We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from
the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what
we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recordings start with 5 to 10 seconds of ambient noise, then 5 to 10 second
segments of the drive in the following states: idle, seek with AAM enabled (if
applicable), and seek with AAM disabled.

Desktop Hard Drive Comparatives:

Notebook Hard Drive Comparatives:

FINAL THOUGHTS

Samsung SpinPoint M9T 2TB

Despite managing to pack 2TB of capacity into a 9.5 mm chassis, the SpinPoint M9T's environmental characteristics are fairly impressive. Its energy efficiency isn't out of line compared to other, smaller capacity notebook drives, nor is the noise it emits, while the vibration it produces is minute. Performance on the other hand was rather poor except when it came to file transfers. It's designed for mass storage and really that's the only thing it's good for. If it's to be used in a device that supports only a single drive, you'd be effectively forgoing performance altogether in exchange for the high capacity. Ideal use cases would be as an external drive, or as a complement to an mSATA SSD in a notebook.

The Samsung SpinPoint M9T 2TB is currently selling for a US$120. Toshiba and WD both make a 2TB 2.5 inch model, with the former available for US$15 less, but they're both 15 mm thick making them incompatible with most devices. One might expect to pay a premium for the M9T with it being the only drive of its kind on the market, but thankfully Seagate has been more than reasonable with pricing.

Seagate Desktop SSHD 2TB

The Seagate Desktop SSHD 2TB is advertised as the best of both worlds, combining the low latency of NAND Flash with the capacity of spinning platters. It does provide an nice improvement over a standard 7200 RPM model, especially in loading times, but ultimately it can't compete with real solid-state drives. Still, it's very fast for a consumer hard drive, and keep in mind we only ran through our entire testing procedure twice (six runs instead of three), so perhaps with longer use, its adaptive memory technology can optimize performance further. The noise it produced is low, at least for a 7200 RPM model, but the vibration level is poor (on average). It will produce a racket if hard-mounted, so we highly recommend suspension or some other type of soft, mechanically-decoupled mounting if possible.

The SSHD 2TB can be had for US$105, about US$25 more than a standard 7200 RPM model. If you can't afford an SSD, or simply prefer a single drive solution, it's worth the premium. Just keep in mind that it doesn't really offer actual SSD-like performance.

Many thanks to Seagate for the Samsung SpinPoint M9T 2TB and Seagate Desktop SSHD 2TB hard drive samples.



The Samsung SpinPoint M9T 2TB and Seagate Desktop SSHD 2TB are recommended by SPCR

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

Recommended Hard Drives

WD Red 6TB and 1TB (2.5-inch) Hard Drives

Seagate Enterprise Class v4 6TB Hard Drive

Seagate NAS HDD 4TB


Western Digital Red 4TB & Se 4TB Hard Drives

Western Digital Red 3TB & 1TB Hard Drives

* * *

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