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Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD review: Solid alternative to laptop hard drives

Looking to boost that old, slow computer? The Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD might just be what you want.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
6 min read

Using Seagate's new Laptop Thin Solid-State Hybrid Drive (SSHD) is a bittersweet experience.


Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD

The Good

The <b>Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD</b> offers noticeably faster boot time and better overall performance than regular hard drives at a much lower cost than solid-state drives.

The Bad

The Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD's data transfer speed is slow. It comes with just 8GB of flash memory and spins at only 5,400rpm.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking for SSD-like performance at just a fraction of the cost, the Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD offers some gratification.

Sweet because it indeed offers boot time and overall improvement somewhat similar to that of a solid-state drive (SSD) at a fraction of the cost, and bitter because its data transfer speed is slower than most regular hard drives'.

The Laptop Thin SSHD is designed specifically for laptops and supercompact desktops that focus on daily computing needs rather than data-moving-intensive tasks, and for this purpose, at the current cost of just $86 for 500GB, it delivers. You definitely don't want to use it as a secondary drive or in an external storage application, though.

If you're looking to upgrade your computer from a hard drive so the system will boot up faster, but don't want to invest in an SSD just yet, the Laptop Thin SSHD, as well as its predecessor, the 2nd-generation Momentus XT, is about the second best choice. The new drive also proves that SSHDs, for now, are not real alternatives to SSDs, such as these, for those who want uncompromising performance.

Drive type Internal drive
Connector options SATA 3 (6Gbps), SATA 2, SATA
Available capacities 500GB
Product dimensions 7mm thick, 2.5-inch standard
Capacity of test unit 500GB
OSes supported Windows, Mac, Linux

The new Laptop Thin SSHD is the third generation of hybrid drives from Seagate. The previous drives are the Momentus XT 750GB and Momentus XT 500GB. Starting at CES 2013, Seagate changed the way it names hybrid drives, now calling them all SSHDs. The designation Laptop Thin means that the drive is designed for laptops and comes in the newer 7mm thickness, compared with the 9.5mm thickness of previous drives and other standard laptop drives. There's also a Laptop SSHD that comes in the regular 9.5mm thickness, and a Desktop SSHD that has the 3.5-inch standard desktop design.

The new Laptop Thin SSHD's revised thickness means it now can fit in certain ultrabooks and also that its capacity is limited to just 500GB, which is the capacity of the first-generation drive. The Laptop SSHD drive, however, will offer the new 1TB capacity. This is because the Laptop Thin SSHD houses only a single platter, while the Laptop SSHD is thick enough to house two platters.

The new Laptop Thin SSHD (right) looks very similar to a Momentus regular hard drive, but 2.5mm thinner.
The new Laptop Thin SSHD (right) looks very similar to a Momentus regular hard drive, but 2.5mm thinner. Dong Ngo/CNET

Similar to previous generations, the new Laptop Thin SSHD is a regular hard drive that has built-in 8GB of NAND flash memory, like the type of storage used in SSDs. The drive uses Seagate's Adaptive Memory Technology (AMT) that's designed to identify hot (frequently accessed) data and write it to the onboard flash memory part. The subsequent times the data is requested from the host, it will be read from the flash memory, and therefore will improve the access speed.

By design, AMT has to "learn" the patterns in which someone uses a computer and improvement is only observable in the subsequent times the same task is being executed. For example, once you have replaced a computer's hard drive with a Seagate SSHD, the first boot time might not show any difference at all. This proved to be trued in my testing, the test machine's boot time only improved (taking much shorter time) starting with the second boot.

On the other hand, the Laptop Thin SSHD is also quite different from the previous generation of Seagate hybrid drives. The first difference is the drive's spinning speed, which is now only 5,400rpm, as opposed to the Momentus drives' 7,200rpm. This means that the new drive is slower at data transferring, such as when copying a large amount of data from one drive to another, or from one place to another within itself. In fact, in my trial, it was about as slow as a regular 5,400rpm drive.

The second difference is that the NAND Flash memory part of the SSHD is now made of multilevel cell (MLC) NAND -- similar to the type used in most consumer-grade SSDs -- as opposed to the single-level cell (SLC) NAND, used in enterprise-grade SSDs. This helps lower the drive's cost but potentially means the flash memory part might become unreliable faster due to the lower write endurance (read more about that here), especially since the SSHD has only 8GB. In the future, there will be SSHDs with up to 32GB of flash memory.

Seagate says that the drive has algorithms that minimize the writing to the flash memory part and when used for its main purpose, as a main drive of a laptop or low-profile desktop, the SSHD's NAND flash memory part will outlast the drive's moving parts. This, of course, remains to be seen.

If you're wondering why the drive's capacity is not 508GB but just 500GB, that's because the 8GB of flash memory is not extra storage. Instead, it's a redundant amount. In other words, the data written on the 8GB of NAND flash memory is also stored on another 8GB of the drive's platter-based storage. This also means that if the NAND flash memory does become unreliable, the drive will still work, but it will be just a regular 5,400rpm hard drive.

The Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD looks and feels like a regular, low-profile hard drive. It supports the latest SATA 3 (6Gbps) interface but works with any SATA versions.

Cost per gigabyte
Normally, I don't calculate a hard drive's cost per gigabyte, but since this is an SSHD, which rivals an SSD to some extent, it only makes sense to see how the drive's cost per gigabyte stacks up to that of SSDs. And it stacks up really well. At the current price of $86 for 500GB, the drive costs just 16 cents per gigabyte. Most SSDs cost close to $1 per gigabyte. It's even cheaper than the Momentus XT 750GB, which currently costs about $155. Compared with regular laptop hard drives of the same capacity, however, the SSHD is about 25 percent more expensive.


I tested the Laptop Thin SSHD against both SSDs and the Momentus XT 750GB hard drive, and it offered mixed results.

On one hand, it did well in boot time, taking just 15 seconds for the test machine to boot up, compared with 10 seconds for most SSDs and 20 seconds for the second-generation Momentus XT. The same machine generally takes about 50 seconds to boot when it runs on a very fast regular hard drive. Note that the boot time improvement only shows starting at the second boot. Right after the system was moved to the SSHD, the first boot took about 45 seconds.

The new drive also showed improvement in overall performance and helped applications launch noticeably quicker, compared with a regular hard drive. Compared with SSDs, however, it was still appreciably slower.

On the other hand, the Laptop Thin SSHD was terrible at data transferral. When used as a secondary drive in the system, it offered just about 39MBps for write speed. Its read speed was better, at around 90MBps. When used as the computer's main drive, (which it's designed for) and performing both writing and reading at the same time, it scored just about 17MBps. In other words, in terms of data transferring (or consequential performance), the new SSHD is about the slowest drive I've seen in a long time. In fact, it's significantly slower than its predecessors. This is probably because it spins at only 5,400rpm, instead of 7,200rpm.

Boot/shutdown scores (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Boot Time  
Samsung 840 Pro
Samsung 840 series
Plextor M5 Pro
SanDisk Ultra Plus
OCZ Vector
Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD

Application performance (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD

For those looking for a low-cost way to improve their hard-drive-based computer's boot time and overall performance for general computing needs, the new Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD makes a good buy.


Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7Support 9