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Seagate 8TB Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v5 Review

Seagate 8TB Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v5 Review

Seagate brings its newest high-density HDD to market, offering lower power consumption in tandem with higher performance. We put the new fifth-gen HDD to the test.

The combination of the rise of SSDs and the decline of PC sales are plundering the PC/notebook market, which has long served as the sparkling bastion of profit for the HDD vendors. The vast majority of HDDs are destined for the PC market, but the once free-flowing PC profit stream is dwindling rapidly, which makes the lost sales sting even more. The placid slope in the quarterly number of HDDs accelerated into a harrowing white-knuckle freefall in recent months.

In the background, the world continues to churn out incredible amounts of data (it doubles every year), and the continued data growth still requires storage at the other end of the Ethernet port. This means that high-capacity nearline HDDs, and their lucrative revenue stream, are still in demand.

As the product mix changes, the decline of the PC market brings the importance of the nearline revenue stream into laser-like focus. Seagate is accustomed to holding sway in the enterprise segment—it has shipped more enterprise HDDs per quarter than WD for years, and its successful Enterprise Capacity v4 series led the market in several key metrics.

However, HGST took a calculated risk and began shipping helium HDDs several years ago with its inaugural He6 6TB offerings. In the meantime, Seagate brought its 8TB Archive HDD to market, which is based on SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording), which incurs performance penalties that relegate it to backup and archival workloads (as covered in our Seagate 8TB Archive HDD review). 

HGST's helium platform matured quickly, and the addition of proprietary performance-boosting media cache algorithms on the He8, not to mention its leading 8TB capacity point, stole some of Seagate's thunder. As a result, Seagate wasn't as competitive in the nearline market in recent quarters.

Seagate upped the ante in September of 2014 by announcing a trifecta of new 8TB models that employ the familiar PMR (Perpendicular Magnetic Recording) technology. The new series features the 8TB Enterprise NAS HDD (mid-market for 8 to 14 bay deployments), the 8TB Kinetic HDD (scale-out object storage repositories), and the 8TB Enterprise Capacity 8TB HDD v5 that we have in the lab today. Seagate's newest family of HDDs come bearing the fruits of increased capacity, which includes lower price and power consumption per TB, along with increased performance. 

The 7,200-RPM Enterprise Capacity v5 is Seagate's ninth-generation nearline model and it comes in both 6Gb/s SATA and 12Gb/s SAS flavors that satisfy the requirements of hyperscale-cloud, scale-out, analytic, RAID, SAN, NAS and DAS environments with 8 or more bays. The v5 generation only comes in the 6TB and 8TB capacity points; Seagate's v4 generation continues to provide 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5TB models.

The v5 also brings a 15 percent increase in sequential performance with 237MB/s of maximum sustained data transfer rate (SDR) and peak speeds of 249MB/s. However, the biggest performance increase comes in the form of Seagate's new Advanced Write Caching (AWC) feature, which infuses the 6TB model with an incredible 100 percent increase in random write performance (6TB model) via its 2MB NOR buffer.

Seagate's AWC algorithms, at least on paper, provide an amazing performance boost. SSD vendors love to regale us with mind-bending random read/write IOPS, but we rarely see the IOPS entry on an HDD spec sheet. Seagate bucks that trend and brazenly lists the Enterprise Capacity v5 series' 164/342 read/write IOPS (QD16) in its specifications. The v5's average latency remains unchanged from the previous generation at 4.16ms.

Toshiba is MIA in the 6TB+ nearline segment, so the HGST Ultrastar He8 8TB HDD is the elephant in the room. The He8 features a 2.5 million hour MTBF, low power consumption and increased performance. Seagate's AWC algorithms are an obvious retort to HGST's media cache algorithms, which employ a different write caching technique that also provides an incredible performance boost. However, the HGST series also leverages the helium architecture, which provides a tangible advantage over air drives in power consumption, heat generation and weight, among other categories.

Seagate has its own helium infused HDDs headed to market later in the year, but for the time being the battle for nearline dominance takes the form of the Seagate Enterprise Capacity v5 against the HGST He8. Let's put our data slinging pugilists toe to toe.

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