Seagate’s Roadmap: The Path to 120 TB Hard Drives

Seagate recently published its long-term technology roadmap revealing plans to produce ~50 TB hard drives by 2026 and 120+ TB HDDs after 2030. In the coming years, Seagate is set to leverage usage of heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), adopt bit patterned media (BPM) in the long term, and to expand usage of multi-actuator technology (MAT) for high-capacity drives. This is all within the 3.5-inch form factor.

“We can use our recent experience, productizing our 20 TB HAMR drive to translate from laboratory demonstrations to products, which puts us on track to deliver 50 terabytes by 2026,” said John Morris, Chief Technology Officer of Seagate. “We have drive technologies planned which will enable long term HAMR growth and a path to over 100 TB devices. And hard disk drives will continue to service the needs of mass capacity storage with the most optimal, total cost of ownership for the next decade and beyond.”

HAMR to Enable 90 TB HDDs

In the recent years HDD capacity has been increasing rather slowly as perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR),  even boosted with two-dimensional magnetic recording (TDMR), is reaching its limits. Seagate’s current top-of-the-range HDD features a 20 TB capacity and is based on HAMR, which not only promises to enable 3.5-inch hard drives with a ~90 TB capacity in the long term, but also to allow Seagate to increase capacities of its products faster.

In particular, Seagate expects 30+ TB HDDs to arrive in calendar 2023, then 40+ TB drives in 2024 ~ 2025, and then 50+ TB HDDs sometimes in 2026. This was revealed at its recent Virtual Analyst Event. In 2030, the manufacturer intends to release a 100 TB HDD, with 120 TB units following on later next decade. To hit these higher capacities, Seagate is looking to adopt new types of media.

“As we approach the maximum useful capacity of PMR technology, each successive drive increases by 1TB or 2TB at a time,” said Jeff Fochtman, Seagate’s SVP of Business and Marketing at the company’s Analyst Meeting. “With HAMR technology, it allows us to jump in steps of 4 terabytes, 6 terabytes, or even 10 terabytes at a time.”

Today’s 20 TB HAMR HDD uses nine 2.22-TB platters featuring an areal density of around 1.3 Tb/inch2. To build a nine-platter 40 TB hard drive, the company needs HAMR media featuring an areal density of approximately 2.6 Tb Tb/inch2. Back in 2018~2019 the company already achieved a 2.381 Tb/inch2 areal density in spinstand testing in its lab and recently it actually managed to hit 2.6 Tb/inch2 in the lab, so the company knows how to build media for 40 TB HDDs. However to build a complete product, it will still need to develop the suitable head, drive controller, and other electronics for its 40 TB drive, which will take several years.

Bit Patterned Media (BPM) to enable HDDs up to 120 TB

In general, Seagate projects HAMR technology to continue scaling for years to come without cardinal changes. The company expects HAMR and nanogranular media based on glass substrates and featuring iron platinum alloy (FePt) magnetic films to scale to 4 ~ 6 Tb/inch2 in areal density. This should enable hard drives of up to 90 TB in capacity.

In a bid to hit something like 105 TB, Seagate expects to use ordered-granular media with 5 ~ 7 Tb/inch2 areal density. To go further, the world’s largest HDD manufacturer plans to use ‘fully’ bit patterned media (BPM) with an 8 Tb/inch2 areal density or higher. All new types of media will still require some sort of assisted magnetic recording, so HAMR will stay with us in one form or another for years to come.

“We see an opportunity to scale this design space with granular media into the range of 4 Tb/inch2 to 6 Tb/inch2, at which point we plan to add patterning in one dimension through the use of ordered grain media,” said Morris. “This, we expect to be a steppingstone in media to open up the range of 5 Tb/inch2 to 7 Tb/inch2. Then we will transition to fully patterned media to open up densities to 8 Tb/inch2 and even higher. With the areal density CAGR just introduced, we have a path to 10TB per disk by 2030. This then represents our outlook for technology limits over the next 10 to 15 years.”

Performance Improvements Included

Increasing the capacity of hard drives is extremely important to keep them competitive with solid-state drives, but in a bid to stay relevant for operators of cloud datacenters, HDDs also need to improve sequential and random performance.

Sequential performance of hard drives surges along with areal density, so we see gradual HDD performance bumps every year. But as the capacity of a drive increase, the random IOPS-per-TB performance drops, which requires operators of large datacenters to mitigate this with caches to maintain their Quality-of-Service, which means additional costs.

Seagate and Western Digital have been looking to radically increase sequential and random performance of HDDs by installing more than one actuator, with multiple read/write heads into one drive. Seagate’s Mach.2 technology — which embraces two actuators — can almost double IOPS-per-TB performance of a hard drive and substantially increase its sequential read/write speeds. Furthermore, with two independent actuators, Seagate can almost halve the time it needs to test one drive before shipping, which reduces its manufacturing costs. The advantage of two actuators will become even more significant as HDD makers transit to platforms with more platters.

“A notable benefit to dual actuator technology standardization is that it drastically cuts down test time, and therefore, hard drive production time is greatly reduced,” said Fochtman. “This is a benefit we’re looking forward to recognizing on the cost side of the business.”

There are about a dozen of customers that already use Seagate’s Mach.2 PMR-based HDDs in their datacenters, although these drives do not have a commercial branding. Eventually, the company plans to make Mach.2 HDDs available to other clients, yet the company does not disclose when this is set to happen. However, the manufacturer is poised to use its Mach.2 technology more broadly once its drives hit capacities of above 30 TB, as drives with one actuator will not have sufficient performance, and a one-actuator design would increase the total cost of ownership.

“Although Mach.2 is ramped and being used now, it is also really still in a technology-staging mode,” said Fochtman. “When we reach capacity points above 30 terabytes, it will become a standard feature in many large data center environments.”

HDD TCO to Remain Low

Speaking of TCO, Seagate is confident that hard drives will remain cost-effective storage devices for many years to come. Seagate believes that 3D NAND will not beat HDDs in terms of per-GB cost any time soon and TCO of hard drives will remain at competitive levels. Right now, 90% of data stored by cloud datacenters is stored on HDDs and Seagate expects this to continue.

“We believe that the TCO for hard disk drives and SSDs will stay approximately in equilibrium,” said Morris. “Both SSDs and hard disk drives will continue to improve their value proposition, and storage demand for both will continue to grow. They are both critical enabling technologies for the growing datasphere, and their synergistic relationship in the data center infrastructure will persist.”

Related Reading

Seagate recently published its long-term technology roadmap revealing plans to produce ~50 TB hard drives by 2026 and 120+ TB HDDs after 2030. In the coming years, Seagate is set to leverage usage of heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), adopt bit patterned media (BPM) in the long term, and to expand usage of multi-actuator technology (MAT) for high-capacity drives. This is all within the 3.5-inch form factor.

"We can use our recent experience, productizing our 20 TB HAMR drive to translate from laboratory demonstrations to products, which puts us on track to deliver 50 terabytes by 2026," said John Morris, Chief Technology Officer of Seagate. "We have drive technologies planned which will enable long term HAMR growth and a path to over 100 TB devices. And hard disk drives will continue to service the needs of mass capacity storage with the most optimal, total cost of ownership for the next decade and beyond."

HAMR to Enable 90 TB HDDs

In the recent years HDD capacity has been increasing rather slowly as perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR),  even boosted with two-dimensional magnetic recording (TDMR), is reaching its limits. Seagate's current top-of-the-range HDD features a 20 TB capacity and is based on HAMR, which not only promises to enable 3.5-inch hard drives with a ~90 TB capacity in the long term, but also to allow Seagate to increase capacities of its products faster.

In particular, Seagate expects 30+ TB HDDs to arrive in calendar 2023, then 40+ TB drives in 2024 ~ 2025, and then 50+ TB HDDs sometimes in 2026. This was revealed at its recent Virtual Analyst Event. In 2030, the manufacturer intends to release a 100 TB HDD, with 120 TB units following on later next decade. To hit these higher capacities, Seagate is looking to adopt new types of media.

"As we approach the maximum useful capacity of PMR technology, each successive drive increases by 1TB or 2TB at a time," said Jeff Fochtman, Seagate's SVP of Business and Marketing at the company's Analyst Meeting. "With HAMR technology, it allows us to jump in steps of 4 terabytes, 6 terabytes, or even 10 terabytes at a time."

Today's 20 TB HAMR HDD uses nine 2.22-TB platters featuring an areal density of around 1.3 Tb/inch2. To build a nine-platter 40 TB hard drive, the company needs HAMR media featuring an areal density of approximately 2.6 Tb Tb/inch2. Back in 2018~2019 the company already achieved a 2.381 Tb/inch2 areal density in spinstand testing in its lab and recently it actually managed to hit 2.6 Tb/inch2 in the lab, so the company knows how to build media for 40 TB HDDs. However to build a complete product, it will still need to develop the suitable head, drive controller, and other electronics for its 40 TB drive, which will take several years.

Bit Patterned Media (BPM) to enable HDDs up to 120 TB

In general, Seagate projects HAMR technology to continue scaling for years to come without cardinal changes. The company expects HAMR and nanogranular media based on glass substrates and featuring iron platinum alloy (FePt) magnetic films to scale to 4 ~ 6 Tb/inch2 in areal density. This should enable hard drives of up to 90 TB in capacity.

In a bid to hit something like 105 TB, Seagate expects to use ordered-granular media with 5 ~ 7 Tb/inch2 areal density. To go further, the world's largest HDD manufacturer plans to use 'fully' bit patterned media (BPM) with an 8 Tb/inch2 areal density or higher. All new types of media will still require some sort of assisted magnetic recording, so HAMR will stay with us in one form or another for years to come.

"We see an opportunity to scale this design space with granular media into the range of 4 Tb/inch2 to 6 Tb/inch2, at which point we plan to add patterning in one dimension through the use of ordered grain media," said Morris. "This, we expect to be a steppingstone in media to open up the range of 5 Tb/inch2 to 7 Tb/inch2. Then we will transition to fully patterned media to open up densities to 8 Tb/inch2 and even higher. With the areal density CAGR just introduced, we have a path to 10TB per disk by 2030. This then represents our outlook for technology limits over the next 10 to 15 years."

Performance Improvements Included

Increasing the capacity of hard drives is extremely important to keep them competitive with solid-state drives, but in a bid to stay relevant for operators of cloud datacenters, HDDs also need to improve sequential and random performance.

Sequential performance of hard drives surges along with areal density, so we see gradual HDD performance bumps every year. But as the capacity of a drive increase, the random IOPS-per-TB performance drops, which requires operators of large datacenters to mitigate this with caches to maintain their Quality-of-Service, which means additional costs.

Seagate and Western Digital have been looking to radically increase sequential and random performance of HDDs by installing more than one actuator, with multiple read/write heads into one drive. Seagate's Mach.2 technology — which embraces two actuators — can almost double IOPS-per-TB performance of a hard drive and substantially increase its sequential read/write speeds. Furthermore, with two independent actuators, Seagate can almost halve the time it needs to test one drive before shipping, which reduces its manufacturing costs. The advantage of two actuators will become even more significant as HDD makers transit to platforms with more platters.

"A notable benefit to dual actuator technology standardization is that it drastically cuts down test time, and therefore, hard drive production time is greatly reduced," said Fochtman. "This is a benefit we're looking forward to recognizing on the cost side of the business."

There are about a dozen of customers that already use Seagate's Mach.2 PMR-based HDDs in their datacenters, although these drives do not have a commercial branding. Eventually, the company plans to make Mach.2 HDDs available to other clients, yet the company does not disclose when this is set to happen. However, the manufacturer is poised to use its Mach.2 technology more broadly once its drives hit capacities of above 30 TB, as drives with one actuator will not have sufficient performance, and a one-actuator design would increase the total cost of ownership.

"Although Mach.2 is ramped and being used now, it is also really still in a technology-staging mode," said Fochtman. "When we reach capacity points above 30 terabytes, it will become a standard feature in many large data center environments."

HDD TCO to Remain Low

Speaking of TCO, Seagate is confident that hard drives will remain cost-effective storage devices for many years to come. Seagate believes that 3D NAND will not beat HDDs in terms of per-GB cost any time soon and TCO of hard drives will remain at competitive levels. Right now, 90% of data stored by cloud datacenters is stored on HDDs and Seagate expects this to continue.

"We believe that the TCO for hard disk drives and SSDs will stay approximately in equilibrium," said Morris. "Both SSDs and hard disk drives will continue to improve their value proposition, and storage demand for both will continue to grow. They are both critical enabling technologies for the growing datasphere, and their synergistic relationship in the data center infrastructure will persist."

Related Reading

Crucial X6 Portable SSD 4TB Launches at $490: Phison’s U17 Flash Controller Enters Retail

Crucial introduced the X6 Portable SSD last year as an entry-level alternative to their NVMe-based X8 Portable SSD. Launched in capacities of up to 2TB, the X6 adopted a 96L 3D TLC version of the BX500 SATA SSD along with an ASMedia ASM235CM SATA to USB 3.2 Gen 1 bridge chip. Today, the company is launching a unique high-performance product in the external SSD space within the same X6 family.

Direct flash-to-USB controllers have traditionally been used only in thumb drives, where compactness is the primary feature. These controllers present a number of advantages including significant reduction in bill-of-materials (BOM) cost and overall device power consumption. However, such controllers have typically been restricted to speeds of around 400MBps. Taking advantage of the USB 3.2 Gen 2 and Gen 2×2 interfaces, Phison introduced a couple of high-speed flash controllers with a direct USB interface at CES 2021. The U17, sporting a USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) upstream interface and a 2-channel 1200 MT/s downstream NAND interface, is the one on which Crucial’s Portable SSD 4TB is based.

Crucial claims speeds of up to 800MBps for both reads and writes. This is significantly higher than the 540 MBps numbers possible with the SATA-based external SSDs. Officially, the X6 drives have ‘Micron 3D NAND’ and there is no specification of the generation / layer count. However, Crucial indicated that the X6 4TB drives being shipped today come with 96L Micron 3D NAND (QLC). As is usual with Micron / Crucial, it is likely that the NAND generation may get updated in the future to allow Micron to offer even lower price points.

The new 4TB X6 Portable SSD is priced at $490. At this price point, it compares quite favorably with the other QLC-based external SSDs such as the Sabrent XTRM-Q (though the latter comes with a Thunderbolt interface). The other 4TB external SSDs in the market are from Western Digital, with prices ranging from $680 to $750. Given their 3D TLC flash and the usage of a NVMe drive behind a bridge chip, they can offer much better performance, endurance, and additional flexibility (such as the ability to salvage the internal SSD in the case of a bridge chip failure) for professional use-cases. However, for the average consumer, the price per GB as well as price to performance ratio are both in Crucial’s favor with the new X6 Portable SSD based on the Phison U17 controller.

Crucial introduced the X6 Portable SSD last year as an entry-level alternative to their NVMe-based X8 Portable SSD. Launched in capacities of up to 2TB, the X6 adopted a 96L 3D TLC version of the BX500 SATA SSD along with an ASMedia ASM235CM SATA to USB 3.2 Gen 1 bridge chip. Today, the company is launching a unique high-performance product in the external SSD space within the same X6 family.

Direct flash-to-USB controllers have traditionally been used only in thumb drives, where compactness is the primary feature. These controllers present a number of advantages including significant reduction in bill-of-materials (BOM) cost and overall device power consumption. However, such controllers have typically been restricted to speeds of around 400MBps. Taking advantage of the USB 3.2 Gen 2 and Gen 2x2 interfaces, Phison introduced a couple of high-speed flash controllers with a direct USB interface at CES 2021. The U17, sporting a USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) upstream interface and a 2-channel 1200 MT/s downstream NAND interface, is the one on which Crucial's Portable SSD 4TB is based.

Crucial claims speeds of up to 800MBps for both reads and writes. This is significantly higher than the 540 MBps numbers possible with the SATA-based external SSDs. Officially, the X6 drives have 'Micron 3D NAND' and there is no specification of the generation / layer count. However, Crucial indicated that the X6 4TB drives being shipped today come with 96L Micron 3D NAND (QLC). As is usual with Micron / Crucial, it is likely that the NAND generation may get updated in the future to allow Micron to offer even lower price points.

The new 4TB X6 Portable SSD is priced at $490. At this price point, it compares quite favorably with the other QLC-based external SSDs such as the Sabrent XTRM-Q (though the latter comes with a Thunderbolt interface). The other 4TB external SSDs in the market are from Western Digital, with prices ranging from $680 to $750. Given their 3D TLC flash and the usage of a NVMe drive behind a bridge chip, they can offer much better performance, endurance, and additional flexibility (such as the ability to salvage the internal SSD in the case of a bridge chip failure) for professional use-cases. However, for the average consumer, the price per GB as well as price to performance ratio are both in Crucial's favor with the new X6 Portable SSD based on the Phison U17 controller.

Toshiba Unveils World’s First FC-MAMR HDD: 18 TB, Helium Filled

Toshiba this week announced the industry’s first hard drive featuring flux-control microwave-assisted magnetic recording (FC-MAMR) technology. The new MG09-series HDDs are designed primarily for nearline and enterprise applications, they offer an 18 TB capacity along with an ultra-low idle power consumption. 

The Toshiba MG09-series 3.5-inch 18 TB HDD are based on the company’s 3rd generation nine-platter helium sealed platform that features 18 heads with a microwave-emitting component which changes magnetic coercivity of the platters before writing data. The HD disks are made by Showa Denko K.K. (SDK), a long-time partner of Toshiba. Each aluminum platter is about 0.635 mm thick, it features an areal density of around 1.5 Tb/inch2 and can store up to 2 TB of data. The MG09 family also includes a 16 TB model which presumably features a lower number of platters (based on the same performance rating).

For modern enterprise and nearline 3.5-inch HDDs, Toshiba’s MG09-series drives uses a motor with a 7200-RPM spindle speed. The HDDs are also equipped with a 512 MB buffer and are rated for a 281 MB/s maximum sustained data transfer rate. Unfortunately, Toshiba has not updated the random access performance of the new products, though it is likely that their per-TB IOPS performance is lower when compared to predecessors. The manufacturer will offer its new drives both with SATA 3.3 (6 Gbps) and SAS 3.0 (12 Gbps) interfaces as well as a selection of logical data block length.

One of the noteworthy things about Toshiba’s MG09-series FC-MAMR HDDs is their power consumption. In active idle mode, they typically consume 4.16/4.54 Watts (SATA/SAS models), which is considerably lower when compared with Seagate’s Exos X18 as well as Western Digital’s Ultrastar DC HC550. As far as power consumption efficiency at idle (large hard drives could spend plenty of time idling) is concerned, the 18 TB MG09 is an undeniable champion consuming just 0.23 Watts per TB (in case of the SATA version). Meanwhile, the new drives are rated for 8.35/8.74 Watts (SATA/SAS SKUs) during read/write operations, which is higher when compared to the DC HC550 as well as predecessors from the MG07 and the MG08-series.

Brief Specifications of Toshiba’s MG09 HDDs
Capacity 18 TB 16 TB
Platters 9 8
Heads 18 16
Recording Technology Flux-control microwave-assisted
magnetic recording (FC-MAMR)
RPM 7200 RPM
Interface SATA 6 Gbps/SAS 12 Gbps
DRAM Cache 512 MB
Persistent Write Cache Yes
Helium-Filling Yes
Sequential Data Transfer Rate (host to/from drive) 281 MB/s
MTBF 2.5 million
Rated Annual Workload 550 TB
Acoustics (idle) 20 dB
Power Consumption Random read/write SATA: 8.35 W
SAS: 8.74 W
Idle SATA: 4.16 W
SAS: 4.54 W
Warranty 5 Years

As the MG09 family of hard drives are intended for datacenter racks that accommodate hundreds of vibrating HDDs, they feature numerous enhancements to ensure consistent performance, reliability, and durability. Typically such enhancements include top and bottom attached motors, RVFF, as well as environmental sensors. Like all modern drives for 24/7 applications, Toshiba’s MG09-series units are rated for a 550 TB average annualized workload, 2.5 million hours MTBF, and are covered with a standard five-year warranty.

Also, the new MG09 hard drives support Toshiba’s persistent write cache (PWC) with power loss protection (PLP) technology, which is crucial for 4K sector drives that emulate 512B sectors. The PWC with PLP feature guards data in case of power loss while performing read-modify-write (RMW) operation to align the source write request with the physical sectors it has to modify. This capability allows the company to address its clients who run legacy systems that still require high capacities. Also, the new MG09 family includes Sanitize Instant Erase (SIE) and Self Encrypting Drive (SED) models.

Toshiba has been working on its MG09-series FC-MAMR HDDs for at least two years already. Last year the company said it had made ‘significant investments in manufacturing facilities’ and promised to start shipments of its 18 TB hard drives by March 31, 2021. This week the company reaffirmed its plan and said it would begin sample shipments of its 18 TB MG09-series MAMR HDDs ‘at the end of March 2021.’

Source: Toshiba

Toshiba this week announced the industry's first hard drive featuring flux-control microwave-assisted magnetic recording (FC-MAMR) technology. The new MG09-series HDDs are designed primarily for nearline and enterprise applications, they offer an 18 TB capacity along with an ultra-low idle power consumption. 

The Toshiba MG09-series 3.5-inch 18 TB HDD are based on the company's 3rd generation nine-platter helium sealed platform that features 18 heads with a microwave-emitting component which changes magnetic coercivity of the platters before writing data. The HD disks are made by Showa Denko K.K. (SDK), a long-time partner of Toshiba. Each aluminum platter is about 0.635 mm thick, it features an areal density of around 1.5 Tb/inch2 and can store up to 2 TB of data. The MG09 family also includes a 16 TB model which presumably features a lower number of platters (based on the same performance rating).

For modern enterprise and nearline 3.5-inch HDDs, Toshiba's MG09-series drives uses a motor with a 7200-RPM spindle speed. The HDDs are also equipped with a 512 MB buffer and are rated for a 281 MB/s maximum sustained data transfer rate. Unfortunately, Toshiba has not updated the random access performance of the new products, though it is likely that their per-TB IOPS performance is lower when compared to predecessors. The manufacturer will offer its new drives both with SATA 3.3 (6 Gbps) and SAS 3.0 (12 Gbps) interfaces as well as a selection of logical data block length.

One of the noteworthy things about Toshiba's MG09-series FC-MAMR HDDs is their power consumption. In active idle mode, they typically consume 4.16/4.54 Watts (SATA/SAS models), which is considerably lower when compared with Seagate's Exos X18 as well as Western Digital's Ultrastar DC HC550. As far as power consumption efficiency at idle (large hard drives could spend plenty of time idling) is concerned, the 18 TB MG09 is an undeniable champion consuming just 0.23 Watts per TB (in case of the SATA version). Meanwhile, the new drives are rated for 8.35/8.74 Watts (SATA/SAS SKUs) during read/write operations, which is higher when compared to the DC HC550 as well as predecessors from the MG07 and the MG08-series.

Brief Specifications of Toshiba's MG09 HDDs
Capacity 18 TB 16 TB
Platters 9 8
Heads 18 16
Recording Technology Flux-control microwave-assisted
magnetic recording (FC-MAMR)
RPM 7200 RPM
Interface SATA 6 Gbps/SAS 12 Gbps
DRAM Cache 512 MB
Persistent Write Cache Yes
Helium-Filling Yes
Sequential Data Transfer Rate (host to/from drive) 281 MB/s
MTBF 2.5 million
Rated Annual Workload 550 TB
Acoustics (idle) 20 dB
Power Consumption Random read/write SATA: 8.35 W
SAS: 8.74 W
Idle SATA: 4.16 W
SAS: 4.54 W
Warranty 5 Years

As the MG09 family of hard drives are intended for datacenter racks that accommodate hundreds of vibrating HDDs, they feature numerous enhancements to ensure consistent performance, reliability, and durability. Typically such enhancements include top and bottom attached motors, RVFF, as well as environmental sensors. Like all modern drives for 24/7 applications, Toshiba's MG09-series units are rated for a 550 TB average annualized workload, 2.5 million hours MTBF, and are covered with a standard five-year warranty.

Also, the new MG09 hard drives support Toshiba’s persistent write cache (PWC) with power loss protection (PLP) technology, which is crucial for 4K sector drives that emulate 512B sectors. The PWC with PLP feature guards data in case of power loss while performing read-modify-write (RMW) operation to align the source write request with the physical sectors it has to modify. This capability allows the company to address its clients who run legacy systems that still require high capacities. Also, the new MG09 family includes Sanitize Instant Erase (SIE) and Self Encrypting Drive (SED) models.

Toshiba has been working on its MG09-series FC-MAMR HDDs for at least two years already. Last year the company said it had made 'significant investments in manufacturing facilities' and promised to start shipments of its 18 TB hard drives by March 31, 2021. This week the company reaffirmed its plan and said it would begin sample shipments of its 18 TB MG09-series MAMR HDDs 'at the end of March 2021.'

Source: Toshiba

CES 2021: OWC Envoy Pro FX – A Dual Mode (Thunderbolt / USB) IP67 External SSD

As part of its CES 2021 announcements, OWC provided details of the Envoy Pro FX – an IP67-rated dual-mode SSD capable of operating optimally with both Thunderbolt 3 / 4 and USB hosts. We have generally been impressed with the industrial design of OWC’s external SSD offerings – in fact, the OWC Envoy Pro EX USB-C was one of the top performers when we compared the latest USB 3.2 Gen 2 SSDs last year. The Envoy Pro EX Thunderbolt 3 was based on a standard Phison reference design (also shared with the Plugable TBT3-NVME drives) with a rugged industrial design.

The new Envoy Pro FX combines the best of both SSDs – enabling 2GBps+ performance with Thunderbolt 3 hosts and 1GBps-class performance with USB 3.2 Gen 2 hosts. OWC carries forward its sleek premium aluminum housing from the Envoy Pro EX line. The FX is IP67-rated for usage in dirty and wet environments – even allowing for submersion in water at depths of 1m for up to 30 minutes, and also carries MIL-STD810G certification for ruggedness. The SSD is bus-powered, and also has non-skid rubber feet.

The OWC Envoy Pro FX is available in four capacities – 240GB ($169), 480GB ($199), 1TB ($299), and 2TB ($479). Given the capacity points, these drives are unlikely to be using QLC NAND. The IP67 rating and likely usage of 3D TLC are potential justification points for the ~$130 premium over other dual-mode SSDs like the Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q we reviewed recently.

Interested in more of the latest industry news? Check out our CES 2021 trade show landing page!

As part of its CES 2021 announcements, OWC provided details of the Envoy Pro FX - an IP67-rated dual-mode SSD capable of operating optimally with both Thunderbolt 3 / 4 and USB hosts. We have generally been impressed with the industrial design of OWC's external SSD offerings - in fact, the OWC Envoy Pro EX USB-C was one of the top performers when we compared the latest USB 3.2 Gen 2 SSDs last year. The Envoy Pro EX Thunderbolt 3 was based on a standard Phison reference design (also shared with the Plugable TBT3-NVME drives) with a rugged industrial design.

The new Envoy Pro FX combines the best of both SSDs - enabling 2GBps+ performance with Thunderbolt 3 hosts and 1GBps-class performance with USB 3.2 Gen 2 hosts. OWC carries forward its sleek premium aluminum housing from the Envoy Pro EX line. The FX is IP67-rated for usage in dirty and wet environments - even allowing for submersion in water at depths of 1m for up to 30 minutes, and also carries MIL-STD810G certification for ruggedness. The SSD is bus-powered, and also has non-skid rubber feet.

The OWC Envoy Pro FX is available in four capacities - 240GB ($169), 480GB ($199), 1TB ($299), and 2TB ($479). Given the capacity points, these drives are unlikely to be using QLC NAND. The IP67 rating and likely usage of 3D TLC are potential justification points for the ~$130 premium over other dual-mode SSDs like the Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q we reviewed recently.

Interested in more of the latest industry news? Check out our CES 2021 trade show landing page!

CES 2021: ADATA SE900G External SSD, With RGB

With a varied selection of announcements for CES 2021’s new virtual format, ADATA has unveiled a new external solid-state drive with integrated RGB LEDs. The ADATA SE900G looks to redefine portable storage for all the RGB junkies that also require fast SSD performance, with support for up to USB transfers speeds up to 20Gbps via USB 3.2 G2x2.

The SE900G uses a back shell constructed from metal, which ADATA claims is durable and designed to look premium. On the front is a criss-cross design with an integrated RGB light plate, making it easy to spot with its soft textured neon glare. 

Looking to offer users the fastest possible performance from an external drive, ADATA has equipped the SE900G with a USB 3.2 G2x2 interface, which is backward compatible with older USB Type-C connections, albeit with lower bandwidth and ultimately lower speeds.  ADATA is also claiming peak read and write speeds of up to 2000 MB/s, which is at the high-end of USB 3.2 G2x2’s specification. The USB 3.2 G2x2 interface is capable of up to 20 Gbps, which uses two lanes of 10 Gbps at once to deliver its throughput.

ADATA hasn’t revealed any details about storage capacities or pricing at this time.

Interested in more of the latest industry news? Check out our CES 2021 trade show landing page!

With a varied selection of announcements for CES 2021's new virtual format, ADATA has unveiled a new external solid-state drive with integrated RGB LEDs. The ADATA SE900G looks to redefine portable storage for all the RGB junkies that also require fast SSD performance, with support for up to USB transfers speeds up to 20Gbps via USB 3.2 G2x2.

The SE900G uses a back shell constructed from metal, which ADATA claims is durable and designed to look premium. On the front is a criss-cross design with an integrated RGB light plate, making it easy to spot with its soft textured neon glare. 

Looking to offer users the fastest possible performance from an external drive, ADATA has equipped the SE900G with a USB 3.2 G2x2 interface, which is backward compatible with older USB Type-C connections, albeit with lower bandwidth and ultimately lower speeds.  ADATA is also claiming peak read and write speeds of up to 2000 MB/s, which is at the high-end of USB 3.2 G2x2's specification. The USB 3.2 G2x2 interface is capable of up to 20 Gbps, which uses two lanes of 10 Gbps at once to deliver its throughput.

ADATA hasn't revealed any details about storage capacities or pricing at this time.

Interested in more of the latest industry news? Check out our CES 2021 trade show landing page!

CES 2021: Western Digital’s Portable SSDs Get Capacity Upgrades: 4TB of TLC for $680

Western Digital markets portable SSDs under different brands, catering to different market segments. The flagships in each brand make use of of very similar platforms – a M.2 NVMe SSD behind an appropriate bridge chip. The industrial design varies from brand to brand to appeal better to the target market. The WD My Passport and SanDisk Extreme Portable SSDs are USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) SSDs using an ASMedia ASM2362 bridge chip and a WD SN550E PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD. The WD_BLACK P50 and SanDisk Extreme PRO Portable SSDs are USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20Gbps) SSDs using an ASMedia 2364 bridge chip with a SN750E and a SN730E PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD respectively.

Under the WD branding, the My Passport SSD with its hardware encryption capabilities targets the average consumer who wants to back up work files, user-generated multimedia, and personal files securely. The SanDisk Extreme and Extreme PRO targets professional users creating content on-the-go outside a standard office environment with its IP55 rating and two different speed levels – 1GBps-class for the Extreme and 2GBps-class for the Extreme PRO. The WD_BLACK P50 is meant for gamers who need fast and high capacity storage for their games and do not mind paying a premium for a stylish device fulfilling those requirements.

Currently, all four families mentioned above top out at 2TB. Today, Western Digital is announcing 4TB versions in all four, with market availability slated before the end of February. Internally, the four portable SSDs are all moving to a double-sided SN750-class NVMe drive. This means the same BiCS4 3D TLC NAND flash along with an in-house SSD controller. 256-bit hardware AES support is built-in, and enabled on all but the WD_BLACK P50 drive.

In terms of pricing, the 4TB versions of the 10Gbps-class SanDisk Extreme and WD My Passport SSD are coming out with a MSRP of $700 and $680, while the 20Gbps-class SanDisk Extreme PRO and WD_BLACK P50 for the same capacity are priced at $750. The premium is not only for the bridge chip with better performance, but the premium industrial design with liberal aluminum usage also. Interestingly, the 4TB internal drive is priced at $800 on WD’s site.

The physical dimensions of all the 4TB versions are similar to the lower-capacity ones in each family except for the WD My Passport SSD. The move to a double-sided NVMe drive forces the 4TB version of the My Passport SSD to become 0.8mm thicker (9mm to 9.8mm). The drive’s sleek nature was noted in our review of the 1TB version, and this thickness increase is a small price to pay for the increased capacity.

At price points of $680 – $750, it is evident that these are premium portable SSDs. 4TB of high-performance flash storage in a compact bus-powered enclosure was pretty much unimaginable even 5 years ago, and as the technology makes its way into the market, the premium is only expected. Professionals may not balk at such price points, as they realize the benefits of such drives for their use-cases and be willing to treat them as business expenses. To note, these are not the first such 4TB drives in the market – In fact, Sabrent’s Rocket XTRM-Q is available in capacities up to 8TB, and works with optimal performance in both Thunderbolt 3 (22Gbps) and USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) modes. The 4TB XTRM-Q is priced at $700, and the new 4TB portable SSDs from Western Digital straddle that price point. However, Western Digital’s value proposition is in the use of mature and proven 3D TLC flash in the drive (compared to the QLC NAND used in the Rocket XTRM-Q). The Sabrent offering does have Thunderbolt 3 performance up its sleeve. But, this 3D TLC offering at very similar price points should help push the pricing of high-capacity QLC-based drives further down. And, that is definitely good news for consumers.

Interested in more of the latest industry news? Check out our CES 2021 trade show landing page!

Western Digital markets portable SSDs under different brands, catering to different market segments. The flagships in each brand make use of of very similar platforms - a M.2 NVMe SSD behind an appropriate bridge chip. The industrial design varies from brand to brand to appeal better to the target market. The WD My Passport and SanDisk Extreme Portable SSDs are USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) SSDs using an ASMedia ASM2362 bridge chip and a WD SN550E PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD. The WD_BLACK P50 and SanDisk Extreme PRO Portable SSDs are USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (20Gbps) SSDs using an ASMedia 2364 bridge chip with a SN750E and a SN730E PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD respectively.

Under the WD branding, the My Passport SSD with its hardware encryption capabilities targets the average consumer who wants to back up work files, user-generated multimedia, and personal files securely. The SanDisk Extreme and Extreme PRO targets professional users creating content on-the-go outside a standard office environment with its IP55 rating and two different speed levels - 1GBps-class for the Extreme and 2GBps-class for the Extreme PRO. The WD_BLACK P50 is meant for gamers who need fast and high capacity storage for their games and do not mind paying a premium for a stylish device fulfilling those requirements.

Currently, all four families mentioned above top out at 2TB. Today, Western Digital is announcing 4TB versions in all four, with market availability slated before the end of February. Internally, the four portable SSDs are all moving to a double-sided SN750-class NVMe drive. This means the same BiCS4 3D TLC NAND flash along with an in-house SSD controller. 256-bit hardware AES support is built-in, and enabled on all but the WD_BLACK P50 drive.

In terms of pricing, the 4TB versions of the 10Gbps-class SanDisk Extreme and WD My Passport SSD are coming out with a MSRP of $700 and $680, while the 20Gbps-class SanDisk Extreme PRO and WD_BLACK P50 for the same capacity are priced at $750. The premium is not only for the bridge chip with better performance, but the premium industrial design with liberal aluminum usage also. Interestingly, the 4TB internal drive is priced at $800 on WD's site.

The physical dimensions of all the 4TB versions are similar to the lower-capacity ones in each family except for the WD My Passport SSD. The move to a double-sided NVMe drive forces the 4TB version of the My Passport SSD to become 0.8mm thicker (9mm to 9.8mm). The drive's sleek nature was noted in our review of the 1TB version, and this thickness increase is a small price to pay for the increased capacity.

At price points of $680 - $750, it is evident that these are premium portable SSDs. 4TB of high-performance flash storage in a compact bus-powered enclosure was pretty much unimaginable even 5 years ago, and as the technology makes its way into the market, the premium is only expected. Professionals may not balk at such price points, as they realize the benefits of such drives for their use-cases and be willing to treat them as business expenses. To note, these are not the first such 4TB drives in the market - In fact, Sabrent's Rocket XTRM-Q is available in capacities up to 8TB, and works with optimal performance in both Thunderbolt 3 (22Gbps) and USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) modes. The 4TB XTRM-Q is priced at $700, and the new 4TB portable SSDs from Western Digital straddle that price point. However, Western Digital's value proposition is in the use of mature and proven 3D TLC flash in the drive (compared to the QLC NAND used in the Rocket XTRM-Q). The Sabrent offering does have Thunderbolt 3 performance up its sleeve. But, this 3D TLC offering at very similar price points should help push the pricing of high-capacity QLC-based drives further down. And, that is definitely good news for consumers.

Interested in more of the latest industry news? Check out our CES 2021 trade show landing page!

Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q USB / Thunderbolt 3 Dual Mode External SSD Review: Yin and Yang

The external storage market has shown renewed vigor in recent years, thanks in part to growth fueled by bus-powered flash-based storage solutions. The introduction of 3D NAND, coupled with the increasing confidence of manufacturers in QLC (4-bits per cell) has brought down the cost of these drives to the point where even a reasonably spacious external SSD can be had for an equally reasonable price. And though this means that NAND manufacturers like Western Digital, Samsung, and Crucial/Micron have an inherent advantage in terms of vertical integration, the availability of cheap flash in the open market has also enabled other vendors to come up with innovative solutions.

Today, we’re looking at a unique product in the external SSD market – the Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q. A true dual-mode Thunderbolt 3/USB drive, the Rocket XTRM-Q can be natively used with both Thunderbolt 3 and USB hosts. This means that it can deliver speeds over 2GBps on a Thunderbolt 3 connection, or fall back to USB mode and still deliver 1GBps or more with a USB 3.2 Gen 2 connection. Compared to most external SSDs on the market, which are virtually always USB-only or Thunderbolt-only, this allows Sabrent’s drive to offer USB-style universal compatibility while still making the most of the host it’s connected to, using USB when it’s available, or upgrading to Thunderbolt as appropriate to let the drive run as fast as it can.

Meanwhile, not unlike their efforts with internal (M.2) products, Sabrent is also at the leading-edge of storage capacity with the Rocket XTRM-Q, offering versions of the drive with up to 8TB of storage. Overall, the Rocket XTRM-Q is available in capacities ranging from 500GB up to 8TB, with Sabrent using QLC NAND across the family to hit their price and capacity goals.

For this review we’re looking at two of the mid-tier Rocket XTRM-Q models – the 2TB and 4TB models – in order to size up the performance of the drives and see how they stack up against the other products in the market.

The external storage market has shown renewed vigor in recent years, thanks in part to growth fueled by bus-powered flash-based storage solutions. The introduction of 3D NAND, coupled with the increasing confidence of manufacturers in QLC (4-bits per cell) has brought down the cost of these drives to the point where even a reasonably spacious external SSD can be had for an equally reasonable price. And though this means that NAND manufacturers like Western Digital, Samsung, and Crucial/Micron have an inherent advantage in terms of vertical integration, the availability of cheap flash in the open market has also enabled other vendors to come up with innovative solutions.

Today, we're looking at a unique product in the external SSD market – the Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q. A true dual-mode Thunderbolt 3/USB drive, the Rocket XTRM-Q can be natively used with both Thunderbolt 3 and USB hosts. This means that it can deliver speeds over 2GBps on a Thunderbolt 3 connection, or fall back to USB mode and still deliver 1GBps or more with a USB 3.2 Gen 2 connection. Compared to most external SSDs on the market, which are virtually always USB-only or Thunderbolt-only, this allows Sabrent's drive to offer USB-style universal compatibility while still making the most of the host it's connected to, using USB when it's available, or upgrading to Thunderbolt as appropriate to let the drive run as fast as it can.

Meanwhile, not unlike their efforts with internal (M.2) products, Sabrent is also at the leading-edge of storage capacity with the Rocket XTRM-Q, offering versions of the drive with up to 8TB of storage. Overall, the Rocket XTRM-Q is available in capacities ranging from 500GB up to 8TB, with Sabrent using QLC NAND across the family to hit their price and capacity goals.

For this review we're looking at two of the mid-tier Rocket XTRM-Q models – the 2TB and 4TB models – in order to size up the performance of the drives and see how they stack up against the other products in the market.

Sabrent Rocket Nano Rugged IP67 Portable SSD Review: NVMe in a M.2 2242 Enclosure

Portable bus-powered SSDs are a growing segment of the direct-attached storage market. The ongoing glut in flash memory (and the growing confidence of flash vendors in QLC) has brought down the price of these drives. Sabrent, a computer peripherals an…

Portable bus-powered SSDs are a growing segment of the direct-attached storage market. The ongoing glut in flash memory (and the growing confidence of flash vendors in QLC) has brought down the price of these drives. Sabrent, a computer peripherals and accessories manufacturer, has made a name for itself in the space by catering to niche segments such as ultra-high capacity and compact SSDs. The company sent over a bunch of unique external SSDs to put through our strenuous review process. The first product we are going to take a look at is the Rocket Nano Rugged 2TB USB 3.2 Gen 2 drive. Read on to find out how it stacks against the rest of the competition.

Crucial Portable SSD X6 and X8 2TB Review: QLC for Storage On-the-Go

Bus-powered portable flash-based storage solutions are one of the growing segments in the consumer-focused direct-attached storage market. The emergence of 3D NAND with TLC and QLC has brought down the cost of such drives. NAND manufacturers like West…

Bus-powered portable flash-based storage solutions are one of the growing segments in the consumer-focused direct-attached storage market. The emergence of 3D NAND with TLC and QLC has brought down the cost of such drives. NAND manufacturers like Western Digital, Samsung, and Crucial/Micron who also market portable SSDs have an inherent advantage in terms of vertical integration. Last year, Crucial/Micron had announced its entry into the segment with the QLC-based Crucial Portable SSD X8. A few months back, Crucial updated the lineup with a 2TB model while adding a lower-performance X6 member to the portfolio. Read on for our review of how these two high-capacity models fare in our evaluation.

Samsung PRO Plus and EVO Plus SDXC UHS-I 128GB Memory Cards Capsule Review

Samsung had last revamped their SDXC cards lineup back in 2014 to delineate them into the standard, PRO, and EVO categories. Since then, the company slowly phased out the full-sized cards from their lineup, and started to focus on microSDXC cards. Thi…

Samsung had last revamped their SDXC cards lineup back in 2014 to delineate them into the standard, PRO, and EVO categories. Since then, the company slowly phased out the full-sized cards from their lineup, and started to focus on microSDXC cards. This week, they are aiming to get back into the SDXC cards market for creators and professionals in the content capture market segment. Two new product families are being announced - the PRO Plus, and the EVO Plus. Both families are UHS-I cards, with the PRO Plus aimed at professionals, and the EVO Plus at creators. Samsung sampled the 128GB capacity cards in both families ahead of the retail launch. This review takes the cards out for a spin and attempts to analyze their value proposition.