The Toshiba Solid-State Hybrid Drive (SSHD) is the answer to the Seagate SSHD that came out five months ago. The new drive is almost the same as its Seagate counterpart in terms of configuration but offers better performance and costs significantly more.
In my testing, it proved to be a good alternative to solid-state drives (SSD) by offering somewhat similar performance, especially in terms of boot time.
If you're looking to speed up your HDD-based computer's performance without spending too much, the new Toshiba SSHD is a decent upgrade. It is pricey for what it has to offer, however, and you can get a better deal going with the Seagate SSHD instead.
The Toshiba SSHD comes in two levels of thickness: 7mm (320GB and 500GB) and 9.5mm (750GB and 1TB).
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
Design and features
Seagate separates its laptop SSHDs into two categories: the Laptop Thin SSHD (7mm) and the Laptop SSHD (9.5mm); each capacity gets a different model number. The new drive is also available in two thicknesses, with the 320GB (model MQ01ABF032H) and 500GB (MQ01ABF050H) capacities being just 7mm thick and the 750GB (MQ01ABD075H) and 1TB (MQ01ABD100H) capacities being 9.5mm thick. The drive will work in all standard laptops and desktops with its lower capacities, and it will also fit certain ultrabooks.
The difference in thickness doesn't affect the drive's specifications or performance, however. All of the capacities come with 8GB of NAND flash memory (the type of fast storage used in regular SSDs), boast 32MB of cache memory and spin at 5400rpm. The drive supports the latest SATA 3 (6Gbps) standard but is backwards compatible with previous revisions of SATA.
The idea of an SSHD is simple: the fast SSD part of the drive is designed to host frequently accessed (or hot) data, such as part of the operating system and certain applications; the spinning part will host less-active data. So when it's used as the main storage device that hosts the operating system, which is the main purpose of the drive, it will offer similar boot times and application performance as that of an SSD. The best part is that it still costs about the same as a regular hard drive of the same capacity.
And this is exactly what makes the Toshiba SSHD great. Similar to its Seagate counterpart, it also comes with a built-in algorithm that automatically swaps data between the SSD part and the spinning part, depending on how active the data gets. This happens independently from the operating system, so there's no special software or driver that you need to install.
The Toshiba SSHD, like all SSHDs, is more of a regular hard drive than an SSD. This is because it has just 8GB of solid-state storage on it, and therefore, you can't expect a full SSD experience. But for the money, you'll be pleasantly surprised how much faster it makes your computer boot up, resume from sleep and launch general applications.
In my testing, the test computer took about three restarts before I could see a significant boot time improvement, reducing from more than a minutes to just about 20 seconds. Most applications, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and web browsers also took less time to launch.
What you won't see improved, however, is the copy times, especially when you move a large amount of data. This is because for sequential performance, the drive is about as fast as a regular 5400rpm hard drive. It was noticeably faster, though, than its Seagate counterpart, scoring 61MBps for the write test, 97MBps for read rest and 21MBps for reading and writing at the same time. The Seagate SSHD scored just 39MBps, 80BMps and 15MBps in the tests, respectively.
For a drive that spins at just 5400rpm, the Toshiba SSHD offers a great experience compared with even the fastest consumer-grade internal hard drives. While it can't compete with SSDs, it's easily the second best in terms of boot time and application performance when used as the main storage that hosts the operating system. Unfortunately, at the current price, which is much more expensive than the Seagate counterpart, it isn't really the best alternative to SSD in terms of cost. For that, a significant reduction in pricing is a must.