Earlier this year, Seagate re-entered the consumer SSD market with their BarraCuda SATA SSD. It's been over five years since we last reviewed a Seagate consumer SSD, so for all practical purposes this is a fresh start for the company.

Seagate has been one of the top names in the storage industry for decades, but it's almost exclusively for their hard drives. The company has been largely absent from the consumer SSD market, and their enterprise SSDs have never particularly stood out above the competition. By comparison, rival Western Digital managed to acquire SanDisk and with it a 50% stake in one of the largest NAND flash manufacturers. Seagate's acquisitions have been less fruitful: they bought controller designer SandForce right around when SandForce drives disappeared from the market for good. Since then, Seagate has had to buy controllers and NAND on the open market and provide product differentiation through firmware or by integrating their drives into storage appliances.

The Seagate BarraCuda is not a revolutionary new SSD. It doesn't mark the release of a new SandForce controller but instead uses the very familiar and rather old Phison S10 controller. The flash is Toshiba's 64-layer 3D TLC NAND. Toshiba for their past has technically already started shipping their 96-layer TLC, but most of their production is still 64L and the 96L NAND hasn't made it into any retail SSDs yet, so the BarraCuda is up to date on the NAND choice.

This is the first drive we've tested that pairs the Phison S10 controller with 3D NAND. We first reviewed this controller in 2014, so it has had an incredibly long lifespan for such a product. With the SATA interface no longer getting speed increases, the Phison S10 isn't as obviously outclassed as such an old controller would otherwise be. It's showing its age a bit with the lack of LDPC error correction or (LP)DDR4 support, but it has proven to be an adaptable chip, supporting several generations of planar NAND and staying relevant today with support for 3D NAND. It also supports SSD capacities of up to 2TB, which was extremely implausible for a consumer drive with the flash prices in 2014, but which are now available for less than $300.

 Seagate BarraCuda SSD Specifications
Capacity 250 GB 500 GB 1 TB 2 TB
Form Factor 2.5" 7mm SATA
Controller Seagate-branded Phison S10
NAND Flash Toshiba 64L 3D TLC
DRAM Nanya DDR3-1600 CL11, 1.35V
Sequential Read 560 MB/s
Sequential Write 530 MB/s 535 MB/s 540 MB/s 540 MB/s
Random Read 90k IOPS
Random Write 90k IOPS
Power Active 2.6 W 2.6 W 2.8 W 3.1 W
Idle 185 mW 192 mW 221 mW 225 mW
DevSleep 5 mW
Warranty 5 years
Write Endurance 120 TB
0.26 DWPD
249 TB
0.27 DWPD
485 TB
0.27 DWPD
1067 TB
0.29 DWPD
Current Retail Price $52.99 (21¢/GB) $84.99 (17¢/GB) $149.99 (15¢/GB) $349.99 (17¢/GB)

The specifications for the Seagate BarraCuda look about the same as any other mainstream SATA SSD these days: TLC NAND, sequential I/O performance that mostly saturates the SATA link, and random I/O performance at up to 90k IOPS. But real-world performance depends more on performance at low queue depths and on mixed workloads, not peak numbers at QD32. This is where newer SSD controllers may have an edge over the Phison S10.

The BarraCuda is rated for a little under 0.3 drive writes per day over the duration of its 5-year warranty. We can be pretty sure that the controller can keep going that long because our earliest Phison S10 drives closing in on that age without problems. However, without the benefit of LDPC error correction, Seagate's write endurance rating isn't as conservative as the 0.3 DWPD we see on its competition.

The Seagate BarraCuda actually uses a controller chip bearing Seagate's logo and part number, but we've seen this same basic board layout many times and in many colors. Seagate is hardly the only company that rebrands off the shelf controllers. The Phison S10 is an 8-channel controller so we get 8 NAND packages, with two 256Gb dies in each package. The metal case for the drive is the same that we're used to seeing on Phison S10 drives, but with yet another variation on the paint job.

The main competitors for the Seagate BarraCuda are mainstream SATA drives like the Crucial MX500, Samsung 860 EVO, Intel 545s, and WD Blue/SanDisk Ultra 3D. These all feature 64-layer 3D NAND but more recent SSD controllers. For this review we've also included a pair of current-generation DRAMless SATA SSDs: the Mushkin Source and the Toshiba TR200, the latter of which uses the same NAND as the BarraCuda but Phison's S11 4-channel entry-level SATA SSD controller. We've also thrown in results for some older drives that used the Phison S10 controller with planar NAND: the Toshiba OCZ Trion 150 with 15nm TLC, and the PNY CS2211 with 15nm MLC.

Perhaps the most interesting point of comparison is the Plextor M8V, a drive that's generally hard to find for sale, but is very useful here because it uses the same Toshiba 3D TLC NAND but pairs it with the Silicon Motion SM2258 controller instead of the Phison S10. This helps identify which performance differences are due to the choice of NAND and which are controller or firmware bottlenecks.

AnandTech 2018 Consumer SSD Testbed
CPU Intel Xeon E3 1240 v5
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
Chipset Intel C232
Memory 4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920x1200@60Hz
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1709
Linux kernel version 4.14, fio version 3.6
Spectre/Meltdown microcode and OS patches current as of May 2018
SLC Cache Sizes & SYSmark 2018
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  • seamonkey79 - Friday, December 7, 2018 - link

    The caddy would adapt an m.2 to a full 2.5" SATA socket, so you would have an m.2 in a chassis adapting it to 2.5" & classic SATA.

    That being said, I can't see that doing anything but increasing costs, though having one primary line to manufacture m.2 and the little bit of work needed to adapt an m.2 SATA drive to 2.5", it *could* see some benefit to the manufacturer.
  • Death666Angel - Friday, December 7, 2018 - link

    Huh? M.2 SATA doesn't overheat, that's M.2 NVME/PCIe (which is a bit more difficult to adapt to 2.5" SATA, so I don't care as much). 2.5" SATA drives already have tiny PCBs. They are already bottlenecked by the protocol. With them being M.2 in a 2.5" caddy, they can serve double purpose. I just bought an M.2 drive and a caddy for my Fujitsu T904 laptop, which still has only a 2.5" slot. But I know when that laptop is gone, I'm not gonna need a 2.5" drive. That M.2 drive can be converted into all kinds of useful devices, small desktops, laptops, USB thumb drive. It'd cost them a couple dozens of cents more to manufacture, would it'd be soo much more useful. :D Eventually, more people will use M.2 SATA than 2.5". At least those who buy standalone drives.
  • CheapSushi - Saturday, December 8, 2018 - link

    Dragonstongue I don't think you really know what the OP is talking about, just how tiny the PCB seems to be on newer 2.5" SSDs, thus just being a whole lot of waste of space anyway and/or you don't realize adapters already exist and/or don't realize M.2 is just a formfactor and can be NVMe/PCIe or AHCI/SATA. There's always someone who confidently posts a "neg" at a suggestion without even knowing hardware much in the first place.
  • dgingeri - Friday, December 7, 2018 - link

    When I was a systems admin for a server software test lab, we received a set (108) of 3TB Seagate Constellation ES.2 SAS drives for a new prototype appliance that would eventually become the DXi6900 series. I was pretty excited to see the new hardware come in, so I got things set up within a day.

    The test team wasn't ready to test for another week. In that week, we had 12 of those drives go bad. By two months into the project, every single Seagate drive had gone bad. (These are their enterprise level drives, which are supposed to have better reliability.) We ended up requesting a different brand drive from NetApp (the maker of the storage portion of the DXi6900) because of these problems. We replaced them with HGST 4TB drives, and didn't have a single one fail up to the point when I left over two years later.

    In the years leading up to that, I had bought several Seagate drives, including 4 1TB drives, 2 2TB drives, and one 3TB drive, and had the drive fail within warranty in EVERY SINGLE CASE. That was specifically why I quit buying them, and the 3TB drive is the last Seagate drive I am ever going to buy intentionally.

    This just might be a decent crive, and if Seagate were to put a concerted effort into improving their reliability, they might be something I'd consider. However, as things stand, Seagate and Toshiba are on my NEVER BUY list, along side Biostar, ECS, and Gigabyte.
  • CheapSushi - Saturday, December 8, 2018 - link

    What does this have to do with SSDs at all? Seriously? This is just some overreaching rant saying that one specific type of product means that ALL their products are a problem. Especially about spinning rust several years old; even BackBlaze doesn't use those. Have you even bothered to look into reliability statistics/information on even consumer TLC drives? It's so odd to see people who claim to be in tech but are so antiquated in their knowledge.
  • gglaw - Sunday, December 9, 2018 - link

    Quite a humorous post from someone with a supposed heavy tech/admin background but so short-sighted on the big picture. He lists a bad experience from a completely unrelated product line likely not even sharing manufacturing or R&D ties in any way making him ban products from some of the largest tech companies in the world with for the most part tremendous track records. Even if it is in "principle" for how the company leaders model their QC, all the executives making these decisions at the time of the archaic hard drive problems are likely working with other companies by now (pretty good chance for one of his "new" favorite companies). Similar to the comments on some of Samsung's early SSD fiascos banning all Samsung products "for life." And of course shortly after their fiascos, they quickly became essentially the world's benchmark for performance and reliability in this same product line lol.
  • Donkey2008 - Thursday, December 13, 2018 - link

    108 enterprise-class hard drives failed in 2 months?

    [Insert Doubt meme]
  • sarahkevin - Friday, December 7, 2018 - link

    thanks for sharing I really need this for my office.
  • PeachNCream - Friday, December 7, 2018 - link

    I think I'd probably opt for a Crucial MX500 over a Seagate SSD. Seagate's reputation and my experiences with their mechanical drives make me reluctant about giving them yet another chance.
  • Fujikoma - Friday, December 21, 2018 - link

    I feel the same way about Quantum SCSI drives. Not that Seagate rates much higher...

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