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reader50

Toshiba L200

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I do not recall this being announced. Newegg shows stock available today.

Toshiba has a new 2.5" / 7-9.5 mm lineup out, in 2 TB / 1 TB / 500 GB. Apparently all 5400 RPM.

L200 in 2TB (9.5mm) for $95

My question is if it's PMR. Toshiba's product page has no detailed specs. (click on the L200 pic in the banner). Their support section lists the drive, but basically has no documents.

Obviously I'd like to see a notebook drive bigger than 2TB. But even at 2TB, it would be nice to have a current PMR available. The M9T is running $156-200 on Newegg (about half of a basic 2TB SSD), and I'm not certain it's still being made.

Any chance Storage Review could use their spies to determine if it's PMR?

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The sizes offered imply it's a 2-platter drive. Which would be inline with current platter densities. If it is PMR, it would be a solid improvement over the M9T (3 platters).

Since Toshiba offers that (3.5") 14TB PMR drive with a crazy 9 platters, it opens the door to a 3-platter 3TB in the near future. Maybe we'll finally get some upgrade options before SSDs take over the space.

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I mean maybe...but how much of the world really cares about dense 2.5" HDDs any more? I know some do, especially in 2-bay workstations, but it's shrinking.

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The key concern is SSD price. If SSD prices crashed, I'd completely lose interest in HDDs. But SSDs remained stubbornly high for several years, then resumed a slow downward creep.

Since SSDs don't drop despite repeated process improvements and new factories opening, the only near-term hope is larger HDDs. At least those have to be competitively priced to sell vs SSDs.

So upgrade choices are: (A) no upgrade, keep waiting. (B) 4TB SSD for $1000+. (C) potential 3TB HDD in the $120--140 range.

I've been stuck at (A) for around 4 years now, because I'm not willing to be ripped off with (B). In my experience, most people do not like to be ripped off. That leaves denser HDDs as the only realistic hope.

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We care, mostly for a lot of our customers who want easy-to-use, convenience-first, somewhat-rugged, high-capacity... if we could get bigger than 5TB we'd take a bunch in a heartbeat. SSD is overkill for this application due to cost and low I/O performance requirements.

That said, I realize that's definitely an edge case...

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QLC is going to close the gap further. There should be 3 QLC SSDs launched very soon. Might even have some in the lab ;)

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We only have the 660p at the moment. Reworking the test plan too, industry pushback on the 5% test area. They want to see some 1% tests that are more gentle on the cache and perhaps more indicative of light consumer workloads. 

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Just visited Newegg for something else. Random observation:

When the 2TB Toshiba L200 first hit at $90, M9T prices on Newegg were $156-200.

Today, about a month later. The L200 is still at $90. All the other 2TB drives (7-9.5mm, including the M9T) have dropped to $90 or below. The benefits of competition.

Edited by reader50

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On 7/31/2018 at 8:44 PM, Brian said:

I mean maybe...but how much of the world really cares about dense 2.5" HDDs any more? I know some do, especially in 2-bay workstations, but it's shrinking.

Game consoles still care. They have 9.5mm 2.5in drive bay and can't make use of SSD speeds, so the latter are a waste of money.

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On 9/1/2018 at 10:14 PM, jtsn said:

Game consoles still care. They have 9.5mm 2.5in drive bay and can't make use of SSD speeds, so the latter are a waste of money.

So I just tested a Toshiba L200 inside a PS4. Connected to a PC sustained read performance is great for 5400 rpm, topping at 150 MB/s, also the drive happily writes hundreds of GB sustained at up to 140 MB/s.

However inside a PS4 as any high density drive with many platters it struggles with high temperatures (drive logged up to 55°C). Once it reaches operating temperature, sustained write performance tanks,  with the drive taking seconds-long thinking pauses. All this despite the PS4 barely touching half of the maximum sustained write rate (under optimal conditions it reads and writes the internal hard drive at about 5 GB/min through its internal USB-SATA interface).

So the HGST TravelStar 7K1000 (which doesn't care about temperatures) goes back into the console and the L200 is going to become another external drive.

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My 2TB L200 has not yet arrived, so I haven't been able to comment. It will be installed in my Macbook Pro, so I'll watch for your thermal pauses.

The notebook already has a 2TB Samsung M9T (replacing the optical drive) for the last few years. I have not observed any pauses there, or any other odd behavior. It's a 3-platter, and I think I benched it once at around 62 MB/s sustained write. So about half the speed of an L200.

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At least it didn't lock up and corrupt the OS irrecoverably under high temperatures / high write load like some 2.5"-SMR drive did for me.

The Toshiba L200 2 TB drive works fine when inside the tray-less mobile rack of my PC. With proper cooling temperatures range from 29-43 °C depending on load. SMART states the drive can work up to 60°C, which seems not so true in practice. I think, it will work fine inside an aluminum enclosure.

Somehow HGST knows some military-grade magic, the other manufacturers don't have. Their drives generate less heat, even at 7200 rpm, they work reliable at extreme temperatures*) and they have an astonishing low failure rate. They're just stopping at 1 TB for the 2.5" 9.5mm form factor (The Travelstar 5K1500 isn't sold anymore), which is 1 TB less of what I need.

*) HGST once sold me an 3.5" 2TB DeskStar 7K2000 7200rpm 5-platter drive times inside an USB enclosure. Drive was cooking with up to 65-70°C when loaded, idling at 50-55°C. I was worried first, but ten years later that noisy brick still works just fine.

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On 10/26/2018 at 8:13 AM, reader50 said:

My 2TB L200 has not yet arrived, so I haven't been able to comment. It will be installed in my Macbook Pro, so I'll watch for your thermal pauses.

The notebook already has a 2TB Samsung M9T (replacing the optical drive) for the last few years. I have not observed any pauses there, or any other odd behavior. It's a 3-platter, and I think I benched it once at around 62 MB/s sustained write. So about half the speed of an L200.

It might be the case that the L200 is an SMR drive too, and just hiding it better. I have no explanation, why writing 50 GB takes just over 8 minutes on a HGST 1 TB drive, while it takes 15 minutes on a higher density Toshiba L200. Or it might be just write throttling to prevent the drive from overheating.

It seems that the M9T is the last "normal" 2 TB 2.5in drive available in the market.

Edited by jtsn

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I was able to reproduce the behavior the HDD showed in the PS4, while having it connected to a PC via USB, after formatting it with exFAT. Wasn't too hard and it has nothing to do with drive temperature.

It copes pretty well with linear writing of large files, but nothing else. First I wrote 800 GB file filled with zeros to the drive at roughly 100 MB/s at a stable 44 °C while writing for over two hours. Good and what you expect from a 2.5in drive.

Then I kept the file on the drive an started writing lots of 100 MB files (filled with zeros, too). Such large files shouldn't be too hard for a 5400rpm HDD to handle. This is not a overlapped 4K test and exFATs block size is 128K.

After a few GBs written at 100 MB/s, write performance drops down to almost zero. After each cache flush by the OS, the drive takes tens of seconds to respond to new commands. In the most extreme cases I had to wait half a minute to access a directory or read a different file from it while the drive carried out a write command at the same time. During the pauses the drive is still active (audibly). So it's obvious what's happening here.  It took over half an hour to write 500 100 MB files, which roughly equals 1666 MB/min or 27 MB/s - typical for drive-managed SMR.

Conclusion: The 2 TB 9.5mm drive most likely uses some kind of drive-managed SMR and is unfit for general usage.

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I'm in the process of cloning partitions from my old drive to the new L200. I'll watch for SMR clues, but this may take awhile.

The old drive was indeed failing. Disk Utility still thinks the SMART status is ok, but I'm getting I/O errors during cloning.

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Cloning completed. Speeds ran up to 140 MB/s, usually less as it was mostly copying from an older drive.

Toshiba HDWL120 (revision JT000A)

I've just defragged a bootable partition. Write speed was 10-30 MB/s most of the time, with occasional brief spikes. Both below and above that range. This is the speeds I expect when defragging a 2.5" PMR drive. Proceeding with defragging other partitions.

Edit: it was a defrag+optimize. All files on the volume get moved, often twice.

Edited by reader50

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Defragging worked fine on the other partitions too. I defragged a partition on the old WD drive for comparison. The Toshiba was about 50% faster, which agrees with their sequential speeds.

However, when the defrag finished up, it rebuilt/compacted the Catalog file, Attributes file, etc. On those files, it ran dramatically slower on the Toshiba L200. The disk activity graph showed a sawtooth pattern which might be typical of an SMR drive. I've avoided SMR, so I don't have a known one for comparison.

First boot test: no abnormal delays. Quieter than the old drive.

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Running good so far. During the drive swap, I discovered my notebook can apparently take a 12.5mm drive.

But as all 3TB+ notebook drives are 15mm, this still does not make an upgrade possible. I thought someone had a 3TB out in 12.5mm, but apparently I misremembered.

So back to the waiting game. Will SSD prices drop, or will someone intro a 3TB or 4TB drive first?

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We've seen a lot of road maps, but none lately for end user HDDs. I really think WD/Seagate have conceded 2.5" SATA to SSDs. I'm figured out a path to live on a tiny SSD and NAS/cloud services. I prefer this actually in case of an SSD failure.

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