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Lifewire / Zach Sweat
Improved speeds vs. regular HDDs
Good warranty included
Nowhere near SSD speeds
Seagate’s questionable reliability
Smaller storage sizes than regular HDDs
A solid hybrid hard drive that bridges the gap between regular HDDs and SSDs for those who want bigger storage without breaking the bank.
Anyone who’s shopped around for hard drives in the last two decades will be familiar with Seagate, perhaps for not-so-good reasons. While the company has had some pretty staggering reliability issues over the years in this market, Seagate has done a lot to improve things in recent years, and trust is slowly coming around for their products.
Enter the FireCuda SSHD, a hybrid drive that seeks to bridge the gap between older HDD tech and modern SSDs. Over the last several years, the FireCuda series has quickly become a favorite among many looking to upgrade an outdated HDD or simply give their computers and gaming consoles some extra storage space. But is the SSHD the right choice for your particular needs? Check out our review below to see for yourself.
For the purposes of this review, we tested the 3.5-inch 2TB version, but it will mostly be the same across the board for each variation of this SSHD.
At first glance, it’s pretty obvious that Seagate is mainly targeting gamers (both PC and console) with the FireCuda series of SSHDs, featuring some flashier branding and gamer-esque aesthetics. For most people, the design of a hard drive doesn’t much matter, since you’re going to either stuff it inside a computer or external enclosure, so the barebones look isn’t a negative.
The FireCuda SSHD is a hybrid drive that seeks to bridge the gap between older HDD tech and more modern SSDs.
The top features a bare metal plate with a single sticker denoting the logo, storage size, and other branding, as well as a code for verifying that your new hard drive is indeed legit. Underneath, you’ll see the same metal enclosure and the SATA interface you’ll plug into your motherboard or external enclosure.
Because the drive we tested is 3.5-inch, it’s best suited for a typical full-sized desktop computer, but it will work just as well with either a laptop or gaming console if you throw it in an external enclosure. Keep in mind, however, that 3.5-inch enclosures will always need to be plugged into an outlet for power, while a 2.5-inch can run on USB alone. Because of this, you’d be better off going with the 2.5-inch drive for those situations. 3.5-inch hard drives are also beefy and heavy, which isn’t ideal for something you want to be portable.
Depending on how you plan to use this hard drive, your setup will wildly vary, but these steps should work for most situations. Because of this, you may want to browse around Google or YouTube for some instructions on your specific setup. We’ll walk you through how to set the device up with either a direct connection to your PC or the external enclosure route.
With the SSHD removed and unpackaged, shut down your computer completely and unplug it. Attach any necessary brackets or supports to the hard drive depending on your PC’s setup. Now, insert it into the bay and plug your hard drive in with the SATA data connector and the power supply cable. Both should be snug, and from here, you can do your cable management as necessary. Close everything back up and boot up your computer.
In order to test the claims Seagate made about the FireCuda, we used CrystalDiskMark for benchmarking, but you can also find software on Seagate’s website that will help to test your new drive, assist with data migration, backup files, and monitor its health. This software is pretty solid and is available for free, so that’s a nice touch.
Though not nearly as quick as SSDs, this smart addition helps close the gap a bit and makes hybrids quicker than their HDD counterparts.
One quick thing we’d like to delve into a bit here before getting started is explaining what a hybrid drive really is. Similar to the memory used in more expensive SSDs, a hybrid like the FireCuda includes a tiny amount of NAND flash memory (8GB for this model) that functions as the SSHD’s cache memory. It takes the most frequently used applications and keeps them on this quicker memory, which helps to boost speeds and performance. Though not nearly as quick as SSDs, this smart addition helps close the gap a bit and makes hybrids quicker than their HDD counterparts.
With that out of the way, let’s reference the specs put out by Seagate for the FireCuda, which you can see here:
Note: the 3.5-inch FireCuda has slightly lower Load/Unload Cycles than 2.5-inch version
We tested the SSHD on an Intel CPU using CrystalDiskMark, so note that there can be some small variations depending on the CPU model and manufacturer. Here are the results:
The claims are backed up, for the most part, which is definitely good. However, these are not quite as accurate as real-world usage, so take them with a grain of salt. Many users may find that the 8GB of NAND is just not quite enough, especially if you perform a ton of intensive tasks on your computer. If you typically only need to open a few of the same programs or files, the FireCuda should fulfill your needs just fine. We’re not saying it’s bad, but you may not see a huge increase in performance all the time either.
For the size and speed, this SSHD is perhaps the best bang for your buck right now.
Most typical hard drives will give you averages on similar tests between 80MB/s and 150MB/s, but SATA 3 SSDs range from 200MB/s to 400MB/s. As you can see, the FireCuda bridges this gap a bit, making it a solid upgrade over old HDDs without having to eat the high costs of an SSD.
So what’ll it cost you to pick up one of these fancier hybrid drives? Because the price will differ greatly based on the storage size and form factor, here’s a quick breakdown of all the various versions:
Seagate FireCuda 2.5-inch
Seagate FireCuda 3.5-inch
Depending on where you pick one of these up, the prices can vary a bit, but those are the typical average based on Seagate’s website for available retailers during the time of our review.
While we can safely recommend the FireCuda, you’d still be better off going with an SSD+HDD combo if you’re looking to drastically improve performance.
Based on this and our tests, it’s hard to argue that the FireCuda isn’t an excellent deal. For the size and speed, this SSHD is perhaps the best bang for your buck right now. However, SSD prices are continuing to drop at a fairly consistent rate, and these older style HDDs will inevitably die out—including the SSHDs. Because of this, you may want to just pony up a little more for an SSD, but that can often mean paying twice as much. If you’re on a tight budget, the FireCuda is a safe choice.
There really aren’t a whole lot of SSHDs out there in the market aside from the ones Seagate is putting out, but there are comparable models in terms of speed, size, and price. While the WD Black series isn’t a hybrid drive, it is perhaps the closest competitor.
Both of these hard drives have similar sizes and an RPM of 7,200, but with the FireCuda’s hybrid features, it should outperform it in theory. Well, that seems to depend on the particular task you’re doing with each. For certain things like ZIP archive extracts, buffered read speeds, and our tests with CrystalDiskMark, the WD Black gets a slight edge over the FireCuda. However, in a majority of other situations such as load times for Adobe Creative Cloud, games, large file transfers, the Seagate claims a noticeable edge. Since the FireCuda is marketed towards gamers, this makes it an obvious choice for them.
In terms of price, the FireCuda is also a bit cheaper, but only by roughly $20. Still, it’s another win for the Seagate over the long-time favorite, WD Black. It’s also worth mentioning that WD has a slightly better history when it comes to reliability, but Seagate has indeed worked to close that gap as well. Purely between these two hard drives, we’d recommend the FireCuda, but you’d still probably be better off going with an SSD+HDD combo if you’re looking to drastically improve performance.
A great in-between for those torn between SSD speed and HDD prices.
The FireCuda series of SSHDs are a great bridge between older HDD tech and pricier SSDs that will give you a bit of an edge compared to non-hybrid drives. If you’re on a tight budget, the FireCuda’s performance makes it an easy decision over a standard HDD.
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