Home Enterprise Seagate SkyHawk AI 20TB HDD Review

Seagate SkyHawk AI 20TB HDD Review

by Conner Crull
skyhawk ai front

The SkyHawk AI 3.5″ HDD is the latest enterprise hard drive by Seagate optimized for network video recorders with artificial intelligence for edge applications. Offered in a variety of capacities up to 20TB, the industry’s highest capacity, the Seagate SkyHawk AI is designed to be great for large video and surveillance.

The SkyHawk AI 3.5″ HDD is the latest enterprise hard drive by Seagate optimized for network video recorders with artificial intelligence for edge applications. Offered in a variety of capacities up to 20TB, the industry’s highest capacity, the Seagate SkyHawk AI is designed to be great for large video and surveillance.

What’s of particular interest with any of these drives is performance. And while we have found that the latest round of 20TB Seagate drives are very similar including a helium sealing, >= 2M-hour MTBF, and a five-year warranty, we actually saw that the SkyHawk performed better than some of the other Seagate drives.

Seagate SkyHawk AI 20TB

Seagate SkyHawk AI 20TB

The SkyHawk in all reality is effectively the same hardware as the other 20TB drives (Exos and the IronWolf Pro) in Seagate’s portfolio. The largest difference is the AI support that the SkyHawk has. The SkyHawk supports up to 64 HD cameras and Seagate reports that it can deliver zero dropped frames with ImagePerfect AI. The firmware is also different on the SkyHawk, as most large capacity drives on Seagates portfolio are slightly different on the firmware front.

Seagate SkyHawk AI 20TB back

The SkyHawk AI is available in a 8TB, 10TB, 12TB, 16TB, 18TB, and 20TB capacities. All SkyHawk AI drives are rated for 550TB/yr workload rating similar to the Exos X, and if users go with the direct comparison, the SkyHawk non-AI model, the workload rating drops to 180TB/yr.

The SkyHawk AI 20TB doesn’t have a retail MSRP yet, however for a good comparison, the 18TB model has an MSRP of $524.99, so we can expect the 20TB to be a little more. For comparison, the Exos X20 and 20TB IronWolf Pro have street prices near $500. The SkyHawk is the newest of the three, so pricing may fall some as it finds its way into the channel.

seagate skyhawk ai i/o

The SkyHawk AI is covered by a five-year warranty, which includes three years of Seagate’s data recovery service. The company claims a success rate of 95%.

Seagate SkyHawk AI 20TB Specifications

Capacity 20TB
Standard Model Numbers ST20000VE002
Interface SATA 6Gb/s
Recording Technology CMR
Drive Design Helium
Features and Performance 
Drive Bays Supported 16+
AI Channels 32
AI Real-Time Capture Events/Sec Up to 120
AI Real-Time Compare Events/Sec Up to 96
HD Cameras Supported Up to 64
RV Sensors Yes
Max. Sustained Transfer Rate OD (MB/s) 260MB/s
Cache (MB) 256
Reliability/Data Integrity
Tarnish Resistant Yes
Load/Unload Cycles 600,000
Nonrecoverable Read Errors Rate, Max 1 per 10E15
Power-On Hours per year 8760
Workload Rate Limit (WRL) 550
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) (hours) 2,000,000hr
Warranty, Limited (years) 5
Rescue Data Recovery Services (years) 3
Power Management
Startup Current, Typical (12V, A) 2.0
Average Operating Power (W) 7.72W
Idle Average (W) 3.5W
Standby Mode/Sleep Mode, Typical (W) 1.0/1.0
Voltage Tolerance (5V) ±5%
Voltage Tolerance (12V) ±10%
Operating (Ambient, min °C) 0
Operating (drive reported, max °C) 65
Nonoperating (ambient, min °C) -40
Height (mm/in, max) 26.11mm/1.028in
Width (mm/in, max) 101.85mm/4.01in
Depth (mm/in, max) 146.99mm/5.787in
Weight (g/lb, typical) 680g/1.499lb
Carton Unit Quantity 20
Cartons per Pallet/Cartons per Layer 40/8

Seagate SkyHawk AI 20TB Performance

Enterprise Synthetic Workload Analysis

Our enterprise hard drive benchmark process preconditions each drive-set into steady-state with the same workload the device will be tested with under a heavy load of 16 threads, with an outstanding queue of 16 per thread. The device is then tested in set intervals in multiple thread/queue depth profiles to show performance under light and heavy usage. Since hard drives reach their rated performance level very quickly, we only graph out the main sections of each test.

Preconditioning and Primary Steady-State Tests:

  • Throughput (Read+Write IOPS Aggregate)
  • Average Latency (Read+Write Latency Averaged Together)
  • Max Latency (Peak Read or Write Latency)
  • Latency Standard Deviation (Read+Write Standard Deviation Averaged Together)

Our Enterprise Synthetic Workload Analysis includes four profiles based on real-world tasks. These profiles have been developed to make it easier to compare to our past benchmarks, as well as widely-published values such as max 4K read and write speed and 8K 70/30, which is commonly used for enterprise drives.


  • 100% Read or 100% Write
  • 100% 4K

8K 70/30

  • 70% Read, 30% Write
  • 100% 8K

128K (Sequential)

  • 100% Read or 100% Write
  • 100% 128K

Our first throughput test measures 4K random performance. The SkyHawk trailed behind the Exos and the IronWolf Pro on the read side with 6,000 IOPS in SMB and 5,559 IOPS in iSCSI. However in the 4K write performance, the SkyHawk actually had the two highest numbers in write with both SMB and iSCSI maintaining 961 IOPS (SMB) and 1,089 IOPS (iSCSI).

SkyHawk AI 4k IOPS

The next test is average latency. In this test, the SkyHawk once again came in behind the Exos and IronWolf Pro. On the read side with 42ms in SMB and 46ms in iSCSI. On the write side of the test, the SkyHawk performed better with 266ms in SMB and 235 in iSCSI.

SkyHawk AI 4k Avg Latency

The max latency test showed us a continuation of what we have seen so far. The SkyHawk showed us one of the lower latency’s on the read side with 969.49ms in SMB and 1,179.9 in iSCSI. On the write side of the performance, the SkyHawk maintained a significantly lower score in SMB with 704ms and 1,876.7 in iSCSI.

SkyHawk AI 4k Max Latency

Our last 4K test is standard deviation, and the SkyHawk continued to perform quite well by being right in line with the Exos. The SkyHawk was at 44.505ms (SMB read), however, in the iSCSI read, the SkHawk was almost half of the Exos at 55ms. In the write performance, the SkyHawk reached 165.5ms in SMB and 417.6ms in iSCSI.

SkyHawk AI 4k std deviation

Our next benchmark subjects the drives to 100% read and write activity at 8K sequential throughput. The SkyHawk AI was able to maintain decent performance staying in between the Exos and the IronWolf Pro. The SkyHawk AI saw 127,419 IOPS read and 84,504 IOPS in write in SMB and in iSCSI, it was 204,647 IOPS read and 78,127 write.

SkyHawk AI 8k IOPS

Next up is the mixed 8K 70%/30% workload to demonstrate how performance scales from 2T/2Q to 16T/16Q. We saw that the SkyHawk AI lagged behind the Exos and IronWolf Pro in SMB. The SkyHawk had a range of 806 IOPS to 2,177 IOPS in SMB and for iSCSI, a start at 586 IOPS and an end of 1,914 IOPS.

skyhawk ai 8k7030 iops

In the average latency test at 8K 70/30, the SkyHawk performance was similar to the 8k 70% Read 30% Write throughput. The SkyHawk saw an SMB start of 4.94ms and an end of 117ms, while in iSCSI, a start of 6.8ms with an end of 133ms.

skyhawk ai 8k7030 avg latency

For the max latency numbers, the SkyHawk was quite steady throughout the test with a rise at the end. The SkyHawk had a start of 345ms with an end of 1,277ms in SMB, and in iSCSI a start of 315ms and an end of 1,903ms.

skyhawk ai 8k7030 max latency

The final 8K 70/30 test is standard deviations. Once again, the SkyHawk performed not as well as the Exos nor the IronWolf Pro in SMB, starting at 10ms and ending at 97ms. In iSCSI, the SkyHawk performed similarly until the end, starting at 11ms and an end at 1,903ms.

skyhawk ai 8k7030 std deviation

Our final benchmark is 128K read/write, a large block sequential test showing the highest sequential transfer speed. Here, the SkyHawk hit nearly identical numbers in SMB read of 2.314 GB/s and a difference in write of 2.234 GB/s. The story is the same in iSCSI read at 1.937 GB/s and a write of 2.290 GB/s.

skyhawk 128k iops


The SkyHawk AI is a great drive for enterprise users looking to utilize AI technology as Seagate has their enhanced ImagePerfect AI firmware that claims to deliver zero dropped frames when the drive is under a heavy workload. With up to 2M hours MTBF and a 550TB/year workload rate along with a 5-year warranty, 3 of which is part of the Rescue Data Recovery services, the SkyHawk is a solid option for any surveillance station.

seagate 20tb family

The SkyHawk AI 20TB HDD when compared to other 20TB models in the Seagate portfolio showed certain strengths and weaknesses. It showed significantly higher 8K and 128K sequential write speed in our SMB tests, although lower performance in random workloads.

Seagate has said firmware on each of its models is optimized for the use case. Often we don’t see claims like that translate when it comes time for review, but with the suite of Seagate 20TB HDDs, we can very much see the delineation. With optimization towards incoming camera streams, it’s not a surprise to see sequential write performance as one of the SkyHawk AI’s strengths.

With the Seagate SkyHawk AI 20TB hard drive, Seagate delivered exactly what it intended to, a high-capacity drive suitable largely for many streams of unrelenting writes. In the security and surveillance world, reliably capturing data is of critical importance. The SkyHawk AI does very well on that front and should make a nice companion for NVR/NAS deployments in all sorts of environments.

SkyHawk AI Product Link

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