August 8th, 2016 by Tucker Mindrum
Seagate Innov8 Desktop Hard Drive Review
Seagate's new Innov8 HDD is the first USB-powered hard drive that provides 8TB of storage; users with a USB-C/USB 3.1 compatible device can deploy Innov8 with a single cord. Although it is not exactly "portable," Innov8 is protected by an aluminum enclosure which makes it more durable than most desktop drives. In addition to the 8TB of storage that the drive itself provides, Innov8 comes with a 2-year subscription to OneDrive (200GB). Innov8 is also compatible with the Lyve app, which backs up mobile device media into a folder that can be accessed on the Lyve desktop app.
Innov8 makes use of Seagate's new Ignition Boost technology, which allows Innov8 to draw power from the USB-C cable. This feature removes the need for an external power source, but it also has some limitations; due to its reliance on the high wattage that USB 3.1 supplies, Innov8 will not function unless the device to which it is connected has a USB 3.1 port. Although there are plenty of adapters on the market that can convert a USB 3.0 port to a USB-C connector, none of them will allow Innov8 to draw sufficient power. This limitation reveals a significant issue for Seagate: there aren't many devices currently on the market that can actually support Innov8. Other than Apple's new MacBook, there are very few laptops and computers that have a USB 3.1 port (though that will most likely change in the following months). Using Innov8 with a new MacBook has limitations as well: since Apple has consolidated all inputs and outputs (including the power supply) into one USB 3.1 port, connecting Innov8 to the new MacBook means that the MacBook itself will have to supply power to Innov8 from its battery. That said, Innov8 would function well alongside compatible devices that don't have power limitations.
Innov8 carries a price tag of $320 and includes a 2-year warranty.
- Capacity: 8TB (SMR HDD)
- Interface: USB-C
- Windows 7 or higher
- Mac OS X 10.7 or higher
- Length: 208mm
- Width: 123.6mm
- Depth: 36mm
- Weight: 1.5kg
- Warranty: 2 years
Design and Build
Seagate designed the surfaces of Innov8 to resemble their slightly recessed concentric disk icon. The enclosure uses a wrapped stacked (six layer) frame with that is intended to give Innov8 a unique look while offering some improved durability. Innov8 can be oriented vertically or horizontally, and has very minimal branding along the "flat" surfaces. There is only one port (USB 3.1).
Using a HP Z1 all-in-one workstation, we measured the transfer speeds from Innov8 using IOMeter. It should be noted that the Innov8 uses one of Seagate’s Archive Drives that utilize SMR technology. With SMR one can get both a “clean” reading and a “dirty” reading the primarily negatively effects write performance. In our intial 2MB sequential benchmark, Innov8 gave us a dirty read transfers at 193.49MB/s and write transfers at 45.92MB/s and a clean performance of 191.41MB/s read and 192.07MB/s write. In terms of random 2MB transfers, Innov8 gave us a dirty performance with read transfers when we switched to our 2MB random benchmark (39.17MB/s) but maintained a fairly consistent write performance (38.17MB/s). Looking at a clean performance the same drive gave us 30.04MB/s read and 89.53MB/s write. In our final test (random 4k transfers), Innov8 posted a dirty 119.50 IOPS read and 38.24 IOPS write and a clean 60.81 IOPS read and 482.91 IOPS write.
We also tested the Innov8 on a current generation MacBook with the USB-C connection (typically referred to as the 12” MacBook) using Blackmagic Disk Speed Test with a 5GB test file. Here we saw write speeds of 191.3MB/s and read speed of 184.4MB/s. The dramatic increase in write speeds is due to the use of SMR technology. Blackmagic is a burst test, while the IOmeter above is sustained, where SMR tends to be weaker with sustained writes.
Seagate designed Innov8 to use a single cord, which performs data transfers while also powering the device. We found that Innov8 takes advantage of the enhanced transfer speeds that USB 3.1 offers; it exhibited sequential read performance compared to most other desktop drives on the market, although write speeds were less than impressive. This is caused by the SMR-based drive inside, which have lower sustained write performance than traditional PMR models. Innov8's additional features (e.g., free 200GB OneDrive storage, Lyve app compatibility) give it modern appeal for users that want storage synchronicity. The enclosure that Seagate designed for Innov8 gives it a sturdy appearance, although it shouldn't be considered a portable drive.
One downfall of Innov8 is that it might be slightly before its time; although USB 3.1/USB-C technology is beginning to take hold, compatible host devices are fairly limited. Since Innov8 doesn't function with USB 3.0 (even if an adapter is used), the number of eligible users is relatively small.
Looking at performance, we tested the Innov8 on two platforms: a Windows platform with HP’s Z1 all-in-one workstation and on a Macintosh platform with a 12” MacBook (current generation). Using IOmeter on the Z1 we saw 2MB sequential results of 193.49MB/s read and 45.92MB/s write. Switching to 2MB random we saw 39.17MB/s read and 38.17MB/s write. With our 4k random transfer the Innov8 gave us 119.50 IOPS read and 38.24 IOPS write. On the MacBook we used Blackmagic Disk Speed Test with a 5GB test file. Here the Innov8 gave much better write performance at 191.3MB/s and a read performance of 184.4MB/s. Again the SMR technology will give us better numbers in burst tests, such as Blackmagic, versus sustained tests, such as IOmeter.
- Strong sequential read performance
- Only uses one cable
- 2-year subscription to OneDrive (200GB)
- Not many compatible host devices on the market currently
- Poor sustained write performance
The Bottom Line
Seagate aims to provide consumers with massive capacity in an easy plug and play storage through the use of USB 3.1 technology, which will likely become even more prevalent in the market over the next few years.