Seagate Preps SMR HDDs for PlayStation 5: Up to 5TB of Capacity

(Image credit: Seagate)

Seagate has introduced its new Sony PlayStation 5 compatible external hard drives with a USB 3.2 Gen 1 interface in capacities up to 5TB. Seagate says that firmware of the new HDDs is optimized for consoles. Just like the majority of external HDDs these days, the new Seagate Game Drives use shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology with all of its peculiarities. 

The news drives, which also support the PlayStation 4, biggest advantages over SSDs used by the latest consoles are their relatively low price and ample capacity. The line-up of Seagate's new external drives compatible with PS4 and PS5 includes four models: 2TB and 4TB Game Drives priced at $92.49 and $139.99 (respectively) as well as 2TB and 5TB Horizon Forbidden West Limited Edition Game Drives that cost $99.99 and $159.99. By contrast, a high-performance 1TB M.2 SSD compatible with PS5 can retail for $170. But this is where advantages seem to end. 

Seagate's Game Drives traditionally pack the company's 2.5-inch BarraCuda drives with a 5400 RPM spindle speed that almost exclusively use drive-managed SMR technology with all of its peculiarities that include very slow overwriting of shingled bands (virtually all SMR drives have both shingled and non-shingled bands) and considerably reduced performance at times when the drive moves data from non-shingled (CMR) to shingled zones. We do not know how exactly Seagate optimized firmware of its Game Drives for PlayStation game consoles, but it is logical to assume that the optimizations have to deal with those random performance drops. 

Being 5400-RPM HDDs, Seagate's BarraCuda 2.5-inch HDDs are not meant to demonstrate very high sequential read/write speeds, so they are rated for up to 140 MB/s. Meanwhile, sequential speeds usually get considerably lower on outer edges of HDD platters, so in many cases performance of the Game Drives will not achieve 140 MB/s. Furthermore, if the drive starts to move data from a CMR band to an SMR band while the software makes a read request, its performance collapses to megabytes per second. 

One could argue that an external HDD for game consoles is used for rarely played games and once they are all located on shingled bands, performance drops will rarely occur. While this is a rational argument, it is necessary to note that games are updated, which will incur overwriting of SMR zones, which is a tremendously slow process. As a result, in a bid not to compromise experience with games from an external HDD on the latest consoles, one should probably fill it up with legacy titles that rarely (if ever) get updated and hope that they will stay intact till the end of times.

Anton Shilov
Contributing Writer

Anton Shilov is a contributing writer at Tom’s Hardware. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • JarredWaltonGPU
    I can't see what use case this is supposed to target. The whole point of the PS5 SSD was to massively improve load times. This will make your PS5 load slower than a PS4 in all likelihood! A cheap 2TB SSD would be much better.
  • hotaru.hino
    For the PS5 it could be used to store PS4 games or lighter native games from PSN.