Hands on: Seagate Innov8 8TB external hard disk drive review

An 8TB external hard disk with a difference

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Our Early Verdict

Seagate has come up with a really neat product here, although it costs a pretty penny – and similar rival devices will doubtless be on the scene soon.

For

  • Smart looking with good build quality
  • Innovative Ignition Boost tech
  • Monster sequential read speeds

Against

  • Not cheap
  • Heavy
  • Not ideally suited to being frequently moved around

The first 10TB hard disk drives were launched nearly a year ago now but their prices are still far too high to even remotely consider using them in a non-enterprise setup. At around £510 (about $720, or AU$940) for the drive, the per TB price of the Seagate ST10000NM0016 (£51) is more than twice that of a 4TB model (around £23).

So if you want to look for a more affordable solution that offers acres of storage, then 8TB drives have to be the sweet spot, especially if you are wanting an external model. Seagate's Innov8 (not to be confused with Samsung's Innov8 smartphone) is certainly as big as some of its siblings, like the Backup Plus, and is far more expensive than they are.

The latter costs less than £200 (about $280, or AU$370) while the Innov8 carries a suggested retail price of £320 (about $450, or AU$590) and will be available shortly from Amazon and other online vendors.

Seagate opted for a minimalist, all-metal finish similar to the one introduced by the Seven, its ultrathin external hard drive. That's no great surprise as both devices were designed by the same award winning San Francisco-based studio, Huge-Design.

Seagate Innov8 8TB design

The one thing you notice when you take the Innov8 out of the box is how heavy it is. It weighs a ton (more specifically 1,500g) and at 208 x 124 x 36mm, is a bit bigger than the aforementioned Backup Plus drive.

The other thing that differentiates it from competitors is that there is only one port. It's a USB Type-C port – a USB 3.1 Gen 2 model which means that in theory, it should be twice as fast as a USB 3.0 connection (aka USB 3.1 Gen 1) with the ability to deliver 100W of power.

What that means is that you can take it anywhere, with the Innov8 offering the sort of storage capacity that no other devices can offer. Sure you can get two portable 2.5-inch 4TB external hard disk drives for cheaper but this is neither an elegant solution nor is it very secure.

Given its mass, the Innov8 is more an occasional portable device rather than a truly portable one. Physically, the solid, one-piece cast aluminium enclosure has six fins to represent the six platters used in the drive.

There's one blue status light above the USB connector that indicates whether the drive is working or not but there's no power button. The drive comes with its own USB Type-C cable which negates any potential issues associated with dodgy third-party cables (using them voids your device's warranty).

To achieve the best performance, Seagate suggests making sure that both ends of the cable are firmly attached and that the drive is hooked up to the right connector (USB Type-C is also compatible with USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 – but obviously you won't get the same speeds with these).

Seagate Innov8 8TB port

The key, or perhaps we should say innovative, factor with the Innov8 is what Seagate calls Ignition Boost technology. Because it relies only on a single power source, the drive has a battery that allows it to kick-start its spinning engine initially and run from it afterwards.

That's a great idea unless you plan to move the drive around frequently, something that is likely to deplete the battery due to frequent requests to kick-start the device. You've guessed it, the best use scenario for the Innov8 is a fire-and-forget one, where the user would seldom need to switch between devices.

This product uses the same drive as the Backup Plus, which we reviewed just over a year ago. Refer to that review if you want to learn more about what technology is used in that device and why it impacts negatively on certain performance tests.

Innov8 uses the ST8000AS0002 which is an SMR-based hard drive with six 1.33TB platters. They spin at 5900rpm and the drive itself has a 128MB cache to compensate for the poor random read/write performance.

Seagate Innov8 8TB angle

Using it is merely a matter of plugging the drive into the right port. Remember, you shouldn't use any adaptors or third-party ports or you might damage the device and void your two-year warranty. The cable is a tad too short for our liking and we would advise users to leave it flat on a desk (there are rubber feet for that) rather than standing.

You also get Seagate's own Dashboard software (which allows one-click on-demand or customisable scheduled backup) as well as 200GB of online cloud storage on Microsoft OneDrive. Note that the latter offer is not valid if you have already redeemed a Seagate offer. Also, the offer expires after 24 months and your data will be read-only after the expiry date.

Performance-wise, this is a monster in sequential read. It reached a staggering 203MBps in that test – far higher than the Backup Plus. Sequential write was a bit of a disappointment – as expected – scoring only 60.24MBps. Both figures were obtained via the popular storage benchmark, CrystalDiskMark 3.

Early verdict

You may have seen that LaCie, which is a subsidiary of Seagate, has launched a Porsche Design desktop drive that uses a USB-C connector.

The difference though is that it uses a power supply unit which also allows it to charge your laptop, which is very handy if you happen to have only one port (like the Apple MacBook for example). It is only a Gen 1 rather than a Gen 2 USB 3.1, which means that transfer rates will be slower.

The Innov8 is without competition when it comes to a Gen 2 device. Others are not far behind though. We fully expect arch-rival WD to come up with something similar now that its 8TB line (either WD Red or HGST He8) is fully mature.

If absolute performance coupled with ease of use is what you are yearning for, then for a small business user or someone working in the creative industry, the Innov8 is a no-brainer. Others will settle for far cheaper but less elegant (and slower) options.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré (Twitter, Google+) has been musing and writing about technology since 1997. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global techfests, developing an uncanny attraction for anything silicon, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.