Silicon Power Stream S06 6TB: Unique take on Desktop external storage
These days the need for moderately large external storage (at a reasonable price) is higher than ever. When you are stuck inside and do not have your own NAS an old-school ‘sneaker net’ is hard to beat. After all, who wants to waste bandwidth on re-downloading entertainment so everyone in the family can enjoy it. This is what external, USB and hard drive based, storage was meant to do. With so many choices we thought it would be a great time to highlight one such option that appears to be tailor-made for satisfying these needs. To be precise we will be putting the $110 priced 6TB Silicon Power Stream S06 under the microscope.
This series was chosen as on paper it really does seem to tick all the right boxes. With upwards of 8TB of capacity it is sure to placate the cravings of an entire family for months at a time. Thanks to an integrated carry handle, and unlike a lot of ‘desktop’ external storage designs, the Stream S06 is meant to be portable storage and is easy – and securely – moved from one room to another without worries over accidental drops kill it. While ‘only’ USB 3.1 gen 1 enabled this ‘slower’ and ‘older’ standard makes it both less expensive and more compatible with a broader range of devices compared to USB 3.1 gen 2 Type-C models.
That certainly is a lot going for the Stream S06 series. However, even on just a quick glance a few questions do remain. Namely, as this is an older model what kind of performance can you expect from it? What choices have been made, if any, to help alleviate heat from keeping this all plastic clad model from ‘baking in its own juices’? Most importantly of all… with so many choices to choose from already, is it worth your time and effort to track it down versus the more widely available Seagate and Western Digital (to name just two) options? After all, this is a hotly contested corner of the market with so with a veritable ton of options to choose from. So let’s first shuck it, see what makes it tick, and then put it through its paces so you can decide if its unique pros ‘n’ cons make it an optimal choice for your specific needs.
Features and Specifications
The shipping container for the Stream S06 series is rather good in that it is attractive, eye catching, and choke full of information. Whether online or on a retailer’s shelf this case will attract your attention and then answer all the basic questions you may have on whether or not it is what you are actually looking for.
Internally the Stream S06 series uses a fully enclosed, two-piece plastic container that will keep the various components snug. Since it takes up the entirety of the interior the precious cargo will not only be safe and secure but can take rather significant blunt force trauma before passing it on to the device itself… as the plastic will ‘crumple’ and absorb a lot of energy before any is allowed to reach the Stream S06 itself. Even minor cuts will be shrugged off thanks to the plastic fully enclosing it. Over all this is a very nice shipping container with a lot of time effort put into its design. Color us impressed.
The accessories which are included are not as impressive. In grand total you will get a decent wall power adapter w/ cable, and an about a 22-inch long USB 3.1 gen 1 Type-A to Type-A cable. Missing from this list is any backup software and no adapters for the Type-A cable.
The reason for the odd-ball Type-A to Type-A cable is because Silicon Power has disdained the typical Type-B or micro-USB port on their Stream S06 series. Since it also is not USB 3.1 gen 2… a Type-C port would have been similar to putting an elevator in an outhouse. We personally prefer the robustness of the Type-A port over micro anything, and have a big box of these cables… so have zero issues with this desing choice. You may feel differently. Finding a Type-A to Type-A cable is not as easy as a more… standard cable. Your choices will be a bit more limited, and unless you know a ‘miner’ if this cable does break you will have to shop online for its replacement. Thankfully, thanks to the miner craze they do not cost much more than ‘standard’ USB cables and are no where near as rare as they were a few years back. It is however a somewhat controversial choice.
The odd-ball cable and port choice however is not the first thing you will notice when you open the box up for the first time. Instead your eyes will be drawn to the nice and fairly large integrated carry handle! Finally, someone ‘gets it’. Finally a company has bucked the trend of making everything as small as possible and instead put ease of use at the top of the priority list.
More importantly, this carry handle works and works well. It is not just a… unique aesthetic choice. This carry handle works and works well. Anyone can easily pick this bad boy up, and as long as you do not swing it like a short-bus passenger, will be able to carry it from point A to point B with zero worries over dropping the darn thing. Yes, we have dropped many a ‘desktop’ external storage device over the years. Any one who claims they have not, is either full of it… or has not used them long enough. It really is a matter of when not if. This place the Stream S06 series head and shoulders over the average desktop model.
The one downside to this is that the entirety of the chassis is plastic. So if you do drop it… the chassis may crack. On the upside it is better for the case to take the damage than transfer it on to the hard disk drive inside. Worst comes to worst, you can shuck it and still get your data back. So just be aware that you will not be using the Stream S06 as an improvised weapon… no matter how much your family annoys you and how bad your cabin fever is.
On the positive side, since it is plastic it was relatively easy for Silicon Power to add cooling and ventilation slits on both sides, as well as the front of it. Mix in (albeit small) rubber gripping ‘feet’ on two side and you can easily use the Stream S06 in horizontal or vertical orientations without worries about it sliding off your table or over-heating. Once again, this attention to detail is impressive… and we wish more companies put function over form instead of making pretty, but pretty difficult to use desktop storage devices.
Counter-acting these benefits is the (obvious) fact that it is not water nor dust proof. To us this is somewhat acceptable as these devices are colloquially called ‘desktop’ models for a reason – they are meant to live inside your home on a desk… right next to your desktop. If your home springs a leak or has air quality levels that low… you have bigger things to worry about than your USB storage. If you are in the slim minority that needs either feature we would recommend picking up a silicon sleeve or waterproof container (e.g. Pelican cases) for it. The only real downside is that this is such an easy to transport model we could have seen ourselves wanting to bring it along ‘in the field’ and here IP certification and even 2M drop certification would have been nice.
This actually is a nice segue into our biggest concern with this model. Specifically, it is pretty obvious that Silicon Power’s design team were a wee bit too focused in their priorities and developed a wee bit of tunnel vision. The best example of this is the lack of a power switch. Instead the only way to power up or down the Stream S06 is to psychically unplug it from your AC wall outlet. This is sub-optimal to say the least. Yes, these types of devices live most of their life attached to one system with only occasional trips to a second one. This does not excuse the lack of a one dollar power switch. Most experienced people turn off their desktop models as the greatest enemy to them is being knocked while the drive is powered up. Even a minor bump can kill a hard drive… and anyone who has heard the ‘cow bell of death’ never wants to hear it again.
The interior design choices are also a bit puzzling. On the one hand, Silicon Power has opted for a DM003 variant of the Seagate BarraCuda series. We have no real issues with it using a SMR based storage model (for those interested a good rule of thumb with Seagate’s consumer lines is DM00x = SMR, DM000x = PMR… unless specifically noted in the product literature). It has 256MB of cache backstopped by excellent, darn near perfection, multi-tier branch prediction algorithms; and comes with a decent amount of the drive sectioned off for PMR duties. In basic terms, much like a TLC NAND SSD a portion of this HDD acts as a write buffer in PMR mode and only writes to the SMR portion of the platter if it is exhausted or during low IO periods. This one-two buffer combination is ‘good enough’ and then some for this devices intended role. It is also a very cool running hard drive. Also making it tailor made for USB enclosures.
On the other, Silicon Power has paired this rather good example of modern storage technology with an ancient USB to SATA bridge controller. To be precise, instead of opting for the various ASMedia bridges Silicon Power uses a first gen USB 3.1 gen 1 Jmicron JMS-567 controller. This controller was released in 2014.It will create bottlenecks even when paired to this 5400RPM hard drive. It was known for being finicky and was quickly replaced by newer models. We have zero clue as to why Silicon Power is using it… beyond price. However, even a lower asking price for this IC makes little sense as more modern versions (even JMicron models) do not cost all that much more than it. Put bluntly, it is cheap for a reason.
On the positive sides, and further adding to the confusion and lack of clarity on the design team’s behalf, is while the small PCB that acts as a SATA to USB adapter is not screwed in place it is held in place via an ingenious spring. A spring which will allow it to flex if struck and not break.
Silicon Power also includes a nicely sized heat spreader for the ‘Cuda controller and RAM cache as well. This steel heat spreader is held in place via two screws and not only helps spread the heat for more efficient passive cooling but acts as a nice shield. A shield which will shrug off a lot of damage before anything is allowed to damage the drive’s PCB.
Overall, the Stream S06 design is best described as… unique. With unique strengths and (puzzling) weakness. Unique in ways that may limit its appeal. This is a shame as that chassis and its integrated carry handle really is a game changer. Hopefully future models will offer it. Models that are not quite so… unique.
Testing external storage designed for use as a portable device is not like testing solid state drives, or even compact storage devices like ‘thumb drives’. These devices have very unique standards and have been optimized for highly specialized roles. For this reason, we have chosen to a combination of synthetic and real-world tests that will show the intended customer base what the real strengths and weaknesses of a product line are.
To this end we have chosen ATTO, AS-SSD, and Crystal DiskMark for our synthetic test suites. However, we have opted to no include any deep queue depth testing. Instead only the sequential, medium size, and single queue small file size tests are run. ATTO’s full range of file sizes will be included but this only so that consumers can see the performance curves a given storage device offers. Furthermore, we will be significantly discounting any results under the 8K mark in ATTO.
For real world we have opted for our usual real-world transfer test. This is a two-part test. The first consist of timing how long a single 30GB (30 Billion bytes) rar file takes to copy to, and then from the devices. The second consists of timing how long it takes to copy to and then from 15GB (15 Billion bytes) worth of small files (from 100kb to 200MB) with a total 36,000 files in 1200 sub-folders.
All tests are run four times and only averages are shown.
ATTO Disk Benchmark
The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second.
AS-SSD is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and small 4K read/write speeds as well as 4K file speed at a queue depth of 6. While its primary goal is to accurately test Solid State Drives, it does equally well on all storage mediums it just takes longer to run each test as each test reads or writes 1GB of data.
Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB.
Real World Performance
Real World Data Transfers
Many novices do not understand the importance of write performance and how great an impact it can have on real world performance. To show exactly what this new series can do we have also created a test that will do precisely that by the simplest expedient of copying either large or small files to and from the device. This way you the reader can see how it will react when tasked with two very common scenarios.
Using MS RichCopy and logging the performance of the drive we first transfer a 30.00GB contiguous file, to and from it; then a folder containing 1200 subfolders with a total 36,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (15.00 GB total).
These tests were done 4 times per device and the averages for each are listed below.
Performance: 30 out of 40.
As long as you are not looking for miracles, the amount of performance is best described as ‘good enough’. Not great, not terrible. Basically middle of the road for its class.
Technological Innovation: 12 out of 20
On the one hand this chassis may be made from plastic and lacks a physical power switch… but it still is full of innovation. Excellent passive cooling combined with safe transportation is a winning one. Lack of power control or not. On the other the only innovation to be found inside is the ‘innovative’ use of an ancient controller.
Build Quality & Warranty: 14 out of 20
From a build quality perspective the Stream S06 is sure to confuse. On the one hand you have extremely useful features like a sweet integrated carry handle. On the other you will not get a power switch, and lackluster performance thanks to an ancient controller. That is not a recipe for widespread success. Thankfully the warranty is decent. Not great, certainly not best in class, but decent. Overall, we score it at decent 14 out of 20 with a lot of room for improvement.
Value: 12 out of 20
The overall perceived value of the Stream S06 is going to vary greatly. For those who do reside within its design envelope it is going to be a very good value with useful bonus features. For those who do not, the older controller combined with lack of basic functionality will make it… less than optimal at nearly any price to say the least. We have split the difference and called it 10 out of 20.
Final Score: 68 out of 100
It is obvious that Silicon Power’s design team had a very specific goal in mind – to make a good, portable 3.5-inch hard drive based storage series. One that could live happily connected to a HTPC for the entirety of its life or be moved from computer to computer on a daily basis. At this they were successful. Such devices are plugged in and powered on for the majority of their operating life. Arguably they were also highly successful at making a large ‘sneaker net’ storage device… as the Stream S06 may be big but it so darn easy to carry. Quite honestly, the Stream S06 is one of the easiest large ‘desktop’ style storage devices we know of to transport from place to place. That handle really does work and work well at both increasing portability and peace of mind.
If you and your specific needs fall into those fairly broad categories, and you can live with merely ‘decent’ performance the Stream S06 series is worth serious consideration. Not taking the time to do so may really leave out a good choice for your needs. Unfortunately, the Stream S06 is not an… optimal general-purpose external storage device. It is also arguably a less than optimal desktop storage device. Those are two massive groups of buyers to ignore. Companies that do so, do so at their own peril. What is incredibly frustrating is it took only two missteps to make what could have been our new favorite series into a rather niche series. Just two missteps. That is it.
First and foremost is the choice of controller. The JMicron JMS567 controller is old. It is JMicron’s first generation USB 3.1 gen 1 controller which has been superseded numerous times since its release way back in 2014. Yes, even modern high-performance hard disk drives are not going to saturate the 10Gbit USB bus. They however can saturate this controller’s abilities. This is for the simple reason that the JMS567 design team could not envision HDDs with 256MB of darn near precognizant cache. Throughout testing this controller did bottleneck the rather decent ‘Cuda drive Silicon Power opted for. This new(er) HDD model paired with such an outdated controller is a head scratch-er… especially when the asking price for the JMS567 vs. later generation, more powerful controllers is in the cents per unit range, not dollar range.
The other issue is the lack of a physical power switch. Yes, the design team expects this to live on a HTPC or NAS and acting as ‘streaming storage’. This does not mean you should ignore Desktop storage best practices. A simple little switch would have cost at most a dollar. A premium toggle switch would have been twice that. By including neither, this is not an external drive most will be comfortable with leaving on their desk. Instead users will have to physically unplug the darn thing every time they are finished with it… lest it suffer the most common cause of death: being bumped when powered up. As it stands, we will probably take the time to solder in a physical power switch… but you shouldn’t have to. This model is not noticeably cheaper than the competition. Competition who probably are using the same (or at least similar) HDD but paired with a newer controller. That is one tough hill to climb in order to justify buying the Stream S06. As such, if you do not fall into its obvious design niche, we recommend purchasing one only if you find it on sale. Otherwise, the design quirks just make it to quirky to be an optimal choice.