In the storage world, nothing matches a solid-state drive for speed, and nothing matches a mechanical hard drive for capacity and price per gigabyte. Recognizing these two great tastes would go great together, many vendors have attempted to find the perfect hybrid storage solution, with variable—and often clunky—results. Seagate’s Momentus XT, which we first reviewed in September 2010, offered a 500GB 2.5-inch drive with 4GB of NAND flash with an adaptive algorithm to ensure that the most frequently used files are mirrored in the NAND. This means your boot drive feels faster than a mechanical drive, if only for the stuff you use the most. We liked the first Momentus, but complained that it could use more NAND. Seagate aims to remedy that complaint with this new Momentus.
Seagate has started shipping the second generation of its Momentus XT, a solid state hybrid drive aimed at both consumer and commercial laptop applications, and the company's fastest driver ever for personal computers, Seagate says. Like the previous generation Momentus XT, this second gen drive moves frequently accessed data to a small chunk of solid state memory for faster access.
Do you go for oodles of affordable storage in your next PC build with a mechanical hard drive, or raid your son's piggy bank and splurge on an ultra-fast solid state drive? You could go with both -- SSD for the OS, HDD for storage chores -- but that's the most expensive option of all. There's somewhat of a happy medium available in Seagate's Momentus XT solid state hybrid drive, of which Seagate said it shipped 1 million units since last year. Market research firm IDC says that's just the beginning.
We got the first hints that Seagate was planning a hybrid hard drive when, in response to an offhand question last year, company reps replied with “no comment,” instead of saying “hybrid drives are deeeaaaad!” as we expected. Our suspicions were confirmed when we got our hands on the Momentus XT, a 500GB 7,200rpm notebook drive with 4GB of SLC NAND flash memory and an “Adaptive Memory” algorithm designed to speed up your system by copying the most frequently accessed files to the NAND flash.
By adding a small amount of high-speed flash memory to a standard mechanical drive, Seagate hopes to hit the middle-ground between solid-state speed and mechanical price and capacity. Under the hood, the Momentus XT is virtually identical to the non-hybrid 500GB Momentus 7200.4, with three key additions: a 32MB DRAM cache instead of 16MB, 4GB of SLC NAND, and the Seagate Adaptive Memory algorithm to make sense of it all.
Last year, during research for some project or another, we asked Seagate an offhand question about hybrid drives. Where nearly everybody said that hybrid drives (last seen circa 2005) were dead, Seagate said that the technology had shown promise, but that they had no further comment. We immediately assumed that meant they were working on one, and to our immense satisfaction, today Seagate announced the Momentus XT, a 2.5-inch hybrid drive featuring 500GB of 7200rpm mechanical storage, 4GB SLC NAND flash, and a 32MB cache.
Wouldn't it be great if you could combine the speed of a flash-based drive with the capacity of a mechanical hard drive? Why yes, it would be, but don't get your hopes up too high. It's true Seagate is preparing a new series of hybrid drives that will combine NAND flash memory with HDD platters, but these aren't taking the extremes of either technology and meshing them into a single unit.
Instead, the largest drive will check in at 500GB, according Fudzilla. The other two capacities Seagate plans to offer for its upcoming Momentus XT line will be 320GB and 250GB. All three drives will also come equipped with 4GB of fast SLC NAND flash memory, as well as a 32MB cache buffer, but they'll be limited to SATA Gbps.
It's defeintely an intriguing idea as the mainstream market waits for SSD pricing to approach pedestrian levels, but we'd like to see some hybrid models on tap with more of a performance punch and storage space.
No word yet on US pricing or availability, but after the exchange rate, it looks like these hybrid drives will sell for between $115 to $160.