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.
We knew Seagate was cooking up a hybrid hard drive that would combine an SSD and HDD under the same hood, but most of the information we had was based on speculation and leaked specs. Things are a bit more concrete now, as Seagate today officially unveiled what it claims is the "world's fastest hard drive for laptop computers."
It's called the Momentus XT and it comes in three capacities, including 250GB, 320GB, and 500GB. These hybrid drives will sport 4GB of fast SLC NAND solid state memory, a 7200RPM spindle speed, 32MB of drive-level cache, and SATA 3Gb/s with NCQ.
"We see the Momentus ® XT drive as a game changer, a product heralding a new generation of hard drives that combine SSD and HDD capabilities so that laptop users don’t have to make trade-offs on speed, cost or capacity," said Dave Mosley, Seagate executive vice president of Sales, Marketing and Product Line Management.
To squeeze the most performance out of its hybrid drive, Seagate has implemented what it calls Adaptive Memory technology. What this does is analyze patterns in how often certain digital data is used and then moves the most frequently used bits to the embedded solid state memory for faster access.
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.
It's been rumored for a while, but Seagate has now confirmed they will be releasing a 3TB hard drive later this year. This isn't just the usual upping of platter density to achieve a higher capacity. In this case Seagate had to overcome some fundamental problems in computing.
In modern computing systems, there is a logical block addressing (LBA) limit of 2.1TB. The LBA system can't address a capacity larger than that due to the fact that it assigns an address to each 512 byte block on the hard drive, causing it to run out of address space at 2.1TB. Seagate is using a new Long LBA format, but it requires a supporting OS.
According to Seagate, 64-bit versions of Windows Vista and 7 will work, but XP will not. In fact, XP systems may only see 990MB of the drive. Another caveat is that these drives will not work as boot drives, just as secondary drives. Current master boot record partitions are limited to 2.1TB, and the fix would be more complicated.
No one thought that LBA would be a limiting factor when it was developed in 1980, but here we are. No pricing information was available, but we imagine it will sell at a premium at first. Would you buy a 3TB drive? Or are a few smaller ones fine by you?
Like two heavyweights dancing around the ring, Western Digital and Seagate have been fighting each other for the No. 1 spot in global hard drive shipments, a position Seagate has held onto (barely) until the first quarter of 2010. That's when WD finally moved ahead of Seagate with 51.1 million shipments compared to 50.3 million for Seagate, according to The Information Network.
"The mobile HDD market, which is WD's strength, will outperform the desktop market, which is Seagate's strength, in 2010," said Robert Castellano, president of The Information Network. "That's one of the factors in our forecast that WD will move ahead of Seagate in 2010."
Throughout 2009, WD managed to ship a total of 165.2 million hard drives, up from 146 million units in 2008. That was enough to narrow the gap with Seagate to only about 10 million units. In the mobile sector -- where The Information Network claims WD has an advantage -- WD led the way with a 28 percent share of the market, though it was a tight race with Toshiba/Fujitsu, HGST, and Seagate close behind with a 2 percent share difference among the three companies, The Information Network said.
You know it's only a matter of time before hard drive makers start shipping 3TB HDDs, and for Seagate, that time will come sometime later this year, with an exact release date still to be determined.
Apparently the first 3TB Seagate unit will be a variable speed drive capable of spinning at speeds between 5900 to 7200 RPM. This will be considered the company's green model, with a performance oriented 3TB drive to follow not too long after.
One interesting thing to note about the transition to hard drives larger than 2TB is that many systems won't be able to boot from them, Gordon Mah Ung writes in the May 2010 issue of Maximum PC (Quickstart section, page 8).
Updated 5/06/10 12:30PST to reflect Seagate comments on pricing.
Yesterday Seagate announced their new FreeAgent GoFlex line of external drives, which is actually more interesting than it sounds. Instead of a standard 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch SATA drive with a SATA-to-USB controller inside, a GoFlex drive wears its controller on the outside. The GoFlex drive is not much more than a hard drive with a minimal plastic sheath and a SATA port, into which the drive controller itself is plugged. This allows you to change out drive controllers when you upgrade your system, plug the bare drive directly into a dock (like the GoFlex Net network-storage device or GoFlex TV HD media player, or (hopefully) just plug it into your rig for SATA speed with no overhead.
The GoFlex has modular cables, so today's USB 2.0 drive can become tomorrow's USB 3.0 drive easily.
In what's being described as an "industry first," Seagate has partnered with Paramount to preload a selection of 500GB FreeAgent Go ultra-portable hard drives with Paramount movies.
“Seagate and Paramount Pictures are delivering major motion pictures to consumers in a unique and innovative solution. For years Seagate hard drives have been powering the devices that allow consumers to enjoy their digital libraries. Today, we are simplifying content delivery by giving consumers the ultimate flexibility in how they enjoy their movies all in a convenient package,” said Dave Mosley, executive vice president, Sales, Marketing and Product Line Management, Seagate.
Consumers who pick up a specially marked FreeAgent Go package will be able to activate Star Trek (2009) for free. These FreeAgent drives will also come preloaded with 20 other movies that can be unlocked through the online purchase of a license key. Some of the bigger name titles include Beowulf, GI Joe, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
If you don’t need a lot of storage, Seagate’s diminutive BlackArmor NAS 220 can be tucked into a bookshelf or the even the corner of your desk where it will quietly serve the needs of a small office or workgroup with as many as 20 PCs. The NAS 220 has two drive bays and can purchased with either one or two terabytes of capacity; we reviewed the 2TB model, which is street-priced at $279. Note that since the drives come from the factory in a mirrored configuration (RAID 1), usable capacity is actually 1TB.
The NAS 220 is housed in a steel enclosure painted gloss black (keep a feather duster at hand if you’re the fastidious type). Remove three very small Phillips screws and pull off the three-sided cover to access the 7,200RPM drives, which are user-replaceable, but not hot-swappable. Unlike Western Digital’s WD ShareSpace, you’re not limited to using Seagate drives. But since the NAS 220 doesn’t support online RAID expansion or migration, most people will never access the drives unless they fail.
Finishing our look inside the box, we see Marvell’s 800MHz 88F6192 system-on-chip on the motherboard, paired with 128MB of soldered-on DDR2 SDRAM. The chip integrates a two-port SATA controller, a two-port USB controller, and a Gigabit Ethernet controller. This processor handles most of the compute workload, including running the RAID software. As mentioned earlier, the NAS 200 comes from the factory in a RAID 1 configuration, but the system also supports RAID 0 and JBOD.
Despite a strong showing by Western Digital, Seagate can continue chanting "We're No. 1!," according to the latest figures from market research firm iSuppli.
Hard drive shipments were up 8 percent overall in the fourth quarter of 2009 with 49.9 million units destined for new homes. Seagate, still on top, controls 31 percent of the market, while Western Digital's strong performance has the HDD maker nipping at Seagate's heels with 30 percent of the market.
The results are somewhat of a surprise, says iSuppli analyst Fang Zhang, who said many expected Western Digital would leapfrog in front of its rival. But even though WD is right there, Zhang says Seagate will likely hold onto its top spot in the current quarter.