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.
Seagate has come out with a new storage solution the company says is best suited for small businesses. It's the BlackArmor NAS 400, the newest addition to Seagate's BlackArmor line, and it comes with flexible storage options.
No big surprise that Seagate recommends pairing the device with their own low power Barracuda 3.5-inch drives, and the company says it also works with the new Barracuda XT hybrid drive. Either way, businesses have the option of running a RAID 0/1/5/10 or JBOD configuration, as well as hot-swapping HDDs.
Other features include Microsoft Active Directory 2003/2008 support, remote access, full system recovery software, event notifications, and four USB ports to add even more storage (or to share a USB printer).
The BlackArmor NAS 400 is available now starting at $400.
Even though most computers are not designed to fully utilize a 3TB drive, Seagate could not resist the temptation of launching “the world's first 3 Terabyte (TB) external desktop drive.” According to Seagate, the 3.5-inch FreeAgent GoFlex Desk external hard drive can hold up to 120 HD movies or 1500 video games.
For the first time ever, hard disk drive (HDD) shipments from Western Digital have zipped past Seagate, according to a report by market research firm iSuppli.
Western Digital managed to ship 51.1 million HDDs for the first quarter of 2010, a 3.2 percent increase from the 49.5 million units it shipped in the fourth quarter of 2009. That was enough to finally edge out Seagate, which shipped 50.3 million, up 0.8 percent from 49.9 million over the prior quarter.
While Western Digital wins the quarterly shipment war, Seagate still has the edge in revenue. According to iSuppli, Seagate's revenue numbers sit at $3.1 billion, a good chunk higher than Western Digital's $2.64 billion.
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).