Seagate launches Solid State Hybrid Drives

The Momentus XT comes with 4GB of SLC NAND flash

WANT A FASTER hard drive but can’t afford a SSD? Well, it looks like Seagate might’ve just come up with the solution that all of us have been waiting for, hard drives with a built in SSD. It’s a tiny SSD though, well, at least compared to the kind you’d stick in your system as a hard drive replacement, but at 4GB it’s still big enough to work as a really fast cache which is still large enough to store just about any application you’re running.

It’s interesting to see that Seagate has gone for 4GB of SLC NAND flash rather than the cheaper MLC type of flash memory normally found in consumer SSDs. However, considering that Seagate supplies a five year warranty on the Momentus XT, the flash memory has to last at least that long and it seems like Seagate doesn’t put enough trust in MLC flash memory for that warranty period.

The Momentus XT is part of Seagate’s 2.5-inch range of drives and it’s available in three different sizes, 250, 320 and 500GB. All three models also feature 32MB of cache memory and 7,200rpm spin speed. Sadly Seagate only went for a SATA 3Gbps drive interface rather than the more recent and faster SATA 6Gbps standard, something you’d think this type of drive would have benefited from.

The SLC NAND flash memory is a single module from Marvell and it’s placed on the PCB alongside the drive controller, cache and so forth. The flash memory also has its own controller which handles the caching of the data stored on the hard drive.

Segate is making some pretty serious performance claims, like “get SSD-like performance today” and they’ve even backed it up with some benchmark figures on their website. Now, we never take a manufacturer’s claims as facts and there are already some early benchmarks out that don’t look quite as impressive as the ones from Seagate. Now we’re not saying that the Momentus XT is a slouch, it’s actually a fair bit faster than some desktop hard drives and it even compares favourably against Western Digital’s VelociRaptor 600GB 10k rpm drive in some tests. However, it’s nowhere near as fast as a SSD.

Part of the problem appears to be how the caching works, as at least in some benchmarks, the drive gets faster the more times the same test is run. The performance increase is as much as 50 percent in PCMark Vantage if you compare the first to the third run. Other tests don’t fare as well, but it seems like a fair trade-off when the advantage is there. Additionally, if you look at the power draw the Momentus XT is more power efficient than Seagate’s 7200.4 series of drives and the fact that you can have the 500GB for a pretty reasonable $155, it looks like a decent upgrade for anyone that can’t afford a SSD for their notebook.S|A

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