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Seagate Hybrid Drive Delivers SSD-Like Performance
Seagate Hybrid Drive Delivers SSD-Like Performance

By Mark Long
November 29, 2011 6:43PM

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For many consumers and business professionals, the most critical difference between using a hybrid drive and a solid-state drives is the substantially higher pricing of SSD offerings. The cost of a 256GB SSD at Amazon, for example, typically ranges upward from $380, depending on the manufacturer.

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Hybrid Disk

Seagate has begun shipping a new storage device that integrates a standard 750 GB hard disk drive with 8 GB of single-level cell NAND flash. Called the Momentus XT, the new hybrid drive promises to deliver significantly faster application loading and laptop boot times at a substantially lower cost than comparable solid-state drive offerings.

At first blush, one might think the biggest difference between Seagate's latest hybrid drive and the company's previous generation Momentus XY is the capacity bump to 750GB, together with an SSD bump from 4GB to 8GB. According to Seagate, however, the Momentus XT drive is also nearly 70 percent faster than the prior Momentus drive version.

The biggest improvement is the addition of new flash-assisted storage technology, which ensures the seamless integration between the new hybrid drive's hardware, firmware and high-speed NAND flash memory. Seagate has dubbed this technology the FAST Factor.

The use of high-speed storage devices can make a big difference when it comes to improving overall PC performance, said IDC Research Vice President John Rydning.

"Seagate's newest Momentus XT drive gives notebook PC users an economical option for boosting PC performance while at the same time providing spacious storage capacity all in one device," Rydning said.

Customizing Performance

According to Seagate, FAST Factor technology implements a set of innovative algorithms that enables the new device to intelligently decide which data should actually be written to the drive's solid-state memory segment.

From the perspective of PC users, the Seagate's Momentus XT integrates adaptive memory technology that can effectively customize the performance of their hybrid drive to quickly load the applications they typically use. The technology identifies the computer's data usage patterns, then transfers the most frequently retrieved information to solid-state memory for faster access.

"Adaptive Memory technology is a self-learning algorithm designed to deliver SSD-like response from your favorite applications and files," explained Joni Clark, Seagate's product marketing manager for 2.5-inch PC client products.

Seagate's new hybrid drive is also 44 percent faster than a standard laptop drive when it comes to loading applications. According to Clark, the adaptive memory technology aboard the Momentus XT copies the user's most frequently used data into the flash memory, where it is maintained and kept current. As a result, users receive what amounts to "an instant-response experience."

Merely the Beginning

According to Seagate, booting up a laptop with a refreshed Momentus XT under the hood is almost as fast as if the machine had an internal solid-state drive. Equipped with a serial ATA 6 Gb-per-second interface, Seagate's new hybrid drive is also three times faster when booting in comparison to a standard laptop drive, the company said.

For many consumers and business professionals, the most critical difference between using a hybrid drive and a solid-state drives is the substantially higher pricing of SSD offerings. The cost of a 256GB SSD at Amazon, for example, typically ranges upward from $380, depending on the manufacturer.

By contrast, the 750GB Momentus XT, which is currently shipping in volume, is priced at $245. And according to Clark, Seagate's new hybrid drive is merely the beginning.

"The flexibility of [solid-state hybrid disk] technology can be leveraged across many storage segments and form factors," Clark said. "In fact, the hard disk drive may just [represent] the largest opportunity for the use of solid state memory."

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