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Seagate hybrid drive delivers SSD performance at HDD price

Lucas Mearian | May 25, 2010
Seagate has announced a new hard-disk and solid-state combination drive with as much as 500GB of capacity, but with a 250GB model starting at US$113.

Baker said from a price-point perspective, the Momentus XT is very competitive with hard drives and SSDs. For example, an Intel X25-M (consumer-class) SSD with 80GB of capacity costs about $215 on online retail sites such as Newegg.com.

The new Momentus XT comes in 250GB, 320GB and 500GB capacities and has a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $113, $132, and $156, respectively. ASUS said it will be the first PC maker to ship systems featuring Seagate's Momentus XT drive.

The drive is targeted at PC gamers, work groups, or developers and other computer enthusiasts who want to build their own high-performance computer. If it catches on, eventually, the product is expected to be marketed at the general laptop computer market, Wojtasiak said.

Secret sauce

Along with the Momentus XT, Seagate announced its Adaptive Memory software, an algorithm that maps user patterns and optimizes the drive's performance based on those patterns.

Wojtasiak said the first time a user boots a system with the Momentum XT drive, the Adaptive Memory kicks in and begins learning use patters, booting the OS and then the most frequently used applications first.

By second boot, the system knows about 80% of a users system preferences and habits, and by the third boot, the drive's performance optimization peaks and remains topped out, he said.

The Momentus XT also performs the same regardless of the operating system, Wojtasiak said. "This is operating system and application independent," he said.

According to Seagate, OS independent means that the operating system does not determine what data should be written to flash memory versus the disk platters. Data placement is decided by the Momentum XT's algorithms, which monitor accesses to the disc and identify the data that would see the biggest performance benefit from being be put in flash memory. It also means that the solid state hybrid drive will show a performance benefit when installed in a system with any operating systems: XP, Vista, Windows 7, Linux, Mac, etc.

"I think Seagate has done a good job of acknowledging they have had two pitches that they swung at in this product segment and they missed both," said Mark Geenen, an analyst with research firm Trendfocus.

"With this product, it looks like they've made some good design adjustments so that without a fully optimized OS this product can still learn over time user tendencies and adjust performance," he said.

Geenen said he was impressed with performance demonstrations of the Momentus XT by Seagate. "I think they've made it an attractive product," he said.

A year and a half ago, Seagate announced its first SSD, the 2.5-in Pulsar, an enterprise-class drive that uses single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash chips. The PSD offered up to 240MB/sec. sequential read speeds and 200MB/sec. sequential write speeds or peak performance of up to 30,000 read IOPS and 25,000 write IOPS.

 

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