Despite our best hopes, the cost of solid state drives remains prohibitively high, both for buyers of new notebooks and for upgraders. Where a 500GB hard 7,200 rpm hard drive goes for around $85, a 128GB SSD still sells for well over $300 and a 256GB SSD is usually above $600. Hybrid hard drives, which combine the capacity of a magnetic hard drive with the speed of flash memory, have been talked about for years and a few even hit the market — for example the Seagate Momentus 5400 PSD in 2006 — but so far nothing has managed to achieve any level of sucess.
Enter Seagate’s new Momentus XT. Announced today, the Momentus XT line of hybrid hard drives features 4GB of SLC flash memory which is used to store frequently accessed data and applications from an already-quick 7,200 rpm platter. Available in capacities of 250GB ($113 MSRP), 320GB ($132 MSRP), and 500GB ($156 MSRP), the XT promises a 40-percent speed boost over traditional 7,200 rpm drives at a cost much lower than even a bargain SSD.
What’s most interesting about the Momentus XT is that it’s designed to learn from user activity. Each time a user opens a new application or file, the drive remembers. The more you access that data, the more of it the drive stores. A Seagate rep told us to expect optimal performance after the third open of any application or file.
We’ve had the chance to test out a 500GB version of the Momentus XT and compare it to a Fujitsu MHZ2320BJ 320GB 7,200 rpm hard drive, the fastest notebook hard drive we’ve tested in the past. While we still have plenty of tests to do before we publish our review of the Momentus XT, we were impressed with the results of our application open tests and how they compared to those from the MHZ2320BJ.
Using our hard drive test bed, a Toshiba Qosmio X505, we recorded the open time for Firefox 3.63, Word 2007, Acrobat 9 (opening to a 5MB PDF), and Photoshop CS 5 (opening to a 400MB TIF). Each application was opened three times and the average taken.
|Application||Seagate Momentus||Fujitsu MHZ2320BJ|
|Acrobat Reader 9||6.6 seconds||9.2 seconds|
|Firefox 3.63||2.8 seconds||5.8 seconds|
|Photoshop CS5||18.6 seconds||27.8 seconds|
|Word 2007||3.3 seconds||7.1 seconds|
As you can see, the Momentus XT lives up to its claim of offering a significant speed benefit over a 7,200 rpm notebook hard drive. In our upcoming review, we will also compare the XT with a $400 SSD, which we expect to outperform the hybrid on most tests. That said, the cost of a 500GB or even 256GB SSD is out of reach for all but the most wealthy users and even a 128GB SSD can be really cost prohibitive. Seagate’s seems poised to bring a new level of speed to the masses.