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Seagate Momentus XT 500GB 2.5 Inch Review

Right now the storage story is either SSD or HDD. There are those who moved towards SSD for performance gain. But there’s still a significant population (and its growing even more) that buys mechanical hard drives for the storage space and value with reliability. In both cases, as far as storing large amount of data, mechanical drives still rules the world!

In the midst of confusion between choosing SSD and mechanical drives (those with smaller budget and/or need for large storage space will naturally grab a mechanical drive), hybrid drives are back from the past and it seems to be the right time.

But there’s an untold tale between these 2 hard drives that was clearly forgotten by man (and woman). It dates back to 2007 when there was a concept of mechanical drives with flash memory after Vista was released- hybrid drive. The idea was to improve the performance thanks to XP’s prefetch/ Vista’s super fetch. Prefetch uses the cache to load applications faster whereas Super fetch is more of an advanced version. To add more, it made sense because flash drive consume lesser power consumption giving more battery life as flash consumes lesser power compared to mechanical drives.

Back then when the concept of using SSDs in anybody’s system as a mass storage drive was a distant fantasy. Hybrid drives sounds brilliant and it seemed that it came in the right time to be paired with a Windows Vista system. Alas, it didn’t happen the way many thought it would, but the reason was different. What went wrong? It did save power but that was about it. It was still too premature as there was still no significant performance increase despite vista’s features.

The concept was put in hibernation mode till the time was right- until recently when Seagate drops by to give 3 storage drives, one of them is the already reviewed GoFlex pro and the second one is the Momentus XT Drive.


Advertised specs, package and closer look:

Its looks like any 2.5inch hard drive, nothing much to add as this is the what I received in an anti-static bag.

It shouldn’t be a surprise if we start getting 2.5 inch HDD/SSD as a standalone product rather than a kit. PC Chassis manufacturers should start including 2.5 inch docks and/or start selling an after-market add-on.

There are some things you need to keep in mind so that we both are in the same picture about how they work.

The hybrid drive at the end of the day comes with 4GB SLC NAND. After interpreting the part number, its a Samsung 400mhz DDR Rev 11. The drive comes with a 32MB “Read Only” Cache. There is an eASIC controller put up but I wasn’t able to find much about it even in the materials forwarded by Seagate. The rest of it is a typical mechanical hard drive.


Test setup, Disk Info and Benchmark:

Note: The hybrid drive’s performance picks up its pace between 2nd and 3rd run. The tests between 3rd and 4th were consistent so the scores for Hybrid XT below are of the 3rd run. There is a vast difference between 1st and 2nd run most likely because of Seagate’s own eASIC controller made specifically to decrease load time after knowing user’s usage.

I’ve also added 2 drives as a reference point to show where the Hybrid drive performance stands, one is the Kingston SNV225-S2/64GB SSD and the other is the WD Blue 320 AAJS-00YZCA0 drive. Do also note that the WD drive is a 3.5 inch drive. The proper comparison would be either with a 5400.6 RPM 2.5 inch drive and a newer make of 7200RPM 2.5 inch mechanical drive.

To keep things fair, The scores from WD drive are from the 3rd run as well. This was a time consuming test, but accuracy was required. The SSD was consistent naturally as its not a mechanical drive, so the scores from the SNV were from the reviews I’ve done earlier but Compression, Copy Benchmark and Bench32 were tested with these drives. Western Digital 320GB Blue series drive and Seagate Hybrid XT 500GB are both 7200 RPM drive.

 


AS SSD Benchmark: Read and Write:

AS SSD Benchmark: Copy

AS SSD Benchmark: Compression

Seagate Momentus XT 500GBKingston SNV225-S2/64GBWestern Digital 320GB AAJS

 

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Crystal Disk Benchmark: Read and Write performance

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HD Tune Pro: Sequential Read/Write

 

HD Tune Pro: File Benchmark
Seagate Momentus XT 500GBKingston SNV225-S2/64GBWestern Digital 320GB AAJS

 

HD Tune Pro: Random Write Access
Seagate Momentus XT 500GBKingston SNV225-S2/64GBWestern Digital 320GB AAJS

HD Tune Pro: Random Read Access

Seagate Momentus XT 500GBKingston SNV225-S2/64GBWestern Digital 320GB AAJS

 

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ATTO Disk Benchmark
Seagate Momentus XT 500GBKingston SNV225-S2/64GBWestern Digital 320GB AAJS

Its comes clear till here, Hybrid drives aren’t best friends with any of the 4k tests. Throughout the test, the drive was inside the closed case, so the temperatures was between 35-40 degrees approx.
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[Added: 31-12-10] Boot load time

 


Conclusion:

To set the reader’s expectations, this is more of a “1up” upgrade from a standard mechanical hard drive. Larger NAND and write enabled Cache should improve the overall scores compared to the ones above, but there’s always the cost-to-performance-to-storage space ratio. I was more impressed with eASIC controller’s ability to learn and execute faster loads after judging user’s usage behaviour and not the implementation of a NAND. It does make faster boot/load times compared to first run. eASIC controller which do the same jobs would most likely be implemented in 3.5 inch drives as well.

The first sentence that pops in your head after hearing “hybrid drive” is “Best of both worlds” but that’s wasn’t it. Conclusion isn’t as “exciting” as I thought it would be but there will be a good boost in start up/load time compared to 5400.6 notebook drives. If you have a good budget for your notebook’s internal HD upgrade but don’t want to go the SSD way for either price/storage reasons, this is something you could shortlist. This drive is meant to be a norm for certain mid-to-high end notebooks.

India (M.R.P.)U.S.U.K.
8100/-$119£98.00

Seagate Mometus XT 250 gig and 320 gigs costs Rs. 6800/- and 7400/- MRP. I was able to find only the street price of Seagate Momentus (5400.6 RPM) 500 gigs drive i.e available for Rs.2,800.

There is a brand who did release couple of gaming series notebooks with a hybrid drive, but they didn’t want/couldn’t confirm whether its the same drive. I am not aware of any other manufacturers who are making hybrid drives but it shows that this time hybrid will be a norm for notebooks.  If you are picking up a notebook and your manufacturer gives an option to upgrade to momentus XT and they priced it right, you can grab it. Desktop users would choose a good enough 3.5 inch Hard drive or an SSD (or SSD as primary and a hard drive with lot of storage space).

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