Seagate creates hard drive and SSD hybrid

Hard drive maker Seagate has stepped in to fight off the onslaught of SSDs, by combining a high-speed hard drive with an SSD, which it says will offer performance close to an SSD without the prohibitive cost.

The 2.5in Momentus XT distinguishes itself from the disappointing first generation of hybrid drives, by featuring a large 4GB stock of single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash memory. Unlike many 2.5in drives, the Momentus XT also spins at 7,200rpm, which is the standard spin speed of your average 3.5in desktop drive.

With solid state and mechanical storage working in harmony, Seagate says that it's created "the world’s fastest 2.5 inch laptop PC hard drive." Among the company's claims are that the drive is 80 percent faster than standard 7,200rpm hard drives, and that it "boots within seconds of a laptop with SSD."

The key to the cooperation between the two technologies is what Seagate calls its Adaptive Memory system. Using a proprietary algorithm, this technology tailors the solid state area specifically to your requirements. After all, there's only 4GB to play with, but this can be used to full effect if it's allocated efficiently.

The solid state area itself is embedded inside the drive's firmware, so you can't decide what goes on it yourself through your operating system. However, by analysing the way you use storage and moving frequently accessed data into the solid state portion of the drive, the drive could become almost as fast as a full SSD in general use.

The new drives are available in capacities of 250GB (one platter), 320GB and 500GB (two platters). Each drive also has 32MB of cache and hooks up via a standard 3Gb/sec SATA interface.

Seagate says that the Momentus XT will feel just as at home in a laptop as it does in a desktop, and claims that it "boots up to 100 percent faster than traditional 5,400rpm drives." Asus is already keen to get on board with the new drive, and has announced that it will make it an upgrade option on its Republic of Gamers G73Jh laptop.

Seagate's vice president of sales, marketing and product line management, Dave Mosley, said that the drive was "heralding a new generation of hard drives that combine SSD and HDD capabilities so that laptop users don’t have to make trade-offs on speed, cost or capacity.”

Explaining the need for an effective hybrid drive, Seagate points out that SSDs currently "cost as much as 10 times more than hard disk drives of the same capacity, with the price of a 250GB SSD outstripping even the cost of many laptop PCs."

"As a result," says the company, "most consumers and system builders are unwilling or unable to pay the high price for the greater speed and quiet operations of SSDs."

Seagate hasn't announced pricing or availability information yet, but the company says that it's already begun channel and OEM shipments, so we should see them shortly. We can also expect the drives to be significantly cheaper than standard SSDs.

Initial impressions appear to be impressive. Overclockers Club has a preview test here, in which it says that "the Momentus XT beats out traditional hard drives in just about every test." It looks as though there's still plenty of life left in the old mechanical hard drive after all.