Solid State Drives : Hybrid Or Classic?

Solid state drives (SSDs) are the perfect storage solution for compact and ultra-portable devices.

They contain no moving parts - which means they don’t need the same cooling, and they don’t consume as much power as conventional hard disks. Until recently, though, they were a relatively expensive investment.

Over the past two years, though, the price of SSDs has fallen significantly - so much so that you can now get a decent model for under £100.

The OCZ Technology Onyx is an excellent example, cramming 64GB into a 2.5-inch form factor, which makes it ideal for rugged storage devices and laptops.

Earlier this year, Seagate introduced an innovative storage solution under its Momentus XT brand, which combines solid-state storage with a traditional spinning hard disk drive (you’ll find a review of the device here).

Both the OCZT Onyx and the Seagate Momentus XT are available from Dabs for £84.98 and £89.99 respectively, including free delivery. Which of the two suits you best will depend on how you plan to use it.

The Onyx SSD-only drive was released at the beginning of the year, and comes with a SATA II interface and the promise of a 135MBps read/write performance thanks partly to the onboard Indilinx controller.

OCZ says that moving to SSD will mean faster application loading, snappier data access, shorter boot-up times and longer battery life.

The drive supports TRIM, a system that automatically clears out data that’s no longer used. It also boasts a seek time of a mere 0.1ms. With a capacity of just 64GB, though, it’s unlikely you’ll be using the Onyx as your main storage drive.

Ultimately, the Onyx is perfect for those looking for speed rather than capacity, and will work well as a boot or system drive on which to install your OS.

And with two or more Onyx drives arranged in a RAID array, you can boost performance still further - though that’s not an option that’s likely to be available if you’re planning to install the storage into a laptop, as most only have a single drive bay.The Onyx comes with a two-year warranty as well.

For extra flexibility, Seagate's hybrid Momentus XT hard disk drive brings users the best of both worlds with lightning-fast SSD storage coupled with the acres of free capacity that magnetic hard disk drives offer.

Geek-wise, the Momentus XT is the first drive that, like recent processors, uses three levels of storage (known as ‘cache’ on a CPU). There's 32MB of drive-level cache, a 4GB SLC NAND solid-state memory (known as Adaptive Memory), and up to 500GB storage space with the drive's platters spinning at 7,200RPM.

The 4GB SSD acts like an extension of the drive's cache and stores the most frequently used applications and data files.

The Momentus XT uses a 3Gbps SATA interface with Native Command Queuing promising, and Seagate promises it will outperform other traditional 7,200RPM 2.5-inch hard disk drives by a whopping 80 per cent.

With a pair of Momentus XT drives arranged in a RAID-0 array, you could come within touching distance of solid state drives in terms of performance - though power consumption will be much higher, something that isn’t always helpful in a portable device.

The Momentus XT comes with a five-year limited warranty. Neither the Onyx or the Momentus XT require any drivers, and both drives are compatible with all recent operating systems.

Being the smaller, 2.5-inch variety of drive more usually seen in laptop computers, you will need an adaptor kit if you want to use the drives in a desktop machine.

Geek-wise, the Momentus XT is the first drive that, like recent processors, uses three levels of storage (known as ‘cache’ on a CPU). There's 32MB of drive-level cache, a 4GB SLC NAND solid-state memory (known as Adaptive Memory), and up to 500GB storage space with the drive's platters spinning at 7,200RPM.

The 4GB SSD acts like an extension of the drive's cache and stores the most frequently used applications and data files.

The Momentus XT uses a 3Gbps SATA interface with Native Command Queuing promising, and Seagate promises it will outperform other traditional 7,200RPM 2.5-inch hard disk drives by a whopping 80 per cent.

With a pair of Momentus XT drives arranged in a RAID-0 array, you could come within touching distance of solid state drives in terms of performance - though power consumption will be much higher, something that isn’t always helpful in a portable device.

The Momentus XT comes with a five-year limited warranty. Neither the Onyx or the Momentus XT require any drivers, and both drives are compatible with all recent operating systems.

Being the smaller, 2.5-inch variety of drive more usually seen in laptop computers, you will need an adaptor kit if you want to use the drives in a desktop machine.