Hybrid Drives - A Cost Effective SSD Alternative

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kingston SSDNow V Series 128 GB SATA 3 GB/s 2.5- Inch Solid State Drive SNV425-S2/128GBI've posted before about SSD's as an interesting way to boost your computers performance OS-wise. Well, a lot of people scoff at the high price versus the actual storage that SSD's offer. Seagate just came up with a viable alternative to you speed junkies out there with a major upside -- substantial storage.
Hybrid Drives have been around for a while. Windows Vista was actually launched with this technology as one of its optimization features along with ReadyBoost. With ReadyBoost, Windows will use a USB or other flash device to boot up faster, storing frequently used applications and data on the flash memory to make Vista boot faster. Hybrid drives work in a similar fashion by allotting flash memory built-in to the drive to store and deploy frequently used data. The result is faster boot times and near instant response when launching applications. Recent developments it SSD technology have overshadowed that, as a pure flash-based solution is definitely faster.

So it was a pleasant surprise to find Seagate actually moved forward in R&D and produced the Momentus XT, a hybrid notebook drive that bridges the performance difference between SSD's and spindle (mechanical) hard drives. I first saw a reference to this in Anandtech and read the spec sheets at Seagate. I saw the drives were available at Amazon and thought Seagate is pushing a whole-hearted marketing strategy to niche the Momentus XT as a value proposition (at least performance-wise) to SSD's.

Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB 7200RPM SATA 3Gb/s 32 MB Cache 2.5 Inch Solid State Hybrid Drive ST95005620AS-Bare DriveReading the Anandtech article, I wasn't convinced it would be as fast. They revealed it was apparent from the first boot, as the drive had to "learn" what data the user usually launched to have that reside in the faster flash memory before you saw a performance boost. Seagate calls this Adaptive Memory technology. Anandtech’s testing revealed it really did perform halfway between a super-fast SSD and a mechanical hard drive once it "learned". Boot time increased and so did launching apps. The drive learned fast too. They tested its best speed just after 2 reboots.

But OverclockersClub.com posted benchmarks that really blew me away. They achieved near-parity performance with SSD's by RAIDing 2 Momentus XT drives. It makes a whole lot of sense once you think about it. Using RAID 1 to write simultaneously to 2 drives will practically double the speed of the whole set-up.

Now say you have a desktop that could use a speed boost. Get 2 250 GB Momentus XT drives, mount them using bracket adapter like the Silverstone SDP08 Bay Converter. That bracket allows you to mount 2 notebook drives and use just one 3.5 " drive bay in a desktop case. RAID the pair and use it as a boot drive and you'll have spent $223.23 on it. Compare that to $244.73 you have to pony up if you go with a Kingston SSDNow V Series 128 GB, one of the cheaper SSD options. That's almost equal performance speed and almost four times more storage for the same price. The price difference is even more obscene if you go for the 320GB or 500GB Momentus XT’s and compare that to equivalent capacity SSD’s.
SILVERSTONE SDP08 3.5 to 2 X 2.5-Inch Bay Converter
These Hybrid Drives are definitely a win-win proposition for anyone seeking a performance boost on their computer without it costing a small fortune. All I need now is to convince the missus this is a ‘need’ and not a ‘want’ upgrade :-)

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