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Momentus XT Review: Seagate's Marriage Of The HDD And Flash Memory

Momentus XT Review: Seagate's Marriage Of The HDD And Flash Memory

This new hybrid hard drive combines up to 500GB of storage and 4GB of flash memory to maximize performance. But does it have what it takes to place in between traditional hard drives and flash-based storage? We test on a desktop and notebook to find out.

The idea isn’t particularly new: why not combining a non-volatile, high-speed silicon memory with rotating storage to combine the best of both worlds, meaning maximum speed and maximum storage capacity? Hybrid hard drives (H-HDDs) arrived in 2007, and they disappeared soon after because there was hardly any real benefit. Today, Seagate unveils a new type of hybrid that is similar to the initial H-HDD concept. However, the new Momentus XT does not rely on operating system support, and hence should be more versatile.

Momentus XT is a Hard Drive!

You can combine flash memory and a physical hard drive in one of two ways: either add rotating storage to flash memory or vice versa. Seagate did the latter, and placed 4GB of flash memory onto its Momentus 7200 2.5” hard drive design. Of course, the implication is that, in a worst-case scenario, this drive will behave and perform like a conventional hard drive. This isn’t bad, but it’s important to keep in mind as we move through the benchmarks.

The Solution?

Despite all of the advantages that exist in theory, H-HDDs were frankly a disappointment when they first emerged. Therefore, Seagate has to be given credit for launching a product into this still-undefined market space. On the one side there are flash SSDs, which deliver maximum performance at significant cost. And on the other side you can get 2.5” hard drives at up to 750GB, but these can't even come close to the performance experience you get with a flash-based SSD. For the folks in the middle, a hybrid type really appears to be the way to go.

Seagate made sure that the Momentus XT is suitable for seamlessly replacing an existing hard drive design. It looks and behaves like any other 2.5” hard drive (9.5 mm z-height), it requires similar power, and it has a SATA 3Gb/s interface. We also like that Seagate adds its five-year warranty on top, which we believe is important for a new product that still has to find its way. Let’s get started.

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  • 0 Hide
    ksampanna , 24 May 2010 23:37
    Well that was a bit of an anti-climax.
  • 1 Hide
    aje21 , 24 May 2010 23:56
    So they managed to repeat the failures of the last attempt at hybrid drives then?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 25 May 2010 15:27
    Anti-climax does not even begin to cover the disappointment.
    I had high hopes for longer battery life, but without improvements
    there is no scenario I can think of where this drive has any advantage.
  • 0 Hide
    devilxc , 25 May 2010 17:58
  • 1 Hide
    Silmarunya , 25 May 2010 22:11
    At Anand they reran every benchmark until the background optimization was done. At that point, it significantly outperformed any other 2,5" HDD. Its performance was just about exactly halfway between a HDD and a true SSD, which is quite good...
  • 0 Hide
    Micropat , 26 May 2010 03:59
    What's the price of these things anyway? If they're not much more expensive they might be worth it if you're in the market for a new drive. I wouldn't replace a perfectly good drive with one of these. The performance increase is way too small for that.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 26 May 2010 04:38
    Isn't the point of this drive that the most used applications will make more use of the SSD, to 'learn' the user? And that can't really be tested effectively.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 27 May 2010 18:05
    I just wish they were doing an IDE flavoured set of these drives (or just the 500gb one).... My laptop is rather long in the tooth but still does everything I want it to do so have no plans on replacing it. However storage space is always an issue and the speed bump would be a great boost.

    Yes it would be handy if they gave some extra battery life, but really thats not an issue for me as my battery is dead, and it lives off the mains anyway.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 29 May 2010 15:00
    This is stupid. None of these test real world performance of often used programs, which is what the drive is good at. Look at any other sites who actually test the drive correctly. From Boot to Windows, opening web browser, office, and other commonly used files. You will see the performance is well worth the slightly higher price.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 30 May 2010 02:17
    How about boot performance after a couple boots?
  • 0 Hide
    Silvune , 30 May 2010 09:23
    As others have said, according to benchmarks at other sites this drive is much faster for booting and application loading, much more like an SSD and having a good amount of storage. Maybe it isn't quite worth the 90 quid it came up on google shopping as, but it's still a nice improvement in some areas once it's gotten used to doing it.
  • 0 Hide
    bobwya , 3 June 2010 03:59
    How can you review this drive if you don't even understand how it works!! The site was much more informative. The drive is no SSD but neither is it a turkey like this review implies.

    The 4Gb SLC NAND flash storage area is used as a read cache which mirrors frequently accessed data from the rotating harddisk media. Therefore you must _rerun_ benchmarks to see the access time improvements (the initial runs/accesses will be at the speed of the conventional harddisk).