Should You Care About Hybrid Hard Drives?


Our title asks the question of whether or not you should care about hybrid hard drives today. At this point I have to say "don’t bother." Although H-HDDs are still at the very beginning of their development and future versions with faster or more NV cache are likely to make a more substantial difference, our test results are straightforward on this early model. The performance benefits of the first H-HDDs using Windows Vista are small to nonexistent, and the battery life improvement could not convince us either.

Samsung’s HM16HJI delivers the performance level that we expect today from 5,400 RPM notebook drives. Its access time and transfer rates are average, though its conventional brother, the HM160JI, offers slightly better performance in our benchmark lineup.

We also did some battery testing and a Windows Vista startup time measurement to do justice to the H-HDD concept, without having an out-of-the-box battery runtime benchmark that would run under Windows Vista. While Vista boots much faster on the hybrid - 24 seconds instead of 32 seconds - the battery runtime improvement amounts to only 3%. We’re talking about just a few minutes even with high-capacity batteries of 60 Ah and up: reducing the display brightness by one step will roughly have the same impact. You might be able to squeeze out slightly better results if you use your notebook with a high-powered battery and do nothing but office work, but the promised runtime improvement of up to 10% clearly is way out of reach.

At the same time, we have to say that we didn’t encounter any difficulties working with the H-HDD. Windows Vista automatically detects and enables the NV cache feature, letting the operating system boot noticeably more quickly. The hybrid hard drive concept works, and I believe that there is a lot of room for improvement, but I would not pay any premium today to get an H-HDD today. Performance-hungry enthusiasts should wait for decent Flash-only hard drives; everyone else is better off extending battery runtime by using a notebook’s power saving options and by setting the display brightness to the minimum level you can get by with.

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