Seagate Momentus XT: The Best of Both Worlds?

Storage
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Seagate Momentus XT 500GB: Hybrid Laptop Drive

September 12, 2010 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Seagate Momentus XT ST95005620AS
500GB 2.5" HDD
Sample Supplier
Street Price
US$130

It has often been said that the biggest bottleneck in modern computer systems is the hard disk drive. Over time, hard drive interfaces have changed, areal density has increased, and recording strategies have improved, but the inside of a modern hard drive is essentially the same as one from decades past. Platters are spun at high speed on a spindle with data being read and written using a head attached to an actuator arm, a digital system operating in a method not unlike the very analog vinyl record player.

Solid state storage was supposed to change all this — the promise of almost instantaneous access to all your data was supposed to save the modern PC from being dragged down by the aging sluggish mechanical hard drive. Unfortunately this dream is still far from realized, bogged down at the moment by economics, manufacturing limitations, and of course the high demand for flash memory in other markets. As a result, the current crop of SSDs, though faster than HDDs, are also many times more expensive per byte.



The Momentus XT 500GB.

As we wait for the solid state revolution to gain more traction, Seagate has produced an interesting bastard child that may sate our current appetite for fast but affordable storage. Momentus XT is a line of notebook drives from Seagate with both physical disks and flash memory collaborating together. Available in 250, 320, and 500GB varieties, they are essentially the first consumer hybrid hard drives, part mechanical and part solid state.

Our sample is the 500GB part, affectionately referred to in enthusiast circles by its model number: ST95005620AS. The physical portion of the drive consists of two 250GB platters spinning at 7200 RPM with 32MB of cache. The solid state portion of the drive is comprised of 4GB of solid state SLC NAND flash, a very small capacity for a drive, but a huge amount for additional cache. The XT features something called Adaptive Memory which decides which files get sent to NAND flash for quicker retrieval based on what applications are used most frequently. In theory what you do most on your PC will gradually speed up over time if you use a Momentus XT.

Seagate Momentus XT: Key Features & Benefits
(from product overview)
FEATURE & BRIEF Our Comment
Solid state hybrid drive delivers SSD-like performance with hard drive capacity options. The performance claim seems over-hyped but we can't argue about capacity. SSDs in the same price range as the 500GB Momentus XT hold 64GB at most.
Adaptive Memory™ technology customizes performance by aligning to user needs for overall improved system response. Makes sense in theory, but how much of a difference can it really make in real life?
80 percent faster performance than traditional 7200-RPM drives in PCMark Vantage benchmark scores. Basing speed on a single benchmark is never a great idea.
Low heat and vibration—quiet operation without giving up storage capacity and affordability. There is no reason the Momentus XT should be louder or quieter than the already fairly quiet Momentus 7200.4.
OS and application-independent — designed for any SATA standard laptop PC. Good.
Seagate® 5-Year Limited Warranty 2 years longer than industry standard.

Seagate Momentus XT 500GB: Specifications
(from the product data sheet)
Model Number ST95005620AS
Capacity 500GB
Cache 32MB
Interface SATA 3Gb/s NCQ
Spindle Speed 7,200 rpm
Weight 110 grams (0.238 lb)
Power: Idle / Seek (Typical) 0.8 W / 1.554 W
Acoustics: Idle / Seek (Typical) 2.3 bels / 2.5 bels


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