Earlier today X-bit Labs reported that Seagate will stop the production of their 7200RPM 2.5" drives by the end of this year and I just got a confirmation from Seagate that this is really the case. Seagate currently offers four 7200RPM 2.5" lineups: Momentus 7200.4, 7200.2, Momentus Thin 7200, and Momentus XT. The latter is Seagate's hybrid drive, which couples the spinning platters with 8GB of SLC NAND for caching purposes.

The move makes sense when looking at the market's state. 7200RPM mobile hard drives have always been a premium product and are mostly found in high-end laptops or built-to-order configurations. Due to the decline in SSD prices over the last few years, the market for faster hard drives has quickly faded away because users seeking for performance have opted for SSDs instead of 7200RPM hard drives. While 7200RPM 2.5" hard drives are still significantly cheaper per GB than SSDs, even a small (32-128GB) SSD will provide better overall performance when used as an OS and applications drive, and high-end laptops can often be configured with dual-drives to overcome the capacity issue (especially with mSATA around or by removing the optical drive).

As an intermediate solution, quite a few laptop OEMs also offer at least some sort of flash based storage in their higher-end products nowadays, usually in the form of a small mSATA caching SSD. 5400RPM hard drives are fast enough when the most frequently stored data is stored in an SSD and draw less power so they are more optimal as secondary storage.  

Seagate won't depart the performance hard drive market as they will focus on hybrid drives (SSHDs). Ultimately I believe this is a better choice because we still haven't really seen a great hybrid drive and the market for hybrid drives is definitely bigger and more future-proof than 7200RPM hard drives. While the first and second generation Momentus XTs have been a good start, 4-8GB of NAND isn't enough to provide the real SSD experience. There is hope that with the discontinuation of 7200RPM mobile hard drives, Seagate will put more effort into the Momentus XT. Personally I would like to see multiple SKUs with varying amounts of NAND to cater to the mainstream market as well as the high-end market where users are expecting more SSD-like performance.

Seagate doesn't have a consumer SSD lineup, so the Momentus XT is a crucial product for Seagate in order to stay in the high-end, higher-profit consumer storage market. The question is whether they will be able to make a hybrid drive a more attractive option than a caching mSATA/M.2 SSD with a conventional hard drive. Given the current pricing and the upgrade path offered by mSATA/M.2, plus the fact that 20-32GB caching SSDs with Intel's Smart Response Technology clearly outperform the current Momentus XT offerings, Seagate has their work cut out for them. In another five years, short of a new explosion in storage intensive files, we will likely reach the point where everything becomes pure SSD because the cost and performance will be better than any conventional or hybrid solutions.

Source: X-bit Labs

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  • phoible_123 - Friday, March 01, 2013 - link

    Yeah, but 5400 with a reasonable-sized SSD cache is close to as fast as an SSD (take a look at Apple's Fusion Drive for an example).

    Seagate could replace the 7200 rpm XTs with 5400 and a larger cache, and they would probably outperform the current XT.
    Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Friday, March 01, 2013 - link

    Yes, I wonder if this is true. Would performance be significantly impacted if the Momentus XT drives used 5400rpm hard drives? Reply
  • phoible_123 - Friday, March 01, 2013 - link

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/6679/a-month-with-ap... Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Friday, March 01, 2013 - link

    I was thinking of comparing a solution using 7200rpm drives to something identical except for using 5400rpm drives. I would expect that the larger the cache, the less the spindle speed matters, but that's just speculation.

    I still liked this gem, "I’m personally a much bigger fan of going all solid state and manually segmenting your large media files onto HDD arrays, but perhaps that’s me being set in my ways (or just me being right, not sure which one)." That alone made it worth a quick reread.
    Reply
  • Alexvrb - Sunday, March 03, 2013 - link

    Whenever your cache does fail you, or just when loading/transferring data that is never supposed to be cached in the first place, it's going to be that much more painful when it has to fall back to the 5400RPM platters. If you use an SSD in your desktop, do you want your secondary drive to be a slow-as-dirt 5400RPM 2.5" laptop drive? But in a laptop with one drive bay, the only way to get both decently fast mechanical speeds for mass storage, and fast speeds on your most common files, is a hybrid with platters spinning at 7200RPM.

    One advantage of Momentus XT over other solutions is that it's completely software agnostic. It's all done internally and as far as the OS knows it's just a dumb mechanical drive. The competing devices with more advanced, larger caches use SSD controllers and are a less eloquent blend of hardware and software to make it function as one drive, not unlike caching with a seperate drive. Either way you still would suffer more if you had to fall back to an even-slower 5400RPM mechanical solution for large files that aren't cached.

    At this point I almost feel like they should have gone the opposite direction and discontinued 5400RPM drives instead. :P
    Reply
  • Wolfpup - Friday, March 01, 2013 - link

    I think so yes, as the XT when it's not pulling from cache is still the fastest mechanical notebook drive (even faster than the normal Seagate 7200RPM models as it has 2x the RAM cache too). Plus writes aren't cached.

    Now...boost the SLC flash enough, like maybe 128GB up from 8GB and it might be different, but the original 4GB cache model, while that doesn't sound like much, has a huge impact.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Sunday, March 03, 2013 - link

    Fastest mechanical drive for Seagate, I'm pretty sure the Scorpio Black is faster for HDD functions. But the flash is well worth it imo, as a XT 750 owner. Reply
  • melgross - Saturday, March 02, 2013 - link

    Apple doesn't use a caching solution. It's totally different, and requires an SSD that's at least 128GB. It's much better in performance than a caching solution. Reply
  • tipoo - Sunday, March 03, 2013 - link

    Well, if by "hybrid" you mean a flash component big enough to be a standalone SSD by itself. Reply
  • colinstu - Friday, March 01, 2013 - link

    7200rpm drives in laptops were always super slow feeling. 5400 is even worse, but it's not worth it. Some kind of well-implemented hybrid drive solution or all out SSD is the best way to go if someone wants speed, want's some REAL speed. Reply

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