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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  • madwolfa - Friday, March 01, 2013 - link

    Why don't they release something like Apple Fusion Drive? Make a real SSD + HDD combo in one 2.5" case. Reply
  • dilidolo - Friday, March 01, 2013 - link

    That is what they are heading to. No more 7200 rotation only disk
    5400 rpm disk + SSD cache.
    Reply
  • melgross - Sunday, March 03, 2013 - link

    Again, Apple doesn't use a cache. It's different, and requires a much bigger SSD. Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Monday, March 04, 2013 - link

    Why isn't Apple's fusion drive a cache? It's doing the same thing as the Seagate Momentus XT and Intel's RST do. It's a bigger SSD, granted, but the same thing is happening under the hood. Frequently used files are moved to the flash, while large or infrequently used files are pushed off to the mechanical drive. Reply
  • p_giguere1 - Monday, March 04, 2013 - link

    Because files aren't duplicated onto the SSD, they're moved. Data is either on the hard drive or on the SSD, not on both as with traditional caching.

    As a result, you end up with the total storage capacity of both the HDD and SDD combined, not just the HDD.
    Reply
  • TSkyline5 - Friday, March 01, 2013 - link

    This doesn't surprise me. I've read reviews where the performance of higher-capacity 5400 RPM 2.5-inch drives approached that of 7200 RPM drives due to higher storage density per platter. The still-increasing storage capacities/platter densities of mechanical 2.5-inch drives should help narrow the performance gap between 5400 RPM drives and 7200 RPM drives. When you take the lower price points of solid state drives into account, 7200 RPM drives become harder and harder to justify, particularly since (if I remember correctly) 7200 RPM drives use more energy. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Friday, March 01, 2013 - link

    That might be the case if you had a big enough discrepancy in storage, but we don't, comparing the largest 5400 to the largest 7200RPM drives. Like 5400 now is at 1TB, and 750GB for 7200RPM, last I checked at least. 7200RPM has faster seeks, reads, and writes, in any situation. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Friday, March 01, 2013 - link

    This is kind of freaky, BUT the way it reads they're not really discontinuing hybrid drives (i.e. the XT and it's decendants).

    The way things are now, there's not much of a price penalty going with the XT, which has a larger RAM + flash cache, so maybe that's all this means.

    As for the XT not providing SSD performance, well...that depends. I actually notice a bigger difference going from a regular 7200RPM drive (let alone a 5400RPM drive) to an XT than from an XT to an SSD. Why? The XT for me hacks boot times to 1/3. A quality SSD maybe chops off another few seconds. And once thing's are in RAM, it doesn't make much difference. I was actually more impressed with my first XT than my first SSD as a result.

    I'd be really disappointed if they actually got rid of 7200RPM drives too because in a dual drive bay system, I'd still much prefer a 7200RPM drive for my media than 5400RPM. And unless you're willing to shell out $350 or more for 512GB, you probably can't go with an SSD in a single drive bay system, unless you have incredibly modest storage needs.
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Saturday, March 02, 2013 - link

    I've been pretty happy with the XT, although not enough to use it in my work laptop. I tried it out, but it wasn't enough "SSD-like". However I moved it to a desktop, and it worked out great there. So good, I bought another one for another desktop. They definitely have their place if you need more space than an SSD, and don't want to deal with a separate OS drive. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Saturday, March 02, 2013 - link

    Momentus XT will still be around, don't worry :-) Reply

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