Final Words

Seagate's Momentus XT should become the standard hard drive in any notebook shipped. The biggest problem I have with using any brand new machine, regardless of how fast it is, is that it never feels fast because it usually has a HDD and not an SSD. While the Momentus XT isn't quite as fast as an SSD, it's a significant improvement over the mechanical drives found in notebooks today.

In many cases the Momentus XT performs like a VelociRaptor, but in a lower power, quieter package. The impact of adding just a small amount of SLC NAND is tremendous. I wonder what kept Western Digital from sticking some NAND on its VelociRaptor instead of giving us the lackluster upgrade we got earlier this year.

The potential for hybrid drives continues to be huge, what Seagate has shown here is that with a minimal amount of NAND you can achieve some tremendous performance gains. There's no reason for any performance oriented mechanical drive to ship without at least some small amount of NAND on board. There's also much room for Seagate to innovate. We could see drives with more NAND or truly hybrid drives that provide read and write caching in NAND.

Compared standard 2.5" drives, the Momentus XT will set you back an additional $50 - 90 depending on the capacity point. The added cost is absolutely worth it. It's still a lot cheaper than an SSD since we're in the sub-$0.31 per GB area while SSDs sell in the range of $2 - $4 per GB.

If you're not going to buy an SSD for your notebook, then definitely go for the Momentus XT. I'd almost go as far as to say it's a great option for desktop users but unless you're on a budget you're probably better served by a small SSD + 3.5" drive on the desktop.

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  • dannysauer - Saturday, July 2, 2011 - link

    That's a terrible metaphor. A "100 shot" of nitrous is called a "100 shot" because it's good for 100 horsepower. Dyno tests on properly tuned vehicles repeatedly confirm that the advertised power change is usually within a few HP of the documentation.

    Now that I think about it, I guess it's inadvertently a good metaphor for poorly understanding technology. :)

    In any event, you have a good point that it's deceptive to market this as a "hybrid". It's just a regular drive with a large intelligent cache. They should just say "now! with adaptive caching!" or something.
  • Chloiber - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    In the beginning you said you would use a Patriot Inferno, but on most benchmarks it says "Agility 2" ?!

    This drive should be a perfect upgrade for all notebook users who think SSDs are too expensive or who need more space than the usual 40-120GB of SSDs.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    I only used the Inferno for the new tests, the rest was existing data pulled out of Bench. However the two drives perform the same, they are both SF-1200 based 100GB drives with production firmware :)

    Take care,
  • Chloiber - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    Ah, no problem then, thought it's a copy&paste error :)
  • Aikouka - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    What I'm curious about is how this drive handles regularly used files that change somewhat often. Caching can be great for executables or libraries (DLLs, etc), given that they don't change often if at all. But what happens when you have files that are accessed during a specific task that may change every time you perform this task? You said that the algorithm doesn't work with writes, which if it understood what write was coming in, it could intercept and possibly alter the already cached data to the new value.

    This mostly came from a nerdy WoW example where while textures and such don't normally change too often, add-on settings can possibly change every time you load the game (and load-up can be pretty ardruous with a lot of add-ons). So, if these settings files are changing possibly every time, the cache values will be out of date and it'll have to use its poor Random Read rate to access the proper data.

    It's really just one drop in the bucket of the many examples you can think of where this drive wouldn't have a problem, but start-up time in WoW is one of the reasons why I went with the Intel X25-M to begin with... when I bought it, it was pretty much top notch in random read performance.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    As is the case with any cache there has to be some mechanism to invalidate data in the cache if the original data is modified. I believe that's what happens here. There's a table of LBAs that are cached and if one is modified then the cached version is immediately invalidated and/or updated.

    Take care,
  • Aikouka - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    Definitely true with cache invalidating.

    I think I was reading a bit too far into this line:

    "the Momentus XT however, the SLC NAND acts exclusively as a read cache - writes never touch the NAND."

    and considering that it meant that the caching wouldn't access incoming writes for validating cached data. It sounded odd that way as it'd make caching an absolute sleeping bear of a problem. I'm assuming the statement is meant to be taken literally -- the drive simply doesn't write cache to help speed up writes.

    Thanks for the clarification on a sleepy Monday morning and bienvendo!
  • siberian 3 - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    Hi Anand do we know what will happen if the NAND fail and not the mechanical part of the drive?
    Will the user lose the DATA it is on the drive
  • jaydee - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    Anand, how do you think this would compare if they chose to do, say 8GB of MLC instead of 4GB of SLC? Surely it would bring the cost down, and I would think the double cache would be more important than the decrease in speed?
  • Chloiber - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    It has also something to do with reliability/lifetime, not just performance.

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