Seagate Momentus-XT Solid State Hybrid Drive E-mail
Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage
Written by Olin Coles   
Monday, 24 May 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
Seagate Momentus-XT Solid State Hybrid Drive
Features and Specifications
First Look: Seagate Momentus-XT
SSD Testing Methodology
AS-SSD Benchmark
ATTO Disk Benchmark
CrystalDiskMark 3.0 Tests
Iometer IOPS Performance
EVEREST Disk Benchmark
Real-World Performance
HDD vs Hybrid Drive vs SSD
Seagate Momentus-XT Conclusion

HDD vs Hybrid Drive vs SSD

It's been the same argument for over two years now: SSDs offer the best performance, but HDDs still offer the best capacity and price. Now that Solid State Hybrid drives are available, that argument changes. While the optimal blend of bandwidth speed, operational performance, storage capacity, and value has yet to be delivered, Seagate's Momentus-XT is an ultra-affordable start in the right direction. Admittedly, our benchmarks are a poor substitution for real-world user experience, and the Momentus-XT isn't designed to move large files at SSD speeds. Installed as a primary drive for notebook and value-conscious enthusiasts, the Seagate Momentus-XT Solid State Hybrid Drive delivers up to 500GB storage capacity while starting Windows and opening programs like an SSD.

The last days of old technology are always better than the first days of new technology. Never has this saying been more true than with the topic of storage technology, specifically in regard to the introduction of Solid State Drive technology a few years ago. The only things standing in the way of widespread Solid State Drive (SSD) adoption are high storage capacity and affordable price of Hard Disk Drive (HDD) devices. Because NAND flash-based SSD technology costs more per gigabyte of capacity than traditional magnetic hard drives, the benefits of immediate response time, transfer speeds, and operational input/output performance often get overlooked. Like most consumer products, it wasn't a question of how much improvement was evident in the new technology, it was price. I'll discuss product costs more in just a moment, but for now consider how each new series of SSD product employs greater performance than the one before it, convincing would-be consumers into waiting for the right time to buy.

There's also a gray area surrounding SSD performance benchmarks that has me concerned. You might not know this, but SSDs can be very temperamental towards the condition of their flash NAND. My experience testing dozens of Solid State Drives is that a freshly cleaned device (using an alignment tool) will always outperform the same device once it's been formatted and used. A perfect example are Indilinx Barefoot-based SSDs, which suffers severely degraded performance when writing to 'dirty' flash NAND. The reason that all of this will matter is simple: the performance results reported to consumers in product reviews (such as this one) often report the very best performance scores, and the process used to obtain these results is not applicable to real-world usage. This is where garbage collection techniques such as TRIM become important, so that end-users will experience the same performance levels as we do in our tests.

Manufacturer Indilinx Intel JMicron Samsung Toshiba SandForce Marvell
Controller IDX110M00-FC PC29AS21AA0 JMF612 S3C29RBB01-YK40 T6UG1XBG SandForce SF-1200 88SS9174-BJP2
Max Cache 64MB 16MB 128KB+256MB 128MB 128MB Integrated 128MB
Max Capacity 256GB 160GB 256GB 256GB 512GB 512GB 256GB
Read/Write Speed 230/170 MBps 250/70 MBps 250/200 MBps 220/200 MBps 230/180 MBps 260/260 MBps 355/215 MBps
Interface SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-III 6-Gbps
Garbage Collection GC/TRIM None TRIM GC/TRIM GC/TRIM GC/TRIM GC/TRIM

Chart By:

BmR

Garbage Collection (GC) is the current solution for keeping flash NAND in 'clean' condition, while maintaining optimal performance. Windows 7 offers native TRIM support, and most retail SSDs also include this special GC function or at least offer a firmware update that brings the drive up-to-date. For anyone using an Operating System or SSD that does not offer Garbage Collection functionality, you'll be using 'dirty' flash NAND modules and suffering sub-optimal performance for each write-to request. A few SSD manufacturers offers free tools to help restore peak-level performance by scheduling GC to 'clean' used NAND sectors, but these tools add excessive wear to the NAND the same way disk defragmenting tools would. SLC flash modules may resist wear much better than MLC counterparts, but come at the expense of increased production cost. The best solution is a more durable NAND module that offers long-lasting SLC benefits at the cost of MLC construction. Adoption is further stalled because keen consumers aware of this dilemma further continue their delay into the SSD market.

Getting back to price, the changes in cost per gigabyte have come as often as changes to the technology itself. At their inception, high-performance models such the 32GB MemoRight GT cost $33 per gigabyte while the entry-level 32GB Mtron MOBI 3000 sold for $14 per gigabyte. While an enjoyable decline in NAND component costs forced consumer SSD prices down low in 2009, the price of SSD products has been on the rise during 2010. Nevertheless, Solid State Drives continue to fill store shelves despite price or capacity, and there are a few SSD products now costing only $2.03 per gigabyte. Although the performance may justify the price, which is getting dangerously close to the $0.79 per gigabyte for the WD VelociRaptor hard drive, costs may still close some buyers out of the market. Price notwithstanding, the future is in SSD technology - or possibly a SSD hybrid - and the day when HDDs are obsolete is nearing.



 

Comments 

 
# Thanks again for the exceptional reviewK Gregory 2010-05-24 15:44
Very complete, and the forward 'honesty' is welcomed. I still have some skepticism about the product. I think Seagate 'skimped' on technology that could have been included in order to 'milk' cash that this product line/type can bring in as far as possible.

However, I'll look to see a true 'desktop' release hybrid configuration to confirm or unseat my skepticism. 6Gb/s interface, 64MB cache, 10k speed, Nand that offers both read and write benefits and perhaps even dual porting -now that the 6Gb/s interface offers the signal strength to meet such a feature without too many issues.

Time will tell. Again great review.
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# A Mistake!Rahul 2010-05-24 17:44
According to marketing I think that Seagate Adaptive Technology focused ONLY on Real World Uses and not BENCHMARKS. So, I think the 1st and 2nd Con should not have been put here.
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# RE: A Mistake!Olin Coles 2010-05-24 18:25
As I mentioned several times throughout the article, the Adaptive Memory technology does not apply to all benchmarks (it does apply to some). I suggest that you re-read the article, since you've missed several points I've made.
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# MicrokingRyan 2010-05-24 22:34
Would like to know more about these hybrids?

1.) Can you defrag them? Do you need a special tool? Can you damage the SSD portion by defragmenting the drive?

2.) What about Raiding these drives? Is is possible and what should be concerned with? Can you defrag them Raided?

3.)Special drivers? Does the OS matter with regard to performance?

I wonder how these would perform in a server environment raided?
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# RE: MicrokingOlin Coles 2010-05-25 06:59
Consumers should consider these drives as standard hard disks, with the ability to cache the most-used applications into the SSD portion. You can/should defragment this drive, because all of the data is written to the hard disk and not the SSD. There are no special drivers needed or used.

As for RAID, we only received the single unit. I don't wish to speculate on how the Momentus XT would perform in RAID without more experience witht he product.
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# RaidAdam Postma 2010-05-26 08:44
@ Ryan
I read a different review and RAID is definitely possible and brings the performance even closer to SSD levels. Because they are just normal Hard Drives to the operating system, you can do anything with them that you can with a ordinary Hard Drive.

Defragging won't damage the SSD portion, but in case something does damage the SSD portion seagate said your drive should still operate as an ordinary hard drive.
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# RE: Seagate Momentus-XT Solid State Hybrid DriveDual 2010-06-25 00:29
"Each cloned drive was restarted three times prior to testing (Seagate Momentus-XT received five restarts to ensure Adaptive Memory would utilize SSD functionality)": doesn't this point to a potential problem in that real-world use of a drive involves a constantly-changing array of tasks? I only reboot my CPU (Mac) about every two weeks or so. The hybrid can't be expected to 'memorize' launch data for the scores of apps I use, or the other tasks a hybrid can potentially accelerate.

If 'learning' is so important for these drives, that fact must have a significant impact on dynamic, real-world performance.
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# RE: RE: Seagate Momentus-XT Solid State Hybrid DriveOlin Coles 2010-06-25 19:42
If you want immediate gratification without a learning curve, there's a solution called the SSD. It's more expensive and has much less capacity, but it's faster every time. For everyone else who needs storage capacity and is willing to wait for the second or third time a program is accessed for it to be 'learned and cached', the hybrid SSD is ideal.
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# RE: RE: RE: Seagate Momentus-XT Solid State Hybrid DriveDual 2010-06-28 01:18
Thanks Assuming you're not being snarky, yes I know about SSD's. The reason for my comment was twofold: AFAIK (I do have a problem with skimming at times) the performance hit caused by the learning curve is not discussed in the review, and neither is the cache depth a hybrid drive has to support multiple applications and tasks (in other words: having launched app X 5 times to teach the drive, how long before that information is wiped by other activity?)

Extrapolating from the article, and perhaps in error, it seems to me that a hybrid drive best might support a user who engages in repetitive work, and that someone with a more varied approach to his computer and work life would not see much benefit from a hybrid. Even having to consider factors like this when considering a storage device is NEW, and I feel deserves some discussion.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Seagate Momentus-XT Solid State Hybrid DriveOlin Coles 2010-06-28 06:50
I'm also curious as to how much 'learned' information is stored on the drive. It's got a 4GB SSD buffer, so I imagine that up to 4GB of program files (whatever files are used to operate the application) can be stored before a lesser-used program is removed.
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# 500g Momentus xtDallas Michaels 2011-01-18 10:20
I picked one up for my qosmio x305 q705 laptop. I read a few articals on the tech behind this drive but yours has been the most informative. My guess was that the 4g of ssd would be used for cache, my hope was that the user could define how to use that part of the drive. I would think that using two thirds of it as a ssd paging file and the rest as shared video memory for the TurboCache tech that is used by the 9700m video solution would give a nice boost to performance. But I have not found a way to partition that part of the drive or if it is possible or plausible. Like I stated earlier I didn't really understand the drives tech untile I read your srtical.
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# Why IOMeter only test 120 secondsAndy 2010-06-29 08:43
Does anyone konw why IOMeter test only test 120 seconds?
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# RE: Why IOMeter only test 120 secondsOlin Coles 2010-06-29 08:45
You can set it for as long as you want, but SSD results will usually be the same.
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# We need more reviews like this.Sil 2010-06-30 01:33
Great Article, well done.
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# A classic Seagate move..... sucker in the people who know just enough to be DangerousBigSteve 2010-07-08 17:38
I don't think Seagate REALLY gets it (or at least their marking dept). The whole idea of SSDs is not JUST about the speed, but also reliability (like NO MOVING PARTS, Seagate's problem area), AS WELL AS less power & heat. This abomination (IMHO) of an SSD, is like calling a jet powered car a "space shuttle hybrid".
It's a souped-up HDD, but still ONLY a HDD!
Ever wonder why Seagate offers such long warranties (5 yrs on new drives) and still so cheap???
It's ALL marketing due to their LONG history of making CRAP. And then they went out and bought up other companies (like Maxtor) that actually had quality products and messed up their stuff.
Over the years (almost 20 now), I have had more Seagate failures than ALL OTHERS COMBINED (even the newer drives, that I couldn't talk people out of).
In short, I wouldn't buy (and recommend against) Seagate's REAL SSDs as they will LIKELY be the 1st SSDs to FAIL (IMHO)
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# RE: A classic Seagate move..... sucker in the people who know just enough to be DangerousOlin Coles 2010-07-08 17:42
I think you've got some misplaced anger there. For nearly the same price as a 2.5" notebook hard drive, people can improve their performance and retain large storage capacities. I'm a huge proponent of SSDs, but I'm not so in love with the technology that I can't see it's shortcomings.
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# All About ExpectationsChuck from Columbus 2010-07-26 07:37
I have had one of these drives in a Sony Vaio laptop for over a month and I am as pleased as I can be. I think part of the reason is because I think of it as an HDD rather than an SSD. Don't compare it to SSDs because that isn't what it is
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# RE: Seagate Momentus-XT Solid State Hybrid DriveSnappy 2010-09-09 18:45
Solid State Drive = Massive SD Card

If you plan to not use it as a primary HDD for any OS the SSD has tons of uses, mainly being a cheap expanded SD card for storage of your grandmas photos.

Nothing beats solid hilarity :)
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# NANDET 2011-10-12 16:15
Just wondering if you added DMA into the equation here ? I am sure you did, but in windows 7 and vista, the os has been known to disable SETMAX for DMA, and set it back to PIO - mode. This occurs supposedly because of a certain amount of read/write errors. When I have restarted my system though, it is enabled again. Wouldn't this have some effect on your testing ? There is a big difference between UDMA mode 6(ata -133) and DMA mode 0(ata -33). Also, correcting this I have peaked at 120 MB/s transferring a 1,47 GB .mkv file from my laptop to a seagate 5400 rpm 8 MB cache 2.5" internal harddisk in an external enclosure, which seems to defy all your benchmark testing.....
I do not know too much about harddisks, but I seem to be coming up with better results than prof. tests show - all the time.
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# BIOS SettingsWayne Bish 2011-11-03 09:26
SHould the Momentus XT be set to AHCI or IDE?
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# RE: BIOS SettingsOlin Coles 2011-11-03 09:37
If you're installing the Operating System for the first time, I would suggest AHCI mode. If you've already got an OS installed, sometimes switching from IDE to AHCI will cause crashes because the driver was not initially installed. It doesn't hurt to switch it over to AHCI, and just switch it back to IDE if that causes crashes.
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# RE: RE: BIOS SettingsWayne Bish 2011-11-03 10:31
Thanks for your response. Was just trying to find out which has better overall performance.
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# RE: RE: RE: BIOS SettingsOlin Coles 2011-11-03 11:01
See here: benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=505
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: BIOS SettingsWayne Bish 2011-11-03 12:05
Thanks for the link (and further clarification/information). I just added a Crucial C300. Have had one plaguing problem; system won't power down. After clicking the "shut-down" button, windows goes through the normal process and shuts down, but the fans are still spinning and power is still on. Any thoughts on how to fix? Thanks for your help.
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# RE:SSD is as reliable as HddJOhnDekker 2012-09-16 06:54
##zdnet.com/blog/storage/ssds-no-more-reliable-than-hard-drives/1483

you can do a search, SSD can be as reliable as HDD
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