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

SSD Testing Methodology

Solid State Drives have traveled a long winding course to finally get where they are today. Up to this point in technology, there have been several key differences separating Solid State Drives from magnetic rotational Hard Disk Drives. While the DRAM-based buffer size on desktop HDDs has recently reached 32 MB and is ever-increasing, there is still a hefty delay in the initial response time. This is one key area in which flash-based Solid State Drives continually dominates because they lack moving parts to "get up to speed".

However the benefits inherent to SSDs have traditionally fallen off once the throughput begins, even though data reads or writes are executed at a high constant rate whereas the HDD tapers off in performance. This makes the average transaction speed of a SSD comparable to the data burst rate mentioned in HDD tests, albeit usually lower than the HDD's speed.

Comparing a Solid State Disk to a standard Hard Disk Drives is always relative; even if you're comparing the fastest rotational spindle speeds. One is going to be many times faster in response (SSDs), while the other is usually going to have higher throughput bandwidth (HDDs). Additionally, there are certain factors which can affect the results of a test which we do our best to avoid.

SSD Testing Disclaimer

Early on in our SSD coverage, Benchmark Reviews published an article which detailed Solid State Drive Benchmark Performance Testing. The research and discussion that went into producing that article changed the way we now test SSD products. Our previous perceptions of this technology were lost on one particular difference: the wear leveling algorithm that makes data a moving target. Without conclusive linear bandwidth testing or some other method of total-capacity testing, our previous performance results were rough estimates at best.

Our test results were obtained after each SSD had been prepared using DISKPART or Sanitary Erase tools. As a word of caution, applications such as these offer immediate but temporary restoration of original 'pristine' performance levels. In our tests, we discovered that the maximum performance results (charted) would decay as subsequent tests were performed. SSDs attached to TRIM enabled Operating Systems will benefit from continuously refreshed performance, whereas older O/S's will require a garbage collection (GC) tool to avoid 'dirty NAND' performance degradation.

It's critically important to understand that no software for the Microsoft Windows platform can accurately measure SSD performance in a comparable fashion. Synthetic benchmark tools such as HD Tach and PCMark are helpful indicators, but should not be considered the ultimate determining factor. That factor should be measured in actual user experience of real-world applications. Benchmark Reviews includes both bandwidth benchmarks and application speed tests to present a conclusive measurement of product performance.

Bandwidth Speed vs Operational Performance

As we've explained in our SSD Benchmark Tests: SATA IDE vs AHCI Mode guide, Solid State Drive performance revolves around two dynamics: bandwidth speed (MB/s) and operational performance (IOPS). These two metrics work together, but one is more important than the other. Consider this analogy: operational IOPS performance determines how much cargo a ship can transport in one voyage, and the bandwidth speed is to fast the ship moves. By understanding this and applying it to SSD storage, there is a clear importance set on each variable depending on the task at hand.

For casual users, especially those with laptop or desktop computers that have been upgraded to use an SSD, the naturally quick response time is enough to automatically improve the user experience. Bandwidth speed is important, but only to the extent that operational performance meets the minimum needs of the system. If an SSD has a very high bandwidth speed but a low operational performance, it will take longer to load applications and boot the computer into Windows than if the SSD offered a higher IOPS performance.

Test System

  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 (Intel X58-Express)
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-920 BX80601920 @ 2.667 GHz
  • System Memory: 6GB Triple-Channel DDR3 1600MHz CL6-6-6-18
  • SATA 3Gb/s Storage HBA: Integrated Intel ICH10R Controller
    • AHCI mode - Intel Rapid Storage Technology Driver 9.6.0.1014
  • SATA 6Gb/s Storage HBA: Integrated Marvell SE9128 Controller
    • AHCI mode - Marvell Magni Driver Marvell Magni Driver 1.0.0.1036
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate Edition 64-Bit

Drive Hardware Tested

The following storage hardware has been used in our benchmark performance testing, and may be included in portions of this article:

Test Tools

  • AS SSD Benchmark 1.4.3704.27281: Multi-purpose speed and operational performance test
  • ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.34: Spot-tests static file size chunks for basic I/O bandwidth
  • Iometer 2008.06.28 by Intel Corporation: Tests IOPS performance and I/O response time
  • Lavalys EVEREST Ultimate Edition 5.50: Disk Benchmark component tests linear read and write bandwidth speeds
  • CrystalDiskMark 3.0.0b by Crystal Dew World: Sequential speed benchmark spot-tests various file size chunks

Test Results Disclaimer

This article utilizes benchmark software tools to produce operational IOPS performance and bandwidth speed results. Each test was conducted in a specific fashion, and repeated for all products. These test results are not comparable to any other benchmark application, neither on this website or another, regardless of similar IOPS or MB/s terminology in the scores. The test results in this project are only intended to be compared to the other test results conducted in identical fashion for this article.



 

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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