June 14, 2010, 10:01 PM — Seagate Technology this month offered up its second attempt at a drive that combines NAND flash storage capacity with traditional magnetic spinning disk media. The goal is simple: better performance at a lower cost.
Seagate has yet to put out a consumer-class solid state drive (SSD), so this is its closest attempt to hit the attributes that have made SSDs popular in the last couple of years.
The first attempt failed miserably. The Momentus 5400 PSD, or Power Savings Drive had a spindle speed of 5,400rpm and only 256MB of NAND flash capacity. (Seagate had placed its marketing bullseye on power savings, not performance.) The fact is, even a full-fledged SSD doesn't deliver power savings for consumer-type products that's worth writing home about, so charging extra for the Momentus 5400 PSD didn't go over well.
In contrast, the Seagate Momentus XT is a 7200rpm Serial ATA hard disk drive that adds 4GB of SSD capacity and 32MB of DDR3 cache memory to boost performance on several levels.
Oddly, Seagate never offered its own benchmark test results on the Momentus XT when it arrived. But, the company talked a lot about performance, so I was looking forward to testing the drive's read/write and boot times. My hope was that the XT would match SSD read/write speeds and offer consumers a lower-cost option to flash drives.
What I found is that the XT doesn't match today's popular SSDs for read speeds, or most SSDs when it comes to write performance. It does come close to today's fastest hard disk drives for read speeds and it beats them -- as well as some SSDs - on write performance -- and, more importantly, on price.
For my tests, I used a Dell Latitude D830 laptop with a 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor running Windows XP Professional SP2. I load a full compliment of applications on the laptop, such as Adobe Photoshop, AOL Instant Messenger, Windows Office Professional 2007 and Excel, along with a slew of file folders, in order to add reality to the test bed.
Mark Wojtasiak, senior product marketing manager at Seagate, said the company's own tests showed that their Momentus XT boots within five seconds of an SSD's boot time, and is 15 seconds faster than Western Digital's 300GB Velociraptor drive. That statement is accurate.
I found the boot-up time for this drive pretty impressive - 18 seconds. But it lagged on reboot, which took 43 seconds. Overall, though, these times compare favorably with other SSDs and hard drives I've tested (see results below).