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Hybrid Storage Roundup: Seagate Momentus XT vs. OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid vs. Intel Z68

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Various

Boot Times, Pricing, and Conclusion

Boot Times

Boot times were stopwatch timed from the end of the POST process - after any option ROM prompts, present with both Z68 caching and the RevoDrive Hybrid. End time was upon the appearance of the Windows 7 Desktop. Caching was enabled just prior to first boot. For drives that permanently cache (Momentus XT), several virtual machines were repeatedly executed from the drive as to flush all OS data from the integrated SLC cache.

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First (uncached) boots all fell within a 10 second band of 40 seconds. These are typical HDD boot times. The Revo's 1TB HDD (uncached) and Momentus 7200.4 HDD maintain their speeds over succesive runs, while also demonstrating that OCZ's choice to go with a slower Toshiba unit puts it a bit behind Seagate when it comes to uncached accesses.

Things of course change after the first boot, when all Hybrid solutions quickly adapt and learn. Boot times then fall sharply. The clear winner here appears to be Z68 - a full 5 seconds faster than any other solution. OCZ's RevoDrive Hybrid lags in boot times, mostly due to the fact that it is the only solution here that remains uncached for a portion of the boot process. System boots begin solely on the HDD until Windows shifts to protected mode and uses the Dataplex caching driver. This transition takes place about 1/3rd into a typical Windows 7 boot.

Pricing / Specification Comparison

Street prices of all solutions as of this writing:

  • Intel SLC Larson Creek Cache 20GB - $110 ($5.50 / GB*) (must add HDD)
  • Seagate Momentus XT (G1) 500GB    - $140 ($0.28 / GB)
  • Seagate Momentus XT (G2) 750GB    - $240 ($0.32 / GB)
  • OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid 1TB                     - $495 ($0.49 / GB)

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Desktop and mobile Z68 mSATA equipped laptops will benefit from Intel RST caching. The Larson Creek cache tends to not be very popular, since the 40GB MLC variant can be used for the same purpose (and cost), and in many cases users will opt for the 80GB MLC model and skip caching entirely. I recommend users go with larger MLC units for caching purposes, as a very small capacity MLC unit will have a shorter lifetime when used for more demanding caching duties. For those with an Intel mSATA mobile platform that supports Rapid Response Technology, they can get the best results with one of the mSATA caches. Owners of Z68 desktop class motherboards can go for the cheapest 60GB SSD they can find (the max RST supports) and get many of the benefits without the need for Larson Creek.

Owners of laptops with a single 2.5" HDD bay can't go wrong with the Momentus XT. You get a 750GB HDD with most of the benefits of a decent SSD. An added bonus is there are no drivers or configuration needed. There's nothing to tweak, even if you wanted to. You simply install the drive, forget about it, and enjoy a snappier OS and very fast boot times. There's not much more here to say about it. For what it is, it 'just works', and does so very well.

Desktop mid-high end users who want more performance for a higher price tag may find the OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid a viable option. The OCZ unit falls in a weird place, since the type of user that wants RevoDrive-style performance are more likely to go for a non-hybrid RevoDrive3 or a pair (or more) of SATA 6Gb/sec SSD's in RAID-0 under their motherboard controller. This leaves the Hybrid fitting the bill of the power-ish user that wants good performance with a 'simpler' hardware installation, in that your storage subsystem is completely contained within the confines of a single PCIe card. Another thing to consider is the alternative configuration you can put the RevoDrive Hybrid into: Make the 'cache' portion your 100GB C:/OS drive and use the 1TB 2.5" HDD for mass storage. Sure you'll have to live within the confines of a 100GB OS drive, but many have been doing this for years already. To accomplish this configuration, simply set the cache as the boot drive in your BIOS and do not install the Dataplex driver. As a bonus, you get 100GB of extra capacity in this configuration.

Conclusion

The result of this roundup is that due to the various hardware configurations each Hybrid solution is created for, there is no clear winner. The RevoDrive Hybrid dominates the field, but can only be installed into a desktop class machine. The Seagate Momentus XT provides the simplest drop-in high-capacity performance for laptops containing a single 2.5" HDD bay. Finally, Intel's Rapid Response Technology present on Z68 desktops and recent 68 series mobile chipsets, gives a flexible option that works very well. While the Larson Creek cache has remained pricey, any SSD (up to 64GB) can be used in its place, making it easy for users to put their smaller old SSD to use in a freshly built desktop.

Awards

I'm awarding both the Momentus XT 750GB Hybrid and OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid my Gold Award.

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  • The Momentus XT has proven itself an excellent solution for mobile users who want faster-than-HDD performance without breaking the bank on a larger capacity SSD.
  • The OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid performs extremely well in Hybrid mode and is a unique solution in that it can also be configured as a single-card SSD+HDD duo.
December 5, 2011 | 01:39 PM - Posted by Dean Brady (not verified)

I'm curious what type of issues other users have had with the Momentus XT G1 and if it is present in G2? I've been through 4 drives on 2 machines in the past 8 months. For many users the drive just stops showing up at boot so you have no OS to boot from.

I have a 500GB G1 in a laptop and another in my lanbox. I even had one in a MacBook PRO for a while. Great idea but I'm curious about real world, long term results. I use Adobe Creative Suite a lot and can't say that I saw any great improvement.

December 6, 2011 | 06:03 AM - Posted by KasiorMC (not verified)

And how do those dives compere to 10k RPM spinning ones like WD Velociraptor?

December 6, 2011 | 03:14 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

If you are using the same files frequently enough to cache them in the SSD then the Momentus XT is in a whole other class. For non-repetitive data transfer/access it will tend to be a bit slower than a 6GBp/s 10K drive, but not much.

December 7, 2011 | 03:32 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Still it would be interesting to see how the RevoDrive Hybrid would work with a Raptor.

December 7, 2011 | 01:02 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

Definitely, though what you were testing would really influence the results. One of the big problems Al has testing these drives is that if you use a benchmark several times, the drive will cache it in the SSD and give results that you'd likely never see in the real world.

Certainly something to think about.

December 7, 2011 | 10:01 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Good question indeed, but there's a few catches here. While the vraptor drive will physically fit on the board, it doesn't supply the voltages needed to spin up the drive itself. Velociraptor drives require +12V (in addition to laptop-only +5 and +3.3VDC).

That said, the caching part of all of these drives leave a Velociraptor in the dust, but it would definitely speed up the uncached accesses.

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December 6, 2011 | 09:47 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I wonder how these numbers compare to using ReadyBoost with a good USB flash drive or a class 10 SD card? That would a a useful data point.

December 7, 2011 | 01:16 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

In best case scenarios they compare to an HDD with a small SSD using SRT on Sandy Bridge. It would wipe the floor with ReadyBoost. 4.8Gbps best case on USB 3.0 versus 6Gbps best case over SATA

December 7, 2011 | 01:54 PM - Posted by Geoff K (not verified)

Have they worked out the issues with the Momentus XT drives? I was thinking of upgrading, but then I read all these reviews with freezing and locks up on the Macbook Pros. User's seem to be in a constant cycle of firmware upgrades. So ultimately I ended up going with a standard 7200 RPM drive.

December 8, 2011 | 08:52 PM - Posted by dean@thebradyreport.com (not verified)

Geoff K, I had one in my MacBook and just yanked it out for a 6GB Sata 240GB SSD Mercury Extreme from OWC. MBP flies now.

One other thing I was trying was to use an ExpressCard SSD (36GB) as a cache drive for Photoshop. I've heard people have used them as boot drives etc but I need a much larger drive for the OS.

July 25, 2012 | 07:36 PM - Posted by mauser1891 (not verified)

Hello Folks,

For a couple of months I have been using my "G2"/Momentus XT750 daily on my A6-2400M based ASUS NV55S07u. And it was the last "upgrade" that I did to it. My 8GB DDR3 is rated higher than my chipset capability, thus no "choke" in that area. I use a set "pagefile" size. Finally this Hybrid drive. Either from a linux distro or Win 7 it performs twice as fast overall compared to the "5400 Standard" drive that came with it. In fact I have evven been playing BF3 the last month and found it capable. Though on a intensive 48+ players game I might kick down the resolution to compensate for the limits of the base hardware. I have been using it for 13 months now. Remember that this is not a desktop or higher end laptop, but a "mid ranged" laptop at it's release time.

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