Hybrid Storage Roundup: Seagate Momentus XT vs. OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid vs. Intel Z68
Boot Times, Pricing, and Conclusion
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.
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)
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.
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.
I'm awarding both the Momentus XT 750GB Hybrid and OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid my Gold Award.
- 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.