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

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Various

Round 1: 2.5" (and smaller) form factor

With Z68 caching already well covered, we'll hit it with a bit of a twist. While the Z68 piece used a desktop class HDD, this time we will substitute that with the Seagate 7200.4 500GB HDD - a 2.5" drive. This will mimic performance seen when using Z68 caching in a mobile platform, where 3.5" HDD's are a nono.

Along with the 7200.4, we will also evaluate two Hybrid units based on its design. First is the Momentus XT 500GB, which was introduced last year. The second is the newly introduced Momentus XT 750GB. The marketing is a bit fuzzy on these - to get the newer generation XT you'll have to remember that the 500GB is the old and the 750GB is the new. Let's take a deeper look at these units:

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...the only way I know how - by field stripping them :)

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Here's the 'standard' HDD. No flash is present. The chip at the upper right is actually the drive's RAM cache.

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The first generation XT tacked on an extra flash controller (left) along with 4GB of 32nm IMFT SLC flash memory (lower left).

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The second (newest) generation Momentus XT uses a beefier SATA 6Gb/sec controller, shrinks and relocates the RAM cache (lower left), and places 8GB of IMFT SLC flash in the upper right.

We took these three units, did the same 3-run tests with PC Mark Vantage, and compiled the results:

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At the top is the first generation Momentus XT. It picks up some decent gains in runs 2 and 3, with the Windows Media Center test fully saturating its 3Gb/sec link.

Next up is the new Momentus XT. The first run shows some gains and losses as compared to the G1's first run - most likely due to different HDD NCQ tuning. Runs 2 and 3 on the G2 drive show some impressive gains compared to its older brother, nearly doubling results for all tests across the board. The faster interface allows sufficient leg stretching to beat out even the pure SSD at media streaming.

After the XT's we see a round of runs with the Larson Creek caching the non-hybrid Momentus 7200.4. The first uncached run was similar to both XT's, which is expected as they are all using the same base HDD. Runs 2 and 3 here show yet another step improvement over the second generation XT, except for some areas, where the XT had the benefit of an improved interface.

At the very bottom is the 20GB Larson Creek caching SSD, pure, with no caching at play. This is meant as the reference of how a full SSD would perform as your OS drive. Z68 caching is very effective, as the solo SSD fares only slightly better than the cached Momentus 7200.4 (which is 25x more capacity at 500GB).

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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