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

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Various

Introduction

Back in 2006, storage tech talk was intermittently buzzy with a few different innovations. One was wrapped around the pending release of Windows Vista, particularly two bullets on its feature list: ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive. In parallel with all of the Ready_____ talk, many tech pundits asked why it would be necessary to have the flash talk to Windows through special drivers. Why couldn't the flash memory just act like a larger RAM cache already present on?

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A prototype ReadyBoost-enabled HDD by Samsung.

The answer, which nobody was aware of at that time, was that management of flash memory was a tricky thing to do successfully. It would not be until several years later that SSD's would (mostly) beat the issues of Long Term Performance and other issues that crop up when attempting to store randomly written data onto a device that can only be erased in relatively large blocks.

ReadyDrive required a special 'Hybrid' disk drive to be connected to and recognized by Windows Vista, containing both spinning platters and flash memory. Vista would then place frequently used small files on the flash. Since flash memory has negligible access times when compared to seek times of a HDD, the drive overall would boot significantly faster. Other tasks using those cached system files also saw a benefit. While ReadyDrive looked great on paper, there were very few devices ever released that could take advantage of it. Seagate was the earliest to release such a drive, and their Momentus 5400 PSD laptop drive did not see the light of day until Vista was nearly a full year old.

Continue reading our roundup of the best hybrid storage solutions on the market today!!

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A prototype of the Momentus 5400 PSD, seen near the Vista launch. This drive was available in up to 160GB, yet had only 256MB of flash memory.

ReadyBoost, on the other hand, allowed much of the same performance enhancements to take place without the use of a 'special' HDD. Users would simply supply their own USB flash drive and configure it as a ReadyBoost drive. Vista would do the same sort of thing it did with the Hybrid drive, but there were further advantages in that users were not limited to the few hybrid HDD's available, and could supply a USB drive of much greater capacity than the flash portions of then current Hybrids. The end result was the (relatively) few users of ReadyAnything favored the Boost variant, and thoughts of any form of 'true' Hybrid caching solution would not surface until early 2011 with the introduction of the Intel Z68 chipset, which allowed the pairing of a SSD and HDD to boost performance. This pairing took place at the storage driver level, meaning that much more than just Windows system files could be cached. In addition, the cache was connected via SATA (as opposed to ReadyBoost's USB link), resulting in even further gains.

Today we're going to take a look at the more recent hybrid solutions available. These use neither ReadyBoost nor ReadyDrive, and operate at the storage subsystem level. Some require special hardware and/or drivers, while other are plug and play. Here's the batch:

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OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid, Intel Larson Creek, Seagate Momentus 7200.4 and XT G1 + G2 Hybrid drives.

Time for some testing!

December 5, 2011 | 10:39 AM - 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 | 03:03 AM - Posted by KasiorMC (not verified)

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

December 6, 2011 | 12:14 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 | 12:32 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 | 10:02 AM - 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 | 07:01 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 | 06:47 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 | 10:16 AM - 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 | 10:54 AM - 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 | 05:52 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 | 04:36 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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