The Seagate Momentus XT series was one of the first hybrid storage devices on the market, with the novel idea of combining a regular laptop hard drive and using MLC data chips to cache regularly used programs on it, thereby speeding up the performance tremendously.
A more widespread approach of this comes in the form of Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology where users can literally slap any small capacity SSD (usually 16GB or 32GB) in their system and Intel’s software will allow you to use your existing mechanical hard drive and start using the SSD as cache. Many manufacturers, such as SanDisk even sell small capacity SSDs specifically to be used as cache drives.
The idea behind these hybrid solutions is that users pay a small premium over the price of regular hard drives and end up with a storage system that starts creeping up on SSD performance territory without the size limitations and colossal price tags of SSDs. Today I’ll be looking at Seagate’s latest generation of hybrid drives called the Laptop Thin SSHD. Yes, the Momentus XT brand has been dropped as Seagate announced that they will stop making 7,200RPM laptop drives. Now that the new drives are all 5,400RPM drives, a change in the name seemed appropriate.
The regular 1TB hybrid drive is called the “Laptop SSHD” which measure 9.5mm tall, whereas the 500 GB hybrid drive is called the “Laptop Thin SSHD” because it’s just 7mm tall. Both drives use 5,400RPM platters with 8GB of flash for caching data. The 1TB version costs AED 459 while the 500GB version costs AED 315.
With the Laptop Thin SSHD, Seagate has a made a completely automated system where all the user has to do is install the drive in their laptop and go ahead using it like a regular hard drive. There’s no need to download any software, the firmware within the drive uses a smart algorithm which identifies you most frequented files and stores them on the 8GB NAND flash. So apart from Windows startup files, the flash storage will have files like your games, or other heavy software like Adobe products.
With the shift to the new generation SSHD drives, we get some major advantages, but also lose some from the Momentus XT days. One of the most obvious improvements comes from the Laptop Thin SSHD which measures just 7mm in height, meaning that you can have this drive in pretty much any ultrabook or MacBook Air. Secondly, the new firmware allows the drives to cache memory even faster than previous generation. For instance, I’d usually have to start Windows and other programs thrice before the data got cached on the NAND flash, whereas with the new SSHD data is cached on the first try, so that literally the next time I start up the program it runs much faster than the original run.
For testing the Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD, the below testbed was used:
You’ll notice a slight performance drop in PCMark 7 for the Laptop Thin SSHD compared to the Momentus XT. The reasons are a slightly lower capacity (750GB vs 500GB) and, of course, the lower hard drive speed (7,200rpm vs 5,400rpm). That said, day to day operations remained identical. Overall data transfer speeds are also the same as before, with the SATA III (6gbps) bandwidth maximizing the 5,400rpm drive’s potential.
For the price you’d get a 120GB SSD at best, mwanwhile the 500GB Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD gives great performance which is far better than regular laptop hard drives. It’s really difficult to highlight in benchmarks how much of an improvement the SSHD is over traditional 5,400rpm or even 7,200rpm laptop drives. Everything feels faster, although not as snappy as an SSD. In the end, if you’re planning to buy an ultrabook with regular hard drive, or even are thinking that you existing laptop’s drive is slowing you down and you can’t afford an SSD, the Seagate Laptop Thin SSD is an excellent upgrade.