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Seagate Momentus XT Solid State Hybrid Drive Lightning Review: A Taste of SSD, for Cheap

Illustration for article titled Seagate Momentus XT Solid State Hybrid Drive Lightning Review: A Taste of SSD, for Cheap

My computer takes too long to boot up. Around a minute and 18 seconds, to be precise(r). Which is why I want a solid state drive. But I don't want to pay ~$400 for 256 gigs of storage. Enter Seagate's Momentus X Hybrid drives, which promise near-SSD speeds, but with giant HDD storage—and not-so-giant prices.

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What Is It?

The second generation of Seagate's Momentus XT solid state hybrid drives, which combine a good-sized chunk of SLC flash storage (4GB in the 500GB model; 8GB in the 750GB model) with a traditional 7200RPM spinny hard drive. The idea is that Momentus learns your most used applications (well, technically, your most used data) and basically runs them off the flash storage, so you get SSD-like performance and boot times.

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Who's it For?

People who want SSD speeds, but HDD prices and storage.

Design

It's a hard drive. You'll never see it.

Using It

Installation is either easy, if you've got the right machine, or it isn't. And then it's just like a hard drive.

The Best Part

It works. My five-month-old, Core i7 MacBook Pro's boot times went from an average 45 second boot time with the original 500GB 5400rpm Hitachi hard drive to 29.8 seconds. Brian Barrett's 2009 MacBook Pro's boot times plummeted from 1:34 to 30 seconds. Start times for database-driven apps were cut in half, or better, like Aperture (12.3 to 5.8 seconds), iPhoto (14.6 to 5.2 seconds), iTunes (9.2 seconds to 1.9 seconds). Even Photoshop start times dropped, from 21.2 seconds to just 3.8 seconds.

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It's extra performance you can definitely feel day-to-day, if only slightly.

Tragic Flaw

Still fragile like a hard drive. Also, it has to learn which programs you use the most before you see the most benefit. (So it doesn't exactly kill benchmarks, with 81MB/s write speeds with 100MB/s read speeds.) And obviously it doesn't boost everything to SSD speeds.

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This Is Weird...

Shutdown times tripled, from 5 seconds to roughly 15.

Should You Buy It?

Yes. If you want a taste of SSD speeds but can't afford one, or simply need more storage and don't feel like Frankenstein-ing your rig with a combo SSD/HDD setup. It's not a bad deal at all for $180, when an SSD for with a third of the storage costs twice as much. But definitely get the 750GB model—not only do you get more storage, you get double the flash cache and interface speed.

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Seagate Momentus XT Specs

• Storage: 500GB (4GB flash) or 750GB (8GB flash)
• Interface: SATA 3Gb/s (500GB) SATA 6Gb/s (750GB)
• Spin speed: 7200rpm
• Size:2.5-inch
• Price: $130 for 500GB; 180 for 750GB
• Giz Rank: 4 stars

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DISCUSSION

allinthefamily
allinthefamily

Just some clarification here, the Momentus XT does not load "applications" faster. In fact, the XT has no idea what the data it is read-caching on the SSD portion even is. The drive deals with purely with data, and caches the most-read blocks, regardless if they are parts of an app, dll or boot files.

I wish it worked with applications specifically. My biggest gripe is that I wish there was a way to specify what gets cached. I have the 500 GB model in my main machine, and I could care less about boot times. I boot once every week at most, and when I do I power on and come back a few minutes later. So boot time is a non-issue. I would love to be able to cache at will, for example Thunderbird, Chrome, Mediamonkey and Office for lightning-fast start-ups. Regardless of how often I use these I want them to load as fast as possible.

Also, if you have this drive, DO NOT EVER defrag!! The read cache priority, uh, decider, has no idea what data is, just how much it gets requested. If you defrag, ever, you are essentially resetting the SSD data to whatever files you got defragged, not what data is requested the most. Most reports say it takes 2-3 weeks for the Momentus XT to "relearn" your most used data after defragging.

#corrections