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Review: Seagate's New Momentus Is Just That

Seagate's new hybrid notebook drive delivers on the promise of next-generation performance at much lower pricing.

The industry is shifting radically from Hard Disk Drive technology to Solid State Drives (SSDs), where competitors include powerhouses such as Intel and Samsung, and it just lost its first-place market share designation to longtime rival Western Digital.

With two segments of the storage space offering tough competition, Seagate is fighting back with what it is calling a "hybrid" drive -- an HDD with what it says is SSD performance. The new line of notebook drives from Seagate, Momentus XT, comes in capacities of 250 GB, 320 GB and 500 GB, at prices that are a fraction of SSDs with similar capacities.

So is Seagate attempting some marketing sleight of hand, or is it for real?

After examining the 320 GB Momentus XT in the CRN Test Center lab, we can say that it’s certainly for real. The drive provides outstanding performance out of the box, and shows us that its so-called Adaptive Memory technology is the real deal. In short, the Momentus is just that: a momentus event for Seagate and a marketplace that wants SSD-like performance at HDD prices.

The 2.5-inch drive itself is built with a 7200-RPM spindle speed, with 4 GB of SLC NAND solid state memory (which is where the term “hybrid” comes in.) Inside the drive, Seagate has added Adaptive Memory, which it says examines use patterns in the first 4 GB of the drive and maximizes performance of frequently used files.

So we tested it. Attaching the drive to a Stormor docking station, we uploaded a file with 2GB of data. It took 2 minutes and 4 seconds for the transfer the first time. On subsequent transfers of the same file, the transfer time dropped to 1 minute and 38 seconds. Seagate describes Adaptive Memory as working like cache, without actually being cache; so after we hit 1 minute and 38 seconds, we formatted the drive and then tried again. The next time, the transfer took a few fractions of a second less -- meaning performance continued to improve.

Street pricing of the 320-GB drive runs about $120 -- making it about 30 percent or 25 percent of the street pricing for same-capacity SSDs. The minute and 38 second transfer time is also in the same ballpark as SSDs in transfer time. Seagate provides a 5-year warranty on the drive, which is the same as or more than the length of time between the typical industry refresh cycle.

The verdict: Seagate has a winner with the Momentus XT, and we can highly recommend it.

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