News came out on Friday that Seagate Technology (NASDAQ:STX) was leaving the niche market to the other major players. The 7200 RPM 2.5″ drives have been used in various high performance laptops over the years (and Seagate being our preferred brand), even high-end media center PCs that needed performance drives but small sizes were relying on them, that is until SSD prices came down from their stratospherical position to a slightly more attainable tropospheric level. SSD pricing is still high, but for about 200 USD you can buy a 256 GB Crucial M4 drive in either mSATA or SATA configurations. Not the fastest drive, but really does wallop the fastest 7200 RPM drive Seagate makes, the Momentus XT 750.
7200 RPM drives are standard fare in a desktop but in most laptops you have a 5400 RPM drive. That drive is the slowest part of the system and with just a bump in rotational speed to 7200 RPM you get a rough 20% performance boost. Now Seagate tried to stave off the SSD revolution by including a small SSD cache in their very high-end drive. The first Momentus XTs (back in 2010) had 4 GB of SLC memory, very fast stuff. Then about a year later, they updated them to higher capacities, up to 750 GB this time and with 8 GB of flash memory instead of 4 GB. Now in that revision they changed out the memory type to a slightly slower, but much cheaper MLC type and by doing so, they were able to double the amount offered. I do have a gripe with the name they chose to give this drive, Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD), it really isn’t a SSD it is more like a HDDC (Hard Disk Drive Cached). That is just how I see it.
On Amazon.com you can find a 750 GB Momentus XT for about 125 USD, compared to a 1 TB 7200 RPM 2.5″ drive from HGST (Hitachi Global Storage Technologies), for about 90 USD. There is a performance difference, but I suspect it may be negated to a degree by the higher density of the 1 TB HGST drive.
HGST 1 TB: 90/1000=0.09
Seagate 750 GB: 125/750=0.17
Crucial 256 GB: 200/256=0.78
That is a break down of cost per GB shows that you are definitely going to pay more for an SSD, but the speed difference is about 100% over a conventional 5400 RPM 2.5″ drive. Things get really interesting when you take 2 mSATA SSD drives and stripe them together via RAID 0, really interesting. That is why MSI is selling a laptop with 2 mSATA SSD drives striped and a 750 GB 2.5″ for storage duties. You can do this in most laptops by buying the drive adapter/caddy and the requisite mSATA SSD drives, you do not need to buy a special laptop to do this. Although I think about taking Dell’s M6700, which can take 2 2.5″ drives, and tossing in a couple of those adapters with Samsung’s PM830 mSATA drive… wait sorry, I just went off the rails. Ok, yes you can go nuts and spend 1000 USD on just 2 TB of ridiculously fast storage, but who are we kidding, how can we buy the games after?
PS. Don’t count Seagate out just yet, in 2011 Seagate announced their Pulsar line of SSD drives, real SSD drives. The only problem is that they are targeting the enterprise segment and they have good competition there too, in the form of OCZ’s Vector line. the Vector line is based on their in house controller, not the SandForce controller, and it give phenomenal results. So I do expect to hear fairly soon, that Seagate is entering the consumer SSD space.