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Seagate Now Shipping 2nd-Gen Solid State Hybrid Drive

Monday Seagate said that it began shipping its second-generation 2.5-inch solid-state hybrid drive, the Momentus XT, deeming it as the company's fastest drive ever for personal laptop computers. That's because it comes equipped with double the NAND flash than what was available on the first-generation drive, now packing 8 GB of Single Level Cell NAND. Seagate also cranked up the disk capacity to 750 GB while keeping the drive's pricetag hovering at a not-too-shabby $245 USD.

Joni Clark, Seagate's product marketing manager, said on Tuesday that the company switched NAND flash vendors for this model, thus the new drive will have 1.5 times better performance than the first-generation model. The company also switched out the drive's interface, replacing the slower SATA 3 Gbps connector with a zippier SATA 6 Gbps pipeline. This makes the new model 70-percent faster than its predecessor and up to three times faster than a traditional 750 GB hard disk drive.

Also new to the table is what Seagate calls FAST Factor technology. This feature "blends the strengths of SSDs and hard disk drives" and enables faster access to applications, quicker bootup and higher overall system speed. There's also "tweaked" Adaptive Memory technology which identifies data usage patterns, and then moves the most frequently retrieved information to solid state memory for faster access. It effectively tailors hard drive performance to each user and the applications they use over the course of three boot-ups.

Clark said that the new drive will write data on the hard drive platters first and then to the NAND so that data isn't lost if the NAND happens to fail. "If the NAND ever fails, you'll still have a perfectly good 7,200rpm hard drive," she said. "You'll still be able to boot up just like a regular hard drive, but you won't be able to take advantage of the NAND flash."

The Seagate product marketing manager also added that the company conducted performance tests against an Intel consumer-class 320 series SSD. Intel's drive beat Seagate's hybrid on boot times only by two seconds. "The Intel SSD works out to $490 for 160 GB," she said. "Ours costs [$245] for 750 GB. For those two seconds [better boot up time], you'll end up paying an extra $300."

On Tuesday Seagate said that seven original equipment manufacturers are gearing up to ship laptops packing the new Momentus XT drive. It's now available for consumers at online retailers Amazon, Canada Computers, CDW, Memory Express, NCIX, Newegg, and TigerDirect. But buyer beware: Seagate's new second-generation Momentus XT is a 4K sector drive, and will not play nice with Windows XP or earlier operating systems that only support 512 Kb drives ("tuning" instructions are here). However Apple's Mac OS and recent Linux distributions are equipped to work with 4K drive sectors.