Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB Hybrid HDD Review
By Henry Butt on February 28, 2012


Introduction

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Since Seagate released the Momentus XT series, it has become a popular choice with notebook users who are usually limited to a single storage drive. It aims to bridge the performance gap between mechanical hard drives and solid state drives without resulting in a massive price premium. Today we are going to look at the second-generation solid state hybrid hard drive from Seagate, the Momentus XT 750 GB.

The concept of a solid state hybrid hard drive is very similar to that of Intel’s Smart Response Technology, which we examined in detail here. Instead of having a separate mechanical hard drive and solid state drive, Seagate has integrated the SSD portion into the 2.5” hard drive enclosure. Despite this, the drive itself looks almost identical to a regular mechanical hard drive.


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Figure 1: Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB (top)

Like Intel’s Smart Response Technology, the Momentus XT uses algorithms to identify the data on the hard drive that is used most frequently and caches it to the SSD portion of the drive. The SSD portion of the drive enjoys much faster read and write speeds and shorter response times, so the data you use the most can be accessed more readily. Therefore, installing a Momentus XT into your system should help improve real-world performance such as boot times and loading times in Windows.


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Figure 2: Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB (bottom)

The Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB has a formatted capacity of 698.63 GB which means there will be ample space for the media files of most users. It is also much more capacious than any SSD currently on the market at this price point. Seagate has used single layer cell (SLC) memory for the integrated SSD, as it is able to endure more read and write cycles than the cheaper multi-layer cell (MLC) memory before failing. Even if the SSD cache does fail after a few years, though, the Momentus XT will still function as a pure mechanical hard drive with no data loss.

In our tests, we will be using the Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB (which uses Seagate’s second-generation hybrid technology), Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB (which is a first-generation hybrid drive), Seagate Momentus 750 GB (which is also a 2.5” unit), and Western Digital Scorpio Black 750 GB (another 2.5” unit) hard drives for comparison. We will also include results from a solid state drive, the OCZ Agility 3 240 GB, to show how the performance compares. In the table below we compare the basic specifications of these products.

Manufacturer

Model

Model #

Rotational Speed

Interface

Buffer

Capacity

Seagate

Momentus XT (2nd generation)

ST750LX003

7200 rpm

SATA-600

32 MB

750 GB

Seagate

Momentus XT (1st generation)

ST95005620AS

7200 rpm

SATA-300

32 MB

500 GB

Seagate

Momentus

ST9750420AS

7200 rpm

SATA-300

16 MB

750 GB

Western Digital

Scorpio Black

WD7500BPKT

7200 rpm

SATA-300

16 MB

750 GB

 OCZ

Agility 3 

   AGT3-25SAT3-240G

NA

SATA-600

NA

240 GB

How We Tested

During our testing procedures, we used the configuration listed below. The only variable component between each benchmarking session was the drive being tested.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration Benchmarking Software

Error Margin

We adopted a 3% error margin in our tests, meaning performance differences of less than 3% can’t be considered meaningful. Therefore, when the performance difference between two products is less than 3%, we consider them to have similar performance.

CrystalDiskMark

We used CrystalDiskMark’s default configuration for our tests, which benchmarked each drive using a file size of 1,000 MB with five test runs. This program measures the raw performance of the drive, not taking into account the hybrid technology. Please continue reading to see the results.

On the sequential read and write test, the two Seagate Momentus XT hybrid drives exhibited the worst performance in both the read and write tests. However, the second-generation Momentus XT was 17% faster for read and 19% faster for write than the first-generation Momentus XT, proving that the second-generation drive is faster than its previous version even if the hybrid technology isn’t used.

As you can see, the two regular hard drives included, the Seagate Momentus 750 GB and the Western Digital Scorpio Black 750 GB, beat the two Seagate hybrid drives. The Seagate Momentus 750 GB was 7% faster for read and 10% for write than the new second-generation Momentus XT 750 GB, while the Western Digital Scorpio Black 750 GB was 14% faster for read and 14% faster for write.

The OCZ Agility 3 SSD 240 GB achieved the best level of performance, beating the second-generation Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB by 94% and the first-generation Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB by 128% in the read test and beating the second-generation Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB by 104% and the first-generation Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB by 142 percent.

On the random read test using 512 KB blocks, the second-generation Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB and the Western Digital Scorpio Black 750 GB exhibited a similar level of performance in the read test, which was 5% better than the Seagate Momentus 750 GB and 64% better than the first-generation Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB. The second-generation Momentus XT 750 GB was 65% faster than the first-generation Momentus XT 500 GB.

In the write test, the Western Digital Scorpio Black 750 GB performed best, beating the second-generation Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB by 9%, the Seagate Momentus 750 GB by 22% and the first-generation Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB by 61 percent. The second-generation Momentus XT 750 GB was 47% faster than the first-generation model.

The OCZ Agility 3 240 GB SSD managed to outperform all the other drives on test by a considerable margin.

On the random read test using 4 KB blocks, the Western Digital Scorpio Black performed the best, beating the second-generation Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB by 6%, the Seagate Momentus 750 GB by 10% and the first-generation Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB by 113 percent. The second-generation Momentus XT 750 GB was twice as fast as the first-generation Momentus XT 500 GB.

In the write test, however, the Western Digital Scorpio Black exhibited a similar level of performance to the second-generation Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB, which was 19% better than the first-generation Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB and 30% better than the Seagate Momentus 750 GB.

Once again, the OCZ Agility 3 outperformed the other drives on test by a massive margin.

PCMark Vantage

We decided to use PCMark Vantage to benchmark hard drives, as it mimics a number of real-world situations. We ran the test three times on each hybrid drive and have included results for the first and third runs. This is to show the improvement in performance when the drives have had time to “learn” the way we use the PC. Please read on to find the results.

On the Windows Startup test, the OCZ Agility 3 exhibited the best performance by far. However, when considering only the hard drives, the second-generation Momentus XT 750 GB exhibited the best level of performance after three runs. In fact, its performance improved by 118% after it had cached the Windows startup files, beating the first-generation Momentus XT 500 GB by 24%, also after three runs, and the Western Digital Scorpio Black 750 GB by 151%, and the standard Momentus 750 GB by 172 percent.

The Application Loading test yielded very similar results to the Windows Startup test. After the second-generation Momentus XT 750 GB had cached the applications on its SSD portion, the application load time improved by 152%, with a result similar to the one achieved by the first-generation Momentus XT 500 GB, also after three runs. The performance of the second-generation Momentus XT 750 GB after three runs was 227% better than the Western Digital Scorpio Black Momentus 750 GB’s and 236% better than the regular Momentus XT 750 GB’s.

Again, the OCZ Agility 3 exhibited a much better level of performance than the mechanical drives on the Importing Pictures test. Here the performance of the second-generation Momentus XT 750 GB improved by 80% after the drive had “learned” the usage pattern, beating the first-generation drive by 34% on this test, also after three runs. The second-generation Momentus XT 750 GB exhibited performance 48% better than the Western Digital Scorpio Black 750 GB’s and 56% better than the regular Momentus 750 GB’s.

Boot Time

As the SSD cache within the Momentus XT drives is designed to store data that is used frequently, we will be showing results for the first and third boots in a row on a system based on Windows 7 Home Premium to see how the performance compares.

Between the first and third boot time tests, the second-generation Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB exhibited a massive 77% reduction in the time taken to boot into Windows. The first-generation Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB also exhibited a massive performance improvement between the two tests of 172 percent. However, both drives achieved similar performance. 

Compared to the OCZ Agility 3, which is a proper SSD, the Seagate Momentus XT makes a good case for itself, only lagging behind by a margin of about 10% after three runs. Considering that the OCZ Agility 3 240 GB SSD performed 73% faster than the standard Seagate Momentus 750 GB drive, this is quite impressive.

Conclusions

The second-generation Momentus XT performs much better than the first-generation model, even when the caching system isn’t used. In our tests, the performance advantage of the second-generation drive was between 17% and 100% over the first-generation drive in this scenario, depending on the test.

When the drive had time to “learn” how you use the computer, its performance jumps between 80% and 152%, which is really impressive. Windows boot time can improve as much as 77%, making it very close to the boot time of a solid state drive at a fraction of the cost. An SSD, however, is still way faster than the second-generation Momentus XT in other scenarios.

We think that the second-generation Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB is a great option for laptop users who find a regular hard drive too slow and can’t afford an SSD capacious enough for all their files. While it does command a USD 80 price premium over the standard Momentus 750 GB drive, we feel this is justified considering the performance benefits. Those who want the best possible performance, however, should consider putting up the cash for an SSD like the OCZ Agility 3, as the performance will be on a completely different level.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Seagate-Momentus-XT-750-GB-Hybrid-HDD-Review/1474


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