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Hybrid drives: the next generation

A new flashy optical drive from HLDS...From who?

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Would you fancy using a hybrid optical drive with embedded SSD as your single netbook/notebook disk drive? That's what HLDS is proposing.

HLDS is a 10-year-old joint venture between Hitachi and LG Data Storage, and is an OEM manufacturer of optical disk drives (ODD), CDs and DVS first and, from 2006, Blu-ray drives. It announced its HyDrive, or hybrid optical drive, in May, saying it was going to be available in August, with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB of embedded flash, and be shipped in the Family PC MN 102-O from MONEUAL.

The pitch then was that you could get hard disk drive (HDD) levels of performance because the solid-state drive (SSD) was the boot source and application load source, with the optical drive providing bulk capacity. Windows and apps could take up most of a 32GB SSD, and the 64GB SSD would provide 32GB of cache to speed optical disc access. You can also remove the optical disk for off-host data storage.

Now HLDS is using 25nm, 2-bit Micron multi-level cell (MLC) flash chips in a second-generation HyDrive, and the drives are being positioned for use in DVD players and Blu-ray products as well as PCs. The device uses 8GB NAND units, and Micron says higher capacities are coming in future versions.

Seagate has its Momentus XT hybrid HDD which as a 4GB NAND cache embedded inside the HDD casing and which provides a boot load device for Windows and storage space for applications. Essentially it is a read cache. The HyDrive has much larger capacity levels, but then it's an inherently slower disk than a hard disk drive and so would need more flash cache boosting to up its performance level to that of an HDD, or past it.

Y.K. Park, HLDS' chief marketing officer, said: “The second generation Hybrid Drive … is designed to fit in the conventional ODD form factor, allowing easy replacement of a conventional ODD and providing the added benefit of onboard storage … the Hybrid Drive also provides approximately a 50 to 70 per cent performance improvement when compared to a stand-alone HDD.”

We don't have details of the performance data here and comparison tests using a variety of PC data reading and writing activities will no doubt add colour to this claim by Park. For now, taking it at face value, a hybrid, flash-enabled ODD looks as if it needs adding to your potential storage feature list for a netbook, notebook, and PC purchase.

HLDS sells through the OEM channel and price and availability depend upon OEMs buying into the HLDS message and building product using it. ®

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