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Seagate's flash-disk hybrid crosses the chasm

One million shipped

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A million units of Seagate's flash-disk hybrid drive, the Momentus XT, have shipped inside notebook computers, firmly establishing the viability of the format.

The drive is a 2.5-inch, 7,200 rpm spinning disk 500GB Momentus drive, with 4GB of flash read cache inside the drive enclosure. Active files can be loaded into the flash to provide faster start-up and application load times. Device boot can be three times faster and apps such as Photoshop can load in a sixth of the time they would need coming from disk.

The Momentus XT functions as a halfway storage house between costly all-flash devices such as the MacBook Air and cheaper, higher storage capacity but I/O-bound all-disk devices such as traditional notebook and netbook computers. Seagate has previously revealed that the Archos tablet is using the XT.

So far no other HDD manufacturer is building a hybrid drive, although Western Digital is thought to be working on one, and its soon-to-be subsidiary, Hitachi GST, is also positive about the format. However Seagate took the risk and has built a comfortable lead.

Seagate took the opportunity presented by the Flash Memory Summit to tell the world that it has shipped a million units of the flash-enhanced spinner in laptops from Alienware, ASUS, Dell, Sony and Toshiba, who like the idea of turbo-charging their notebooks with a bit of flash cache dash. Users seem happy paying a few bucks more for this rather than a whole lot of bucks more for an all-flash notebook or tablet.

IDC is bullish on the format. Research director John Rydning said, "Fast, capacious, and economical hybrid HDD and NAND flash storage solutions like the Momentus XT drive will be found in roughly 25 per cent of all new PCs shipped in 2015." If he's right then millions more hybrid drives will be shipped in the next four years.

An enhanced Momentus XT is coming, according to Rocky Pimentel, Seagate's chief sales and marketing officer: "We're delighted that the Momentus XT drive has been enthusiastically received in the marketplace and look forward to introducing the next generation of the product, which will give consumers an even better, faster computing experience, before the year is out."

Maybe we'll get a 750GB or 1TB 2-platter disk drive with 8 or 12GB of flash. Seagate could also add a flash cache to its single platter Momentus Thin, making it more attractive as an alternative to flash that keeping tablets more affordable. The possibilities are impressive. ®

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