Saturday, 5 February 2011

Product Review - Seagate Momentus XT 500Gb Hybrid Drive

Ok, so lets start with the obvious question - What is a record company doing reviewing a hard drive?  Well, that's pretty straight forward.  Most of our artists work in the digital medium these days.  Even those who work with acoustic instruments are still using computer hardware to record and master their music.  Also, many aspiring musicians are on a tight budget, we'd all love a machine with solid state storage, I'm sure - we can't all afford the money to get that set-up.  So along come Seagate claiming to have a product that bridges the gap, offering near SSD performance for a fraction of the cost.  This could be a big thing for music recording...

We're sold on the performance of SSD's.  We've seen basic spec machines with SSD drives fitted out perform high power machines with conventional HDDs many.  The ability to get data on and off a drive quickly can compensate for even the most basic processors.

Take the current Apple Macbook Air 11"  Supplied with a paltry 1.4 Ghz Core 2 Duo and 2 Gb RAM, Logic Studio or Pro Tools might be the last thing you plan to use it for yet we have seen for ourselves that the inclusion of an SSD on this machine makes it the fastest starting Mac in the range and on multi track Logic Pro recordings it can hold its own against many of the Macbook Pro range, costing up to twice the price.  So the theory is laid out, SSD is faster.

So what is the Momentus XT and what does it do?  
In essence, Seagate have taken last years Momentus 7200.4 2.5" hard drive, upped the buffer from 16Mb to 32Mb and added 4Gb NAND FLASH solid storage.  Now comes the science!  The firmware on the drive is designed to be able to learn which files are read regularly by the machine and these are duplicated into the flash memory section for quicker access.

Does it work?
In the most basic of senses - yes it does.  We tested on a Macbook Pro 2.66 Ghz i7 / 8Gb Ram.  The standard 7200.4 achieved a cold boot time of 42 seconds for the OS and started Logic Pro 9 in 25 seconds.  After a couple of hours use to allow the drive to realise what was being used the most, the Momentus XT achieved 25 seconds cold boot time and loaded Logic in under 17 seconds.

Running bench marking software on the drive shows that write speeds are approximately 15% faster than the 7200.4 but the real advantage comes in the ability to read up to 80% quicker than the 7200.4

Our Verdict...
If you're on a budget and starting to run into the buffers on the capability of your system, this seems to be an economical way of getting a little boost, for not much money (Expect to pay under £100 for the largest size - 500Gb).  It's cheaper then an SSD and does offer a performance boost.  Ultimately it is not an SSD and that does show in the write speeds.

If you can't afford an SSD - get this and you won't be disappointed.  If you can afford an SSD it's probably a better bet in the long run.