May 26 2011

Review: Seagate Momentus XT

This hybrid drive delivers solid-state storage benefits at traditional hard-drive prices.

Solid-state hard drives have evolved into the premier storage choice for many top-name notebook computers. With excellent read/write speeds and low power requirements, SSDs can be a great match for almost any mobile system. But the technology is still in its infancy so the price per gigabyte can quickly put this option out of reach for budget-conscious buyers.

This is what makes the Seagate Momentus XT such an incredible piece of hardware engineering. Representing much more than a standard 7200 rpm drive, this hybrid drive comes equipped with 4 gigabytes of solid-state storage controlled by a proprietary algorithm dubbed Adaptive Memory Technology.

Put simply, as the hard drive reads the information that is accessed most often, it caches it into the 4GB onboard SSD for quick retrieval. This includes any applications that are frequently opened, the boot process and commonly used documents. The Seagate Momentus XT combines the prowess of a solid-state drive with the cost savings of a standard spindle hard drive.

End-User Advantages

From an end user’s perspective, nothing is more pleasing and productive than speed. Fast application loading, quick file access and reduced boot times all help create a smooth and enjoyable user experience.

The Momentus XT showcases itself each time information from the internal SSD is loaded by displaying it almost instantaneously after a user has requested it. The Adaptive Memory system is always running, always analyzing the user’s patterns and changes as quickly as the data does.

This is all done internally in the drive itself, so no interaction is required. The drive is also super quiet. Road warriors will appreciate the lack of hard drive crunching while loading up spreadsheet files and the like during meetings.

Another distinct advantage is the low power requirement. Using the built-in SSD storage space, the spindle can power down and reduce power usage to less than 1 watt. That makes it possible to work unplugged for long periods of time.

Why It Works for IT

IT departments should consider the cost savings possible when purchasing a Momentus XT. A complete solid-state drive can cost as much as $4 per gigabyte compared with the hybrid Momentus’ 31 cents per gigabyte. As capacities expand, SSDs climb in price much faster than comparable hybrid drives.

The warranty is also important to any organization looking to protect its investment. A standard five-year warranty comes with each Seagate Momentus, which is nearly double the three-year warranty that covers most SSDs. Because a standard spindle design is at the heart of the Momentus, technology teams know that reliability will not be an issue and the chances of having to use the warranty are slim.


The Adaptive Memory Technology employed in the Momentus can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. For users who have Macs and boot-camp partitions, every time a different operating system loads, the onboard cache must relearn the commonly opened applications. This can add to app load times and lead to a longer boot process.

Updating the firmware is also extremely important. Seagate regularly tweaks the Adaptive Memory algorithm, so firmware updates must be applied frequently.

Additionally, the enormous potential of Momentus seems somewhat limited by its 4GB of onboard SSD; an 8GB or 16GB option would keep the spindle drive at idle for greater periods of time.