Seagate puts 2.5” hybrid HDD into mass-production

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Scotts Valley (CA) – Seagate today said that it has begun shipping its first hybrid hard drive, a device that combines standard hard drive storage technologies with NAND flash, in volume. There is still a premium to pay for these drives, but Seagate undercuts the price of its competition and expects the new model to hit the notebook mainstream soon.

Seagate’s hybrid HDD, called Momentus 5400 PSD, will be available in versions with 80 GB, 120 GB and 160 GB. All three drives come with 256 MB of NAND flash memory, which, according to the manufacturer accelerate boot and application load processes, cut power consumption and increase the reliability of the hard drive. Seagate stated the 5400 PSD achieves 20% faster boot times, 50% lower power consumption and 50% more reliability in MTBF than comparable hard drives without flash.

Probably more significantly, Seagate is “not charging an arm and a leg” for this new technology, as a product manager told TG Daily. The 160 GB model checks in at a suggested retail price of $190, which is about 25% higher than the regular 160 GB drive, which is selling for street prices of about $150 these days. Hybrid hard drives are still a rare sight in the market and expensive and typically sell for substantially more than $200. Samsung’s FlashOn MH80, currently the only hybrid HDD available in US retail, sells for prices between $200 and $230, according to Pricegrabber.com.

Interestingly, Seagate has positioned the PSD as a mainstream product for the near future – and not as a hard drive aimed only at enthusiasts. While true mainstream OEM hard drives typically require a purchase price of $60 - a segment that is currently occupied by the 80 to 100 GB generation of devices – the 5400 PSD is close enough to the upper end of the main stream to be able to find its way into the $1200 class of notebooks and trickle down from there.

Seagate believes that the 2.5” hybrid hard drive will become the storage device of choice in all notebook segments with the exception of the ultra-mobile segment, where solid state drives (SSDs) have more advantages due to their lighter weight, lower power consumption and compact size. The company confirmed that it will be offering SSDs in 2008, but noted that their current price of about $64 per GB will prevent them from becoming a mainstream product in the near future.

The manufacturer said that it will also be increasing the flash capacity of the hybrid drives over time. For now, we were told, 256 MB is sufficient and represents the sweet spot of the market in terms of price as well quality: “The 2, 4 and 8 GB flash devices you see in the market today do not really have the quality you want to use in your hard drive,” we were told. Seagate said that it is purchasing all of its flash devices from a “supplier”, but did not say which company it is. The manufacturer declined to comment on whether it is considering producing its own flash memory in the future.

Seagate will also update its non-hybrid 2.5” drives later this year, with the fourth generation of the Momentus 5400 being lifted from a maximum capacity of currently 160 GB to 250 GB.