Computer hard drives, the devices that store your files, come in two primary types: mechanical and solid state. Mechanical drives offer huge capacities, up to 4 TB (1 TB or terabyte = 1,000,000 megabytes or 1,000 gigabytes), at low prices. Since they rely on motors and spinning disks, they load information slowly. Sold state drives (SSD for short) come in much smaller capacities and cost significantly more per gigabyte, but because they have no moving parts, access information extremely quickly and use very little power.
That is until Seagate introduced a hybrid drive for laptop computers known as the Momentus XT. This drive offered capacities up to 250 GB with 4GB of dedicated solid-state memory . Reviews were generally positive with significant improvements to load times of the operating system, commonly used programs and files within the first few days of use. The reason the performance improvement was not immediate, is that the drive needs to learn what information to cache in the smaller solid state portion for quick access. The traditional mechanical hard drive is used to store less frequently accessed information.
On March 5th, Seagate announced its third-generation solid state hybrid drives, SSHD for short, in both traditional laptop size and, for the first time ever, a desktop-sized hard drive. The SSD portion has been updated to 8 GB in size with 500 GB and 1 TB options for the laptop-sized drives and 1 TB and 2 TB for the desktop-sized drives. The desktop hard drive platters spin at 7200 rpm so the performance should easily trump any conventional 7200 rpm hard drive. The laptop units spin at 5200 rpm making them power- efficient while still offering the 8GB SSD caching. Pricing will start at $79 for a 500 GB laptop drive and $99 for a 1 TB desktop drive.
While a traditional SSD will still outperform one of these newer SSHD drives, the low price point compared to a SSD should allow it to be built into lower-cost computers. These drives also offer a significant upgrade to people with traditional hard drives. Expect these drives to show up on many popular online merchants in the next few days and in retail stores in the coming weeks.
P.S. Want to know if the performance is worth the upgrade? The simple answer is Yes. I personally tested the first generation of the SSHD drives in a laptop. The boot time and program load time compared to a traditional 5200rpm laptop hard drive was significant. Seagate offers upgrade kits to help you image your current hard drive to the new SSHD so you can keep all of your programs and files.