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Users frustrated with Seagate's next-gen hybrid drive

Lucas Mearian | Feb. 16, 2011
Seagate has resolved some of the problems and is addressing others

FRAMINGHAM 16 FEBRUARY 2011 - Users are complaining that Seagate's Momentus XT hybrid drive, which combines solid-state drive (SSD) technology with a traditional hard drive, has a significant defect that causes it to pause frequently, freeze up and beep a lot.

One user said his drive recorded more than 65,000 spin-downs/spin-ups in its first month of use.

Much of the problem involves a Momentus XT feature called Advanced Power Management (APM), which automatically spins down the hard disk to manage power use and increase mechanical life span. The feature also allows the SSD to take over read requests and serve up the most frequently used data. Users on Seagate's online forum say the problem is that the spin-down feature is too aggressive.

The Momentus XT's relatively low price and its promise of high performance have led to a boom in sales. During a recent conference call about its financial performance, Seagate announced that it shipped about 350,000 units since the Momentus XT was released last spring.

Darren Dittrich, CEO of Marketplace, said he was impressed with the concept of the Seagate drive -- a product that cut the high cost of SSD by adding a hard drive for higher capacity. But after purchasing four 500GB Momentus XT drives to use in his personal computers, including a MacBook Pro, Dittrich said the product's shine quickly dulled.

He said he noticed an inordinate amount of spin-downs with the drive. After a couple of weeks, he purchased a SMART (self-monitoring, analysis and reporting technology) utility to investigate the drive's performance and found that it clocked in 3,200 spin down/up cycles.

"That can't be good for anything," he said.

Dittrich said he replaced his MacBook's Momentus XT with another one that he'd purchased and had in production in another computer a month earlier. The SMART software showed that it had spun down and up 65,535 times.

The Momentus XT is a 7200-rpm Serial ATA hard disk drive combined with 4GB of SSD capacity and 32MB of DDR3 cache memory. Among its advanced software features is the ability for the drive to track use trends and take advantage of its high-performance flash memory to serve up the most frequently accessed data, while storing the bulk of data on its hard drive component.

Seagate said it released a firmware upgrade for the Momentus XT, Version SD24, to address its aggressive APM tool. Dittrich said he installed the firmware upgrade and found that it addressed the frequency of spin-downs, but the drive is still slower than the native hard drive that came with the MacBook and he's still suffering from "odd lagging, and mysterious slowdowns."


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