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Seagate hybrid hard drive raises perfomance bar

Seagate unveils a new hybrid internal hard drive that offers SSD-like performance at a fraction of the cost.

The Momentus XT looks exactly like any traditional laptop hard drive but on the inside, it's an entirely different beast. Dong Ngo/CNET

You've probably heard of solid-state drives, such as the Intel X25, but haven't yet purchased one because you can't afford it. Or maybe you're turned off by the limited amount of storage these drives offer.

There's now an alternative that allows you to have high performance and more storage space, without leaving a hole in your wallet. It is the all new hybrid Momentus XT hard drive that Seagate unveiled Monday.

The Momentus XT combines the traditional platter-based storage with solid-state memory, incorporating 4GB of high-speed single-level-cell flash memory and a built-in algorithm, called Active Memory technology, that automatically moves frequently accessed data to the solid-state part. This helps optimize the access time and enhance the overall performance.

Other than that, the new hard drive has the traditional design of an SATA 2 (3Gbps) hard drive. It's 9mm thick and would fit in any applications where other 2.5-inch hard drives are used. The drive's moving part spins at 7,200rpm, as opposed to most 2.5-inch drives, which spin at 5,400rpm. It has 32MB of cache memory, which is double that of most others.

With these specs, the new Momentus XT offered great performance in our tests, even faster than that of some SSDs. The best part about the drive is the price: at just around $135 for the 500GB version, the Momentus XT costs just a fraction of the price of an SSD that has just one fourth of its storage space.

Asus revealed Monday that it now offers the Momentus XT as an upgrade option for its new Republic of Gamers (ROG) G73Jh notebook. This is an ultra-high-end portable system that's powered by an Intel i7 720Qm quad-core processor, 8GB of DDR3 memory, and DX11 capable ATI Radeon Mobility HD 5870.

In addition to the Momentus XT, Seagate also announced Monday the Momentus 750GB. This appears to be the world's highest-capacity 7,200rpm laptop hard drive. Unlike the Momentus XT, the Momentus 750GB is a traditional hard drive designed for mainstream or high-performance laptops or portable external backup applications.

According to Seagate, the Momentus 750GB drive features a SATA 3Gbps, 16MB cache with silent acoustics and low power consumption. The Momentus 750GB will be available in June with the estimated price of $125.

The hybrid Momentus XT, however, is available now. For more information on how it's totally worth your money, check out our in-depth review of the Seagate Momentus XT.