Has the hybrid hard drive arrived via the Ultrabook?

Ultrabooks will make the hybrid hard drive mainstream, according to a report. The first high-profile Ultrabook with a hybrid drive is the Acer Aspire S3.

Are future mainstream Ultrabooks going to usher in the hybrid hard-disk drive?

Acer may have kicked off this trend with the hybrid-drive-packing Ultrabook Aspire S3, which sports a 20GB solid-state drive matched with a standard 320GB spinning hard disk. So, will others follow? Yes, says a report in Digitimes.

The Acer Aspire S3 is the first high-profile Ultrabook to pair a 20GB SSD with a 320GB HDD.
The Acer Aspire S3 is the first high-profile Ultrabook to pair a 20GB SSD with a 320GB HDD. Acer

Though a hybrid system can't match the performance of a 128GB SSD-only laptop, an ancillary 20GB drive is a relatively large chunk of flash compared with, for example, the 4GB SSD (or flash drive, if that's what you choose to call it) in the Seagate Momentus hybrid drive.

How does Acer's new Ultrabook perform? Here's what CNET Reviews said: "The SSD allows the system to boot up and resume from sleep very quickly...In anecdotal use, we found the Acer Aspire S3 speedy and responsive, with no slowdown or stuttering during everyday entertainment and productivity use."

Not bad for an $899 ultrathin laptop that straddles the best of both storage worlds: a speedy SSD and slower but low-cost HDD.

And cost is the key driver behind these drives, according to past statements by Intel and Tuesday's Digitimes report. If current Ultrabook vendors like Acer and Asus and future players like Hewlett-Packard and Dell want to hit sub-$1,000 price points next year, hybrid drives may be an imperative.

In the interim, pricier Ultrabooks like the Asus Zenbook, which features SSD-only models, will still be popular.

Whatever the case, 2012 should be an interesting year for Ultrabooks. In addition to more models possibly packing hybrid drives, Intel's Ivy Bridge chip will makes USB 3.0 standard and deliver even better graphics than today's Sandy-Bridge based systems.