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Lenovo bloggers say that hybrid HDDs, "Robson" aren't quite up to snuff yet

Hard drive manufacturers and Intel have been touting the benefits of flash memory coupled with traditional HDDs for nearly a year now. In the case of hard drive manufacturers, companies are integrating small amounts of NAND flash memory (typically 256MB to 512MB) onto HDD PCBs.

Intel looks to achieve the same functionality through the use of Robson technology. With Robson technology, as much as 4GB of NAND flash memory are added to a notebook via an ExpressCard slot or an internal mini card slot (the same can be accomplished with a PCIe slot on a desktop system).

Hybrid HDDs along with Robson technology are supposed to work together with Windows Vista's ReadyDrive to boost performance as well as reduce power consumption on notebook systems -- or so Microsoft and HDD manufacturers say.

Some benefits with ReadyDrive are unquestionable such as the decrease in mechanical wear on the HDD due to the increased reliance on the NAND flash. The performance benefits, however, aren't there according to a blog post over at Lenovo's Inside the Box. Additionally, the employees emphasize that battery life benefits are not impressive according to internal testing.

The Lenovo bloggers recommend that users skip first generation ReadyDrive hardware altogether and simply purchase more memory or buy a faster traditional HDD for the time being. The bloggers also suggest waiting for second generation ReadyDrive devices before making the hybrid leap.

This news comes on the same day that the Hybrid Storage Alliance was formed by Fujitsu, Hitachi, Samsung, Seagate and Toshiba. The five companies are working together to tout the benefits of hybrid HDDs and expect for them to account for 35% of the total HDD market by 2010.

"The hard drive industry is continuously looking for ways to bring greater value to the systems in which our technology resides and to those who use them," said Joni Clark, chairperson, Hybrid Storage Alliance. "Adding non-volatile memory to the hard drive brings about a host of mobility benefits that increases the value users want in notebook PCs -- longer battery life, faster response, greater system durability."

Although performance may not be where many expect the technology to be at the moment, future generations of ReadyDrive devices will serve as competent stepping stone to the inevitable Flash SSD end game.

Several months ago, Microsoft unveiled the mid-2007 requirements for Vista Premium certification.  Solid-state hybrid hard drives were featured among those requirements.  According to a DailyTech interview with Don Barnetson, Director of Flash Marketing for Samsung, Microsoft has quietly pushed the hybrid hard drive requirement into 2008.  No explanation for the date change was given.





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