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Samsung releases its first hybrid hard drives

While Fujitsu may have snagged the headlines on Monday for its 7200RPM 160GB SATA/300 2.5" hard disk drive (HDD), Samsung is looking to make a few headlines of its own with the availability of the world's first hybrid HDDs. Samsung new MH80 Series hybrid HDDs will be available in capacities of 80GB, 120GB and 160GB.

Samsung new MH80 HDDs will be fully compatible with Windows Vista and will offer OneNAND Flash onboard in capacities of 128MB or 256MB. The onboard flash allows for up to 50% faster OS boots, quicker resume times and increases in battery life of up to 30 minutes.

"As a leader in both hard drive and flash memory technologies, Samsung brings to market a unique hybrid hard drive that is sure to revolutionize the notebook computing experience," said Albert Kim, National Sales Manager, Storage Systems for Samsung Semiconductor. "The MH80 hybrid hard drive provides the ideal solution for two major issues that notebook PC users continually face: faster boot and resume performance and extended battery life."

Samsung claims that the MH80 Series offers five times the reliability of traditional HDDS while consuming 70-90% less power.

Hopefully, Samsung's claims will pan out in real world testing. Internal testing by Lenovo engineers has shown that hybrid HDDs aren't all they're cracked up to be.

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By zephyrprime on 3/7/2007 3:30:19 PM , Rating: 5
Nice but they gotta put in a reasonable amount of flash like 1GB instead of the piddling 128-256MB they used. Come on. Flash is cheap. Samsung - do better!

RE: Nice
By VIAN on 3/7/2007 4:57:18 PM , Rating: 2
I would've expected at least 1GB as well. This article doesn't even say the price of these new drives either, but I doubt it's going to be cheap.

RE: Nice
By codeThug on 3/7/2007 6:16:11 PM , Rating: 3
They gotta dump their old stock somewhere.

Can't just have it hanging around the warehouse...

RE: Nice
By SquidianLoveGod on 3/7/2007 6:41:32 PM , Rating: 2
Its still early days yet, I wouldn't be surprised if 1gb showed up eventually.

RE: Nice
By TomZ on 3/7/2007 9:34:59 PM , Rating: 3
I'd guess the decision for 256MB was the "sweet spot" in terms of performance versus cost. After all, the HDD and laptop markets are highly competitive and cost-sensitive, so I'm sure that they had to be careful that the delta cost isn't too much.

RE: Nice
By kmmatney on 3/7/2007 10:44:13 PM , Rating: 2
Good point - HDDs are pretty dirt cheap already. Even adding a $10 flash chip could make the drive less competitive.

RE: Nice
By TomZ on 3/8/2007 9:09:48 AM , Rating: 3
I came across the Microsoft presentation that says that in their tests, for Vista 256MB is the optimum cache size:

Being a hybrid, I expected.....
By marvdmartian on 3/7/2007 3:16:50 PM , Rating: 5
When I heard they were making hybrid hard drives, I expected to hear that they ran on electricity most of the time, but had a teeny-tiny gasoline engine for a power boost, during heavy usage of the drive!

8000 GB/Gallon, baby!! ;)

RE: Being a hybrid, I expected.....
By Kougar on 3/7/2007 3:33:44 PM , Rating: 5
Oh, you must be confused with the new upcoming graphics cards. They will feature a hybrid mini 4-stroke E85 engine and lithium-ion battery for extra power assist when they require more power than the physical wall outlet will be able to handle. ;)

By S3anister on 3/8/2007 12:27:15 AM , Rating: 2
that, is the FUNNIEST thing i've heard all day. seriously.

By codeThug on 3/7/2007 6:18:04 PM , Rating: 3

I'd mod you up, but i already posted.

Unanswered questions
By brystmar on 3/7/2007 3:05:46 PM , Rating: 2
When and where can I buy one, and how much will each model set me back?

RE: Unanswered questions
By RogueSpear on 3/7/2007 6:42:07 PM , Rating: 2
I have some questions too.

Would it be possible for the drive manufacturer or some third party to create a 2000/XP device driver so that Vista wouldn't be required to take advantage of these drives?

RE: Unanswered questions
By Flunk on 3/8/2007 4:19:51 PM , Rating: 2
You won't need special hardware these drives will have the same SATA or IDE interface as a normal drive. All of the cacheing is done in hardware.

RE: Unanswered questions
By Flunk on 3/8/2007 4:21:22 PM , Rating: 2
Oops, my post above should have said this:

You won't need special software/drivers these drives. They will have the same SATA or IDE interface as a normal drive. All of the cacheing is done in hardware.

RE: Unanswered questions
By TomZ on 3/8/2007 4:40:43 PM , Rating: 2
That's not really true. While the hardware interface is the same, a new ATA command set has been added for ATA-8 that allows the OS to manage the NV cache.

Therefore, you would need software running in your OS that knows about that functionality - support for it would not be automatic. AFAIK, Vista is the only OS that supports it, although I would imagine support could be added in other OSs.

More details:

RE: Unanswered questions
By typo101 on 3/8/2007 8:50:07 PM , Rating: 2
Then how will Vista's ReadyDrive manage the SSD? Is it just going to appear as a separate partition? I would like that because then I could think of a couple uses for a little sata solid state partition in Linux.

RE: Unanswered questions
By TomZ on 3/8/2007 11:20:49 PM , Rating: 2
Through new ATA commands - see my post above.

hybrid hard drive + /vs ready boost?
By nerdye on 3/7/2007 9:45:51 PM , Rating: 2
One of the curiosities I have when I first read this article is, how would this hard drive perform on a vista pc that already has 2 - 4 gb of speedy ram, and a 2 - 8 gb usb thumb-drive in use for ready boost mode? Obviously if we give platter based hard drives integrated 128mb - 256mb of nand memory it will speed up random access speeds of the hard drive, which is what ready boost does, but how about both of these technologies in conjunction? Will ready boost be less useful with such a hybrid hard drive to the point that we won't care about ready boost anymore (obviosly these hard drives will have to match ready boost's usb thumb drive capacity of 8+ gb to do so), and just buy a hybrid as all of us enthusiasts wait for an affordable 100 - 200gb desktop nand based flash hard drives to arrive to the market? I'm quite excited about alleviating our platter based hard drive bottlenecks to our bad ass pc systems!

RE: hybrid hard drive + /vs ready boost?
By TomZ on 3/7/2007 10:08:31 PM , Rating: 3
I think ReadyBoost is really intended to speed up application starts. But I personally don't spend a lot of time in a given day waiting for applications to start, so I kind of wonder about Microsoft's investment in that feature.

By nerdye on 3/7/2007 11:30:32 PM , Rating: 2
Yet you do wait for applications to start everyday, every time you restart windows you wait for it to boot up, which the hybrid drive speeds up in a very strong fashion, as does ready boost! So you argue that you don't reboot your OS all the time, yet you will scoff at the long OS boot times of yesteryear once equipped with the technology of tomorrow. Plus faster random access time of your hard drive is seriously going to eliminate bottlenecks of simple taks and make one feel like their pc is truly responsive beyond dual/quad-core offerings!

By Bladen on 3/8/2007 2:34:44 AM , Rating: 2
AFAIK ReadyBoost is limited to 4GB.

160 GB?
By vorgusa on 3/7/2007 3:28:27 PM , Rating: 2
Where is Desktop version. I would think this would be useful in desktops too, which should be able to get higher storage capacities.

RE: 160 GB?
By BigLan on 3/7/2007 5:21:16 PM , Rating: 3
One of the main benefits of this drive in laptops is power saving, which isn't as much an issue on desktops. The speed increase will be nice, so I'm sure there'll be a desktop version eventually, just like how perpendicular hard drives moved from the notebook to desktop.

RE: 160 GB?
By timmiser on 3/7/2007 7:23:04 PM , Rating: 2
Power savings is nice and all but I think the glaring difference is the 50% OS load time!! Wow, that is huge. I don't care as much about the few extra minutes on battery life.

By Micronite on 3/7/2007 3:31:02 PM , Rating: 2
It will be interesting to see if these take off. It sounds compelling, but I wonder if the limited # of writes Flash can handle will outlast the hard disk or vice versa.
I imagine any smart controller will spread out accesses across the flash so that you get the longest lifetime possible.
Cost will undoubtedly dictate how quickly these become accepted.

RE: Interesting...
By Souka on 3/7/2007 5:30:33 PM , Rating: 2
From Article,1697,1789922...

Greenberg said the company's own internal studies have shown that the even the relatively limited number of read and write cycles that flash memory allows will still permit a drive to last longer than today's estimated five-year lifespan, he said. The 2004 example only used a 128-Mbyte flash memory, to boot.

I'll wait
By shaw on 3/7/2007 7:05:05 PM , Rating: 2
I'll wait to see what anandtech has to say before getting one of these.

RE: I'll wait
By Dactyl on 3/7/2007 8:34:42 PM , Rating: 2
The only way to know whether these will be any good is to actually review them. Anything else is pure speculation.

You can take that a step further: the fact that Samsung is not sending out hybrid HDDs to hardware review web sites is a very good reason to be very suspicious.

By kilkennycat on 3/7/2007 8:34:24 PM , Rating: 2
If not... avoid. Unlike BIOS and even USB flash, this on-disk permanently-OS-accessible flash can be involuntarily written many times and at high-speed, especially if maverick code causes a software loop. The first indication of end-of-life problem with flash is erratic bit failure. The error-detection is needed to immediately pin-point the actual source of the computer's flakiness. By 200,000 write-cycles, typical flash storage lifetime has usually degraded to < 1 day.

By TomZ on 3/7/2007 9:29:56 PM , Rating: 2
LOL, do you think the design engineers are idiots? I wouldn't worry about flash wear-out with this product - clearly that was one of the first issues they addressed.

how does it work
By Visual on 3/8/2007 7:20:14 AM , Rating: 2
from my understanding, the flash memory won't be directly visible and controllable by the os, it will be just like the current 8/16mb hdd caches that work absolutely transparently and are controlled by the drive's firmware itself. so it has nothing to do with os features like readyboost.

it will be very efficient in caching writes and delaying them until there's a big enough chunk to be written to the platters. being non-volatile, it is safe to do such write delays for an arbitrary amount of time. this will certainly help with write performance, battery life, maybe also noise and heat, especially for many small writes.

but how will it help with booting up or app loading or random access read latencies in general? i see no way the drive could predict what sectors to keep cached for this task, as it will need capacities of several gigabytes. also any form of preloading unrequested blocks based on predictions seems unlikely, as it will go against the 'saving power by minimising platter operations' idea...

the only case that i can imagine where this could help in read operations is if you try to read chunks that are in the same block as another recently read or written chunk and it's still in the cache.

RE: how does it work
By TomZ on 3/8/2007 9:15:30 AM , Rating: 2
Vista will have direct control over the flash ("NV cache") in the HDD. The feature is called ReadyDrive, and it works along with SuperFetch and ReadyBoost in Vista.

I linked to this PowerPoint presentation in another post, but here it is again for your convenience:

It speeds up boot time because it takes several seconds to spin up a HDD before you can read from it. The NV cache is written during shutdown or hybernate with the data that is needed to boot or resume.

I'll wait for the reviews
By ralith on 3/7/2007 5:41:22 PM , Rating: 2
I'll wait for some reviews before I make a decision on whether this is a worth while component to add to my next system. I'm still not even sure my next system will be running Vista, but if the performance numbers from this technology are good enough that might just be enough feathers in Vista cap to push me toward Vista. We'll see...

First hybrid drive?
By DragonMaster0 on 3/7/2007 6:25:03 PM , Rating: 2
Seagate announced the Momentus 5400 PSD in the middle of 2006 like Samsung, however, Samsung released it first.

Strange... Both drives use 256MB of flash...

Is my hard drive set to be senile?
By AGAC on 3/8/2007 5:25:37 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure I must have missed something, but wasn't there an issue with flash memory having a determined number of state changes before they fade away?

Have they fixed this issue, or should I expect hard drives to start suffring from memory loss after a couple of years? I guess it´s the end of those five year warranty hard drives...

MacBook to have it(probably)
By crystal clear on 3/8/07, Rating: 0
By crystal clear on 3/9/2007 8:08:43 AM , Rating: 1
Whilst Reuter/Bloomberg consider it, news worthy to headline this news-some uneducated DT commenters prefer to vote it down,as they lack the skills/abilities to understand its worthyness.

Apple may use flash memory for notebooks: analyst
Thu Mar 8, 2007 2:29PM EST

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

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