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Seagate has released a product called the Momentus XT Solid State Hybrid Drive. This looks exactly like what Windows ReadyBoost attempts to do with software at the OS level: Pairing the benefits of a large hard drive together with the performance of solid-state flash memory.

Does the Momentus XT out-perform a similar ad-hoc pairing of a decent hard drive with similar flash memory storage under Windows ReadyBoost?

Other than the obvious "a hardware implementation ought to be faster than a software implementation", why would ReadyBoost not be able to perform as well as such a hybrid device?

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3 Answers 3

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One major difference is that ReadyBoost is limited to USB 2.0 bandwidth (unless your computer has the ultra-rare and extremely bleeding edge USB 3.0), whereas the hard drive is on the much, much faster SATA interface.

Thus, putting fast flash memory on SATA alone is enough of a win to say definitively that it will be faster.

ReadyBoost is also designed around relatively slow I/O constraints, which limits the scope of what it can do, too.

The one review I found was quite positive. It does seem like, with the right algorithms, you could have the best of both worlds here -- the speed of a SSD (mostly) and the capacity and low price-per megabyte of a traditional HDD.

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Can you not have ReadyBoost working from memory card readers on other controllers, eg. PCIe)? (Dunno what real world speeds they might actually get...) –  Andy May 31 '10 at 3:13
    
just looked up fastest mem card speeds at toms hardware, and they seem way too slow... –  Andy May 31 '10 at 3:23
    
Can you elaborate, or do you have a link on the specifics of the I/O constraints for ReadyBoost? (I wonder if it changed much Vista -> 7) –  Andy May 31 '10 at 3:26
    
I was able to put ReadyBoost on my SSD as a test (connected via eSATA). Not sure how I would test any performance boost though. –  sunk818 Sep 16 at 15:53

I reckon it will not be the technology that's a winner here, it will be the algorithm used to decide what to store where. Seeing as we don't know the algo for Vista, Win7, or the hybrid, I guess it will take empirical evidence to get a reasonable answer. Having said that, the OS can run more complicated algorithms, look at usage patterns over longer periods, and understand the filesystem itself better, so perhaps there's more potential there. One possible slowdown to ReadyBoost is that it has to encrypt everything because it's assuming removable media, whereas the hybrid solution has no such constraint.

"a hardware implementation ought to be faster than a software implementation"

I'm not sure that has to be true, but you get the advantage of knowing that if your computer's under a heavy workload, the hard drive will still operate at optimal speed. Edit: also it keeps your data buses emptier.

An advantage I see to ReadyBoost is that you've separated the two storage technologies, so you can update them independently as prices decrease or technology improves.

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You are wrong with this assumption; ReadyBoost and hybrid drives are completely different. ReadyBoost was designed to "extend RAM" to help low-level machines, while hybrid drives are designed to improve disk performance for top level machines. The way how ReadyBoost works is: read data from HDD into RAM first, and if you out of RAM push data from RAM to flash drive. ReadyBoost can't improve performance if you have plenty of RAM (actually, it will rather slow your system down).

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