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Which is faster, hybrid disc+SSD or a full SSD drive?

I want to soup up my laptop for viewing large images. It's an ASUS F5GL with 5400RPM 250GB C-drive, currently I keep my photos on a MyPassport Elite external USB hard drive. The most demanding application will be Photoshop Elements primarily browsing photos and some editing.
I'm considering either a Seagate Momentus Hybrid XT hard drive with 4GB solid state memory and 32MB cache, or a full SSD C-drive such as an Intel X25-M or X25-E. Which will give the best performance, Hybrid or SSD?
The actual photos will be stored on an external drive, not the C drive. I'm considering using a 15k drive or an SSD with USB adapter lead. Is there a better way to set up a fast read/access external drive through USB port? The laptop only has USB 2.0 and RJ45 sockets, plus a socket which I think is HDMI.
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p-plater
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p-plater
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3 Solutions
 
nobusCommented:
you can compare ssd speeds with HDD and momentus specs :  http://ssd-reviews.com/
Momentus :   http://www.legitreviews.com/article/1310/1/

i suppose for smaller than 4 GB transfers it is as fast as SSD, but bigger  ones would use normal HDD speeds
(eg backup)
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p-platerAuthor Commented:
So if I'm scrolling through thousands of 10MB files on an external hard drive, using Elements Organiser to view them, what do I need to uprade for Elements to read the data faster - the external hard drive, the connection to it (i.e. USB), or the C drive?

There seems to be reports about the Momentus XT having problems, and some say not to use an SSD for the primary drive as data use wears it out prematurely. How seriously should I take these two respective reports when looking for a new primary drive for my laptop?
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
First, to answer your specific question:    An SSD will be faster than a hybrid.    The hybrid essentially uses a small SSD component as a much-larger-than-usual cache ==> but for any data that's not in that cache the drive works at standard rotating platter drive speeds.

HOWEVER ... for the utilization scenario you've described, whether you use an SSD, a hybrid, or a standard rotating platter drive is almost irrelevant  ==> the faster drives (hybrid or SSD) will boot and load your programs faster ... but won't help at all with your real issue.

Your problem is you're keeping a large amount of data on a drive that's bottlenecked by a USB connection to the drive.   Switching to a 15k drive or SSD, while still using a USB interface, will have little benefit [They WILL help, since the access times will be much faster -- but the data transfers will still be severely bottlenecked by the USB connection].

Does your laptop have an ExpressCard slot?    If so, you can make a HUGE improvement in your external drive's performance by (a) getting an eSATA ExpressCard;  and (b) using an eSATA external drive connected through the ExpressCard.     This will roughly QUADRUPLE the data transfer speeds you can expect from your external drive.   You can THEN use a faster external unit [SSD, VelociRaptor, etc.] and you'll gain the benefits of the faster drive.    This would be a FAR better improvement than replacing your internal drive for the usage you described.



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p-platerAuthor Commented:
So, for the eSATA/expresscard idea, I need an Expresscard with eSata slot. Then do I need to find a fast hard drive with an eSATA plug? What's the difference between eSATA and SATA anyway?
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nobusCommented:
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CallandorCommented:
An eSATA interface has a theoretical speed of 1500Mbit/sec or 3000Mbit/sec, depending on the interface (SATA1 or SATA2) of the drive connected to it, while USB2 is limited to 480Mbit/sec http://compreviews.about.com/od/storage/a/eSATA.htm.  A typical hard drive has a sustained transfer rate of about 800Mbit/sec, VelociRaptor hard drives transfer at 1000Mbit/sec, and good SSDs transfer at upwards of 2500Mbit/sec.  You can see that a USB2 connection will severely limit the transfer rate; in addition, USB has more overhead in the translation of the native hard drive protocol, while eSATA uses the native interface and has little overhead, if any.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Electrically there's no difference between SATA and eSATA ==> the "external" version simply uses a different physical connector.     I know you can't buy from Newegg, but here's an example of what you need:    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16839158011&cm_re=express_card_esata-_-39-158-011-_-Product

While the theoretical limits are nice to consider, it's more constructive to consider real-world transfer speeds.     USB can theoretically transfer up to 480Mb/s, or about 60MB/s, but due to the overhead bits, handshaking, etc., you'll generally get about 28-30MB/s maximum transfer speed.

With SATA-II the limits are 300MB/s, but this is FAR above the actual sustainable rates from any hard drive, so you'll basically get whatever the drive can do.    I have several Caviar Blacks connected via eSATA ports, and I average between 85 and 115MB/s, depending on where on the drive I'm reading/writing (outer cylinders are notably faster).

You can basically expect an eSATA card to be 4 times as fast as the USB connection, as long as you're using a 7200 rpm drive;  about 5 times as fast if you're using a Velociraptor,  and 8-10 times as fast if you're using a high-end SSD like an Intel X-25.

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p-platerAuthor Commented:
What speed could be expected with 7200rpm drive in a external enclosure connected via the Gigabyte ethernet connection?

Is a Gigabyte connection faster with a direct lead over connected through a switch?

What is the definition of a megabit?
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
With a Gigabit ethernet connection you can expect transfer speeds of around 70-80MB/s as long as the disk can support that -- most 7200rpm drives can.

However ... XP does not manage high speed networks as well as Windows 7, so you may not see speeds quite that fast.

If that's one of the options you're considering, it's definitely better than a USB connection;  but not as good as an eSATA connection.    Note that with an ethernet connection, it won't make much difference whether you're using a 7200rpm drive;  a 10,000rpm drive; or an SSD.   The network will be the bottleneck in terms of transfer speed.    You WOULD see a noticeable difference when working with a lot of small files, however, as the access time is MUCH faster on an SSD than any rotating platter drive (so the transfers will start much quicker);  and it's appreciably better on a 10k drive than a 7200rpm drive.

Bottom line:   The real issue you need to overcome is your USB connection, which is a BIG bottleneck for working with large amounts of data on your external drive.

A megabit is simply a million bits/second (or about 125KB/second).
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Note:   Your laptop DOES have an Express Card slot (just looked up the specs) ... so your best solution is to add an eSATA port using an Express Card.

If you don't want to bother with that, another good choice would be to replace your internal drive with a 7200rpm drive with enough capacity to simply copy all of your data to the internal drive.    Then it could be accessed MUCH faster  [although a good 3.5" 7200rpm drive connected through an eSATA port will be even faster, since 3.5" drives have higher transfer rates than laptop drives -- and that also gives you the option of using an even higher performing drive like a Velociraptor).
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Michael-BestCommented:
Your fastest solution would be a larger internal HDD with all your data stored on it, faster than any external HDD.

Seagate Delivers World's Fastest Hard Drive For Laptop Computers; Momentus XT Solid State Hybrid Drive Offers Solid State Performance With The Capacity And Value Of Hard Disk Drives.
500GB/320GB/250GB 7200RPM HDD with 32MB cache and a 4GB SLC NAND solid state memory module into a 2.5 inch form factor suitable for installation in laptops.

http://www.seagate.com/ww/v/index.jsp?locale=en-US&name=momentus-xt-seagate-delivers-fastest-pr&vgnextoid=afb2308aaecb8210VgnVCM1000001a48090aRCRD

http://www.gizmag.com/seagate-momentusxt-hybrid-laptop-drive/15213/

 The Momentus XT drive is a best-of-both-worlds solution that combines a 7200RPM spin speed, 4GB of solid state memory and Seagate’s Adaptive Memory technology to deliver unprecedented hard drive performance. The unique Adaptive Memory technology works by identifying patterns in how often certain digital data is used, and then moving the most frequently used information to the embedded solid state memory for faster access – effectively tailoring hard drive performance to each user and their applications.

Hope this helps.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
"... Your fastest solution would be a larger internal HDD with all your data stored on it, faster than any external HDD. "  ==>  Actually not true.    An external drive connected via eSATA will have the SAME interface speed as an internal drive;   but can easily be a faster drive -- a VelociRaptor 10k drive;  or a 3.5" 7200rpm drive (which has higher transfer speeds than a 2.5" drive.

As I noted earlier, replacing the internal drive with a 7200rpm unit IS a good option ... as long as it's large enough to hold all of the data, so the USB bottleneck is eliminated.    And if he's going to do this, a hybrid is certainly a good choice.    But the small SSD in a hybrid is essentially just a larger cache ... and for an application where many large files are being accessed (as in this case) it's not going to provide much benefit.


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Michael-BestCommented:
Edit: (18/03/11 04:19 PM, ID: 35163178)
"faster than any external HDD" =  faster than any USB external HDD.
.
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p-platerAuthor Commented:
Thanks to all for your valuable help. I think the best option for the laptop primary drive is the Intel X25-M 160GB, which will give me the fastest boot-ups and application performance as well as extending battery life.

For the external data drive, can't find any SATA 10k or 15k drives. Do they exist, or should I settle for a 7200? Or can I get an adapter to use SAS or SCSI drives which seem to be available in 10 and 15k?
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p-platerAuthor Commented:
Thanks Nobus - this seems to be a fantastic gadget for the price. Somehow it wasn't coming up in my searches before.

A million thanks to all those that helped, your advice is highly valued.

Cheers!
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nobusCommented:
glad to help
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