Samsung Begins Shipping Hybrid Hard Drives

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Samsung has announced that its has begun commercial shipments of its MH80 line of hybrid hard disk drives, making itself one of the first companies to roll out a hybrid hard drive unit to OEM customers. Samsung’s MH80 line will initially be available in 80, 120, and 160 GB capacities; the drives themselves are 2.5-inch units with either 128 or 256 MB of onboard OneNAND Flash cache and Microsoft’s ReadyDrive software.

Drive manufacturers and Microsoft have been touting the potential performance benefits of hybrid drives for some time; the basic idea is that by combining flash memory cache with a traditional hard drive, a hybrid drive can enable power-sensitive systems (like notebook computers) to start up and resume operations more quickly, since they’d be accessing vital data out via flash rather than the platters. Hybrid drives would also use less power (since they’d have to spin up less frequenly) and be less vulnerable to damage from shocks and drops (since the drives wouldn’t be spinning as often).

Microsoft’s ReadyDrive technology enables Vista-equipped PCs to take advantage of the drive’s onboard flash memory. Samsung claims onboard ReadyBoot technology offers up to 50 percent faster boot and resume time, while ReadyDrive enables the MH80 drive to use 70 to 90 percent less power than a traditional hard drive, extending battery life in notebook systems by as much as 30 minutes. Samsung says the technology lets the drive’s spinning platters sit idle 99 percent of the time.

"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," Albert Kim, Samsung’s National Sales Manager for Storage Systems, in a statement. "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."

The MH80 units should be turning up in Vista-equipped notebook computer systems soon, as well as shipping as standalone retail drives. Other companis—like Seagate, and Fujitsu—have already announced hybrid drive systems of their own, although Samsung seems to be the first to get them out the door in commercial quantity.