Samsung ships its first hybrid disk drive

New HDD combining conventional magnetic storage with flash memory uses less power

Samsung Electronics has begun shipping its first hybrid hard-disk drives that mix conventional magnetic storage with flash memory, it said Wednesday.

The drives are designed for use in laptop PCs and will work with the ReadyDrive feature in the new Windows Vista operating system. Under ReadyDrive, the flash memory acts as a temporary cache enabling the number of disk accesses to be cut. This means the drive spends less time in motion and so uses less power. Samsung claims a 70 percent to 90 percent cut in power consumption thanks to the system. Because data can quickly be stored and retreived from the flash memory, ReadyDrive should also allow PCs to wake up faster from sleep mode.

The first three drives from Samsung are 80GB, 120GB, and 160GB models and have either 128MB or 256MB of flash memory. That's the same flash capacity as prototypes Samsung unveiled at last year's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle in May. In July of last year Samsung followed up with a prototype that included 4GB of flash memory.

Software support for ReadyDrive exists in Windows Vista only so PCs running other operating systems won't benefit from the technology.

Intel has a competing system that is code-named Robson. It has the flash memory on the PC motherboard and will be included on Intel's new Santa Rosa laptop platform that is due in the second quarter of this year.

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