Toshiba hatches a hybrid hard drive

Toshiba has announced that it's to launch a new range of 2.5inch hard drive which combine either 750GB or a terabyte of spinning storage with an 8GB NAND flash cache as a hybrid hard drive. The MQ01ABD, for that is its name, learns which files you regularly access and then clones them into the cache area in order to speed up loading times for commonly used files.

It's not the first 'hybrid hard drive' on the market - Seagate has been selling its excellent Momentous XT for some years now - but it is only the second major manufacturer to produce them. It also comes at an interesting time for hard drives.

Back when solid state drives were so expensive it made more financial sense to fly your data to Switzerland and store in a bank vault than buy one, a lot of tech pundits (myself included) believed that hybrid hard drives were probably the future. Hybrids have proved themselves capable of excellent read speeds, and since they appear as one drive to Windows you don't need to worry about what you're installing where.

Recent drops in the cost of flash memory, however, mean that you all but get SSDs free with breakfast cereal these days. While a hybrid drive is still slightly cheaper and more convenient than adding two drives to your PC, the fact is that both Toshiba and Seagate use 5,400RPM platters and write speeds especially are noticeably slower (for the Seagate at least. I haven't tested the Toshiba.)

I'll admit to still being partial to the Seagate Momentous XT that I keep in one of the benchmarking set-ups here, but I have to admit that if I were buying hard drives right now I'd be looking at a 256GB dedicated SSD and staying on top of the house keeping for the improved write speeds alone.

Is Toshiba too late? Or have hybrids still got a place as laptop hard drives?