Random Thoughts – Randosity!

Deep Tech #1: Momentus XT, Microsoft Kinect, Micro PCs

Posted in computers, windows by commorancy on July 25, 2010

Momentus XT

Here’s something that holds some promise for notebook hard drives, but don’t get your hopes up too high. Seagate has released the Momentus XT notebook hard drive. It’s a hybrid drive that combines solid state cache technology and a 7200 RPM mechanical spindle. The thought behind this drive technology is to help speed up your notebook’s hard drive performance. The upside, the SSD cache apparently does help speed the system up. The downside is that it only works on notebooks where the bottleneck is the hard drive.

The reality is, in many notebooks, this drive technology may not help speed up the system. The reality is, most notebook manufacturers cut corners on underlying bus architectures so that the motherboard ends up being the bottleneck, not the hard drive. For this reason, notebook makers put in 5400 RPM drives to 1) increase battery life and 2) reduce the heat. A faster drive requires more power and also radiates more heat. So, if you’re looking to keep your system as cool and quiet with the longest amount of battery, the Momentus XT may not be a great choice. Considering that the drive costs around $120-200 for a 500GB drive and no guarantee of performance improvement, it may not be worth the gamble if your notebook is older than 1 year.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a portable USB 2 or 3 drive without the need for extra power supplies, this drive may well be the answer. Although, I have not found the drive prepackaged to purchase, it’s simple enough to put together your own portable drive from this drive and an external USB 3 case.

The bad news about this drive, however… don’t expect to find it at your local tech retailer. Fry’s, Best Buy and Microcenter don’t carry it. Neither do Target, Walmart, Sears or any other local retailer. If you want this drive, you will need to order it from an Internet technology e-tailer like Newegg or Amazon and then wait for it to be delivered.

Microsoft Kinect

This device, formerly known as Project Natal, turns your body into a game controller. I don’t know about you, but this really doesn’t sound that appealing. Back in the late 90s, I’d seen a full body controller game at an arcade. Not only did it require a large amount of space, so you don’t knock things over or fall over and hurt yourself, it just seemed clumsy and awkward. Fast forward to the Microsoft Kinect. I see the same issue here. I’m not actually thrilled by standing around all day flailing my arms and legs to play a video game. Perhaps for 20 or 30 minutes to get a workout (ala, Wii Fit), I just don’t think I’d want to stand around all day flailing my arms and legs to play Red Dead Redemption. I just don’t really see it happening.

Considering the price tag of $150 for this device (which, BTW, is only $50 less than the cost of an Xbox 360), I’m just not feeling the love here. Overall, I think this novelty device will garner some support in small circles, but as with most Microsoft novelty tech, it’s pretty much dead in the water at $150. If they could bundle it in with an Xbox 360 for a $250-300 price tag including a game, then maybe. But, as for now, I’m not predicting that this device will last.

The Micro PC

If you’re looking for a small computer to fill that niche in your entertainment center, then perhaps the Dell Zino HD or the Viewsonic VOT 550 will fit the bill as both appear to be quite capable tiny computers. I’ve been looking for a small well designed PC for a specific purpose. A computer about the size of an Apple MacMini, but that runs Windows. Yes, I could probably get a MacMini and load Windows on it, but I’d really rather get a PC designed for that task. With an Apple MacMini, it feels like a square-peg-round-hole situation. With a PC designed for Windows, loading Windows would work with much less problems and probably have better driver support.

Overall, I like both the idea of the Zino HD and the Viewsonic VOT 550, I’d just like to see something as small as the MacMini. If Apple can produce such a small PC, I’m not sure why Dell, Gateway or other manufacturers can’t do it with PC hardware.

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