More 500GB notebook drives: Seagate 7200.4 & Hitachi 5K500.B

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More 500GB notebook drives: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 & Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B

November 5, 2009 by Lawrence Lee and Mike Chin

Seagate Momentus 7200.4 ST9500420AS 7200rpm 500GB 2.5" HDD
Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B HTS545050B9A 5400rpm 500GB 2.5" HDD
Sample Supplier
Street Price
US$100~140 US$90~100

Half a terabyte was the upper limit for bare notebook drives early last spring. We reviewed 5400rpm models of this capacity from Seagate and Western Digital back in March. The 500GB ceiling held through the summer, but in the last month or two, it has been breached. WD now offers 2.5" drives at 640GB, 750GB, and 1TB capacity, although it must be noted that the latter two are not in the usual 9.5mm thick form factor, but a little thicker at 12.5mm. Seagate has portable storage devices using 2.5" drives of higher capacities — 640GB, 750GB, 880GB and 1TB — but its bare notebook drive options remain limited to 500GB maximum. Among Seagate's higher capacity external storage models, only the 640GB model appears to have standard thickness; like the WD bare drives, the rest are thicker. The added thickness suggests that the higher capacity has been achieved with more than the usual 2-platters, perhaps three or even four. Most notebook computers will not accept the thicker 12.5mm drives.

All this digression isn't quite right for an intro: We're here to examine two more 500GB notebook drives of standard physical size that will fit into any notebook. We review them more from a desktop-use perspective, as we've encouraged using notebook drives for achieving the lowest noise levels in PCs for many years. (See the 2004 article, Is the Silent PC Future 2.5-inches wide?) Still, readers looking for a new replacement HDD for ther laptop will find much that's useful for them.

Until the very best of the latest generation 5400rpm and 5900rpm desktop drives appeared on the scene, the quietest notebooks had a clear edge over 3.5" drives in terms of acoustics and vibration. Airborne acoustics of the quietest 2.5" and 3.5" drives are now so close that it's hard to call; they're both extremely quiet. For vibration, a good 2.5" drive has an intrinsic advantage: It has much less moving mass than the latters in the 3.5" drives, and this usually translates to less vibration-caused noise. These are generalizations, not hard and fast rules, and many exceptions abound.

The Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB is a 7200rpm model; we tested the 5400rpm version earlier. The higher spindle speed usually translates to higher performance, also reflected in a price that's a bit higher than that for 5400rpm models. The Travelstar 5K500.B is our first look at a Hitachi at the 500GB capacity.


The 4th iteration of Seagate's Momentus 7200 line is available in 160GB, 250GB, 320GB, and 500GB flavors, all with 16MB of cache. The 320 and 500GB versions are two-platter drives while the smaller 160 and 250GB varieties only have a single spinning disk inside. As always, Seagate offers models with G-Force shock protection, though our sample lacks that particular feature.

Our 7200.4 sample.

Seagate Momentus 7200.4: Key Features & Benefits
(from product overview)
Highest available notebook performance increases productivity in all environments But at what cost?
Sata 3Gb/s interface with Native Command Queuing (NCQ) and command ordering Standard. NCQ isn't really beneficial in a laptop environment.
16-MB cache on every capacity. Twice the standard amount.
Green features:
* Leverages Seagate laptop power management technology, delivering the lowest-power 7200-RPM laptop hard drive yet
* Utilizes ramp load features that remove the head from the disk during idle periods, improving idle power consumption and adding to the durability of the drive
Head parking is not new; it does save on energy use.
Optional G-Force Protection feature adds another layer of robustness for road warriors Only drives with model numbers ending in "ASG" have G-Force protection. Our sample is an "AS."
QuietStep technology enables ultra-quiet load/unload acoustics We'll see what "ultra-quiet" means.
State-of-the-art cache and on-the-fly error-correction algorithms Okay.
Fluid dynamic bearing motor for quiet operation Standard on all consumer HDDs for several years.
Support for S.M.A.R.T. drive monitoring and reporting Okay, now they're really reaching for extra features.

Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB: Specifications
(from the product manual)
Model Number ST9500420AS
Capacity 500GB
Cache 16MB
Disks / Heads 2 / 4
Interface SATA 3Gb/s
Spindle Speed 7,200 rpm
Internal Transfer Rate (Maximum) 1.23 Gb/s
Average Seek:
(Read / Write)
11.0 / 13.0 msec
Average Latency 4.17 msec
Weight 110 grams (0.238 lb)
Power: Idle / Seek (Typical) 0.69W, 2.1W
Acoustics: Idle / Seek (Typical) 2.3 bels / 2.6 bels


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