WD Scorpio 80G & Fujitsu SATA 80G notebook drives

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The top cover looks thicker and feels sturdier than usual.

Because notebook computers are subjected to a wider range of physical conditions than desktop systems, it makes sense that Western Digital plays up the durability and reliability of the Scorpio. The most unusual feature is the thicker than usual top cover which reduces the chance of the drive being inadvertently crushed during a clumsy installation. The additional weight and rigidity of this drive is immediately apparent when compared against other notebook drives. Having broken a notebook drive during cable / adapter installation by squeezing a little too hard in the past, we are pleased at this extra measure of safety.

For reliability, Western Digital claims that its DuraStep Ramp is durable enough to survive at least 600,000 load/unload cycles, which is comparable to other modern notebook drives. It's important not to confuse this with the start/stop cycles that are typically specified for desktop hard drives. In order to save power, many notebook drives move the read/write heads away from the disc surface when they are not being actively used. This process is called unloading the heads, and a load/unload cycle refers to the heads being loaded and unloaded once. In contrast, a start/stop cycle refers to whether the actual disc is spinning or not. In typical use, there are likely to be many load/unload cycles in a single start/stop cycle.

The Scorpio features the same trademarked noise-reduction technologies as other Western Digital drives: WhisperDrive and SoftSeek. How these technologies change when implemented in a notebook drive is hard to say because Western Digital provides only minimal technical details about these technologies. It's a fairly safe bet that SoftSeek is really the same as the Automatic Acoustic Management (AAM) feature that has become increasingly common in hard drives, but the details of WhisperDrive are no doubt a closely guarded marketing secret.


The most notable feature of the MHT2080BH is its interface. SATA has not yet become common in the notebook drive market, which explains the high market price of this model. Fujitsu also sells a PATA version of this drive, the MHT2080AH, which can be found for as much as $90 less, at time of writing.

While the drive gains little benefit from the extra bandwidth of SATA (or SATA-II, which it supports), there are other reasons to consider it, especially in a quiet desktop system. First and foremost is the fact that most new motherboards now ship with at least four SATA channels (often with RAID support), but may only have a single PATA channel. Assuming this channel will be limited by the slow speed of an optical drive, it may not be practical to use a PATA drive, which counts out the majority of other notebook drives.

Because SATA connectors are small enough to fit on the MHT2080BH, it can also be plugged directly into a desktop system without using an adaptor — a welcome convenience considering how hard it is to find one for sale.

The SATA connector and cable is also far smaller and manageable than a PATA adapter + cable, which is of particular significance in a small form factor system. Not only is space tight, but airflow management is critical in SFF systems, so SATA connectors can make a big difference.

The SATA interface also makes it possible for the drive to support native command queuing — a feature that most desktop drives still lack. Depending on how the drive is used, NCQ could compensate a bit for the slower seek times compared to desktop drives.

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