WD Scorpio 80G & Fujitsu SATA 80G notebook drives

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TEST RESULTS

Our two samples were tested according to our standard hard drive testing methodology. Our methodology focuses specifically on HDD noise, and great effort is taken to ensure it is comprehensively measured and described. Performance is not tested, for reasons discussed in detail in the methodology article. For comprehensive HDD performance testing results, we recommend Storage Review, who have established a long reputation as the specialist in this field. We refer to Storage Review as a reference for many aspects of HDD performance.

Our test drives were compared against our reference drives, the Seagate Barracuda IV and Samsung Spinpoint P80, that are profiled in our methodology article. To get a good idea of where the drives in this review stand, it is important to read this article thoroughly. We also re-tested a Samsung MP0402H notebook drive so that the review samples could be fairly evaluated against another drive in their class.

Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:

  1. Airborne acoustics
  2. Vibration-induced noise.

These two types of noise impact the subjective perception of hard drive noise differently depending on how and where the drive is mounted.

Both forms of noise are evaluated objectively and subjectively. Both the subjective and objective analyses are essential to understanding the acoustics of the drives. Airborne acoustics are measured using a professional caliber SLM. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter above the top of the drive using an A-weighted filter. Vibration noise is rated on a scale of 1-10 by comparing against our standard reference drives.

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 18 dBA.

NOTEBOOK DRIVE NOISE EVALUATION
Drive
Mfg date
firmware version

Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)

Activity State
Airborne Acoustics
Measured Power
Samsung MP0402H
April 2004
firmware UC100-10
8
Idle
17 dBA/1m
0.8 W
Seek (AAM)
18 dBA/1m
2.3 W
Seek (Normal)
19-20 dBA/1m
2.4 W
Western Digital Scorpio WD800VE
December 2004
firmware 09.07D09
7-9
Idle
20 dBA/1m
0.8 W
Seek (AAM)
21 dBA/1m
2.5 W
Seek (Normal)
21 dBA/1m
2.5 W
Fujitsu
MHT2080BH
February 2005
firmware 0000104A
9
Idle
22 dBA/1m
0.9 W
Seek (AAM)
23-24 dBA/1m
2.7 W
Seek (Normal)
23-24 dBA/1m
2.9 W

Samsung MP0402H

The Samsung has an advantage over the Western Digital and Fujitsu drives because it uses only one platter. At idle, it remains the quietest 5,400 RPM notebook drive we've heard. Motor noise is characterized by the quiet whoosh of air flowing over the spinning discs. From certain angles, a high-pitched but low level electronic squeal can be heard; it's so directional that it usually disappears completely inside a case.

Seeks are sharp and chattery and are noticeably louder than the idle noise. Enabling AAM softens the noise and brings it down in volume, although they never quite disappear entirely.

Vibration is quite high for a notebook drive, although still better than any 3.5" drive. The truly fussy may see some improvement if the drive is suspended, but most people should be happy even if it is hard mounted.

Western Digital Scorpio WD800VE

Two samples of the Scorpio were on hand during testing, and we were surprised at the amount of sample variance. The second sample was the 60 GB version (WD600VE), but the only mechanical difference between the two is the number of heads; the most significant factor in drive noise, the number of platters, was the same for both samples.

Both drives were characterized by a small amount of low frequency motor noise but had even less high frequency noise than the Samsung 40G notebook drive. The 80 GB version noise seemed roughly comparable to a Barracuda IV in volume, but the 60 GB was slightly quieter. The Scorpio ranks among the quietest dual platter notebook drives we've seen.

Seek noise was characterized by a low rumble that is barely audible above the idle noise. Enabling AAM had no effect on the noise measurement, the power consumption, or the perceived noise. It may be the AAM (or SoftSeek, if you will) is permanently enabled on the drive and cannot be turned off.

The biggest difference between our two samples was in the level of vibration. While the 60 GB drive had even less vibration than the Samsung, the 80 GB version vibrated more than any other notebook drive we've tested, reaching the level of the Barracuda IV. The lower mass of the Scorpio may make it less prone to transferring vibration when hard-mounted, but it is still likely to benefit considerably from some variety of soft-mounting.

Some users have reported hearing a repetitive clicking from the Scorpio every few seconds. We did not encounter this problem during our testing, but we did hear a distinct click whenever the heads were loaded or unloaded. It is quite possible that the repetitive nature of the clicking comes from the specific usage of the drive; a program that writes data in frequent, short bursts, such as data logging tools (or internet browsers), could be a potential source of this problem. If this is the case, disabling automatic power management may help resolve it.

Fujitsu MHT2080BH

The Fujitsu was a bit of a disappointment in terms of noise, both in volume and quality. The drive does not seem to be well damped, as the whoosh of airflow, the broadband hum of the motor, and the screech of the electronic components are all clearly audible in the idle noise. Together, they are louder than the 3.5" Barracuda IV, and approach the volume of a DiamondMax 10.

The seek noise is not as obvious as the Samsung MP0402H, perhaps because the idle noise is high enough that the relative change in volume is smaller. A metallic rattle seems the best description of how the seeks sound. Enabling AAM produces a barely noticeable change in the pace of the seeks; volume and character remain unchanged, but the seeks sound slightly "slower".

In spite of its poorer airborne acoustics, the Fujitsu's level of vibration is among the best. Even when placed on our resonant sound box, vibration resonance was audible only by listening within an inch of the box. This is the lowest vibration drive we've ever tested.

Unlike the Scorpio, the Fujitsu does not immediately unload the heads whenever a seek is finished. Instead, it waits 10-15 seconds before enabling low power idle. This should help avoid the clicking problem that some people have reported with the Scorpio, and should also improve seek performance for small chunks of data. Power consumption was 1.4W while idling with the head in place.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

Audio recordings were made of the drives and are presented here in MP3 format. The recordings below contains ten seconds of idle noise, followed by ten seconds of seek noise with AAM enabled and ten seconds more with AAM disabled. Keep in mind that the audio recordings paint only part of the acoustic picture; vibration noise is not recorded, and drives often sound different depending on the angle from which they are heard.

Samsung MP0402H (Idle: 17 / AAM: 18 / Seek: 19-20 dBA@1m)

Western Digital Scorpio WD800VE (Idle: 20 / AAM: 21 / Seek: 21 dBA@1m)

Fujitsu MHT2080BH (Idle: 22 / AAM: 23-24 / Seek: 23-24 dBA@1m)

Reference Comparatives:

Seagate Barracuda IV ST340016A (Idle: 21 / AAM: 23 / Seek: 25-26 dBA@1m)

Samsung Spinpoint P80 SP0802N, Nidec Motor (Idle: 21 / AAM: 23-24 / Seek: 25-26 dBA@1m)

Samsung Spinpoint P80 SP0802N, JVC Motor (Idle: 21 / AAM: 25 / Seek: 27 dBA@1m)

Nexus 92mm case fan @ 7V (17 dBA@1m) Reference

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution studio quality digital recording system. The hard drive was placed on soft foam to isolate the airborne noise that it produces; recordings do not take into account the vibration noise that hard drives produce. The microphone was centered 3" above the top face of the hard drive. The ambient noise during most recordings is 18 dBA or lower.

To set the volume to a realistic level (similar to the original), try playing the Nexus 92 fan reference recording and setting the volume so that it is barely audible. Then don't reset the volume and play the other sound files. Of course, tone controls or other effects should all be turned off or set to neutral. For full details on how to calibrate your sound system to get the most valid listening comparison, please see the yellow text box entitled Listen to the Fans on page four of the article SPCR's Test / Sound Lab: A Short Tour.


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