WD Scorpio 80G & Fujitsu SATA 80G notebook drives

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2.5" HDD NOISE COMPARISON
Drive Model

SPL
Idle / AAM / Seek
(dBA/1m)

Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Subjective Notes
Currently Reviewed
Western Digital Scorpio - 2 platter
20 / 21 / 21
7-9
Sample variance makes it hard to rank the noise of this drive, but it belongs somewhere between the Samsung 1-platter notebook and the Seagate Barracuda IV. Idle noise is mainly a low frequency motor hum with little high frequency whine. Seeks are almost too quiet to notice, and can be characterized as a low rumble. AAM cannot be enabled or disabled, but it would be hard to improve the seek noise anyway. Vibration ranged from the level of the Barracuda IV to below the Samsung MP0402H.
Fujitsu MHT2080BH - 2 platter
22 / 23-24 / 23-24
9
It sounds undamped and is louder than the Barracuda IV, somewhat like the Toshiba MK6022GAX. Seeks are about average for a notebook drive, rising about 1-2 dBA/1m above idle. The Fujitsu has the lowest vibration of any drive tested. May avoid the intermittent clicking problem common with notebook drives because it waits for 10-15 seconds after a seek before unloading the heads. Consumes ~0.2W more than other notebook drives, but this is very minor.
Previously Reviewed Notebook Drives
Samsung MP0402H - 1 platter
17 / 18 / 19-20
8
The acoustics of this drive are virtually identical to the Fujitsu MHT2040AT, a considerably slower 4200 rpm drive and the quietest we've encountered. The Samsung is extremely quiet, and there is very little if any high frequency noise to speak of. It has minimal vibration, but placing it on soft foam does reduce low freq. noise audibly. The unit used in the test PC was suspended in elastic string and mostly surrounded by soft but dense foam. Seek noise is somewhat more audible than the 1 dBA gain suggests, but very soft.
Hitachi Travelstar 5K80 - 2 platter
19 / – / 20
The Hitachi comes very close to the Samsung, but has a slightly sharper and higher pitched sound, with perhaps a touch more vibration as well. The seek noise is a touch louder too. When inside even a very quiet desktop PC, the slightly higher noise level of this drive over the Samsung may not be audible. The performance is superior, according to SiSoftware Sandra 2005, and also subjectively.
Toshiba MK6022GAX - 2 platter
22 / – / –
Slightly louder than the Seagate Barracuda IV single platter 3.5" reference hard drive. The noise signature has the broadband shhhh quality exhibited by the Samsung SP 3.5" drives, but higher in pitch, a bit like the Seagate. A trace of whine, but not like the Seagate Momentus. Seek noise is only moderately louder than idle, perhaps by 3 dBA. Vibration is higher than any of the 4200rpm drives; similar to the Momentus. Performance seems quite speedy, as it should be with 16 MB cache and 5400rpm, but inconsistent results with all the benchmarks tried stops me from publishing results.
Seagate Momentus ST94811A - 1 platter
24 / – / –
The Momentus has a terrible constant "pure" tone somewhere in the 6~10KHz range. It drops 2-3 dBA in level when the listener or the mic faces the edge of the drive because of directionality of the high frequency whine. Seek noise is substantially higher, probably 3~5 dBA. Vibration is much lower than any 3.5" drive, but higher than either of the 4200rpm drives tried. A real disappointment acoustically, but it did perform about as fast as the Seagate Barracuda-IV.
Fujitsu MHT2040AT - 1 platter
16 / – / –
The only noise maker in the Mappit A4F PC, which seemed virtually inaudible to me. The noise is not inaudible, but very low and soft, easily dismissed in the ambient noise of all but the quietest spaces. There is no high pitched whine to speak of, and the seek noise does not seem more than maybe 2 dBA higher than idle. It is the slowest performer of all the drives here. Extremely low vibration.
Toshiba MK4025GAS - 1 platter
16 / – / –
This 8 MB cache 4200 RPM drive offers better performance than 2 MB cache 4200 rpm drives, and it is identical in both idle and seek noise to the Fujitsu above. Extremely low vibration.
Reference Quiet 3.5" Drives
Seagate Barracuda IV ST340016A - 1 platter (discontinued)
21 / 23 / 25-26
6
In idle, it remains the quietest of all 3.5" drives. This sample is almost 2 years old, but seems unchanged in noise. There may be a touch of high frequency whine but it is very low in level, and easily obscured when mounted in a PC case. Seek is considerably higher, possibly as much as 5~6 dBA. Low vibration, but MUCH higher than any of the notebook drives.
Samsung SP0802N - 1 platter (Nidec motor)
21 / 23-24 / 25-26
4
The idle noise is a touch higher, but its seek may actually be lower than the Seagate B-IV. Similar vibration level as the B-IV, but there are reports of some samples exhibiting much higher vibration levels. This is cured by HDD decouple mounting (suspension in elastic material or placement on soft foam), which is virtually mandatory for a truly quiet PC anyway.

CONCLUSIONS

The variance between our two samples of the Western Digital Scorpio makes it a little uncertain just how quiet this drive is. The dual platter models that were tested could not match the acoustic performance of the single platter Samsung drive, but the 60 GB sample did come close. It's probably safe to say that the Scorpio is quieter than almost all 3.5" drives and should be inaudible in most systems. If the ambient noise level is extremely low (or if the drive is installed in a laptop instead of a desktop PC), there may be some benefit to seeking out the single platter version of the drive, but in most systems this drive should be quiet enough for almost all users.

The strengthened top cover of the Scorpio is hardly a deal-making feature, but it is a welcome bit of protection against clumsy users, and probably helps Western Digital keep their RMA costs down.

Although the Fujitsu drive has some unique features that may make it worthy of consideration in specialized circumstances, it is on the noisy side of most notebook drives we've reviewed. While NCQ is a nice feature to have, it may actually be detrimental for desktop performance, according to Storage Review. SATA is very useful, however, for ease of installation and cable management, especially in a SFF system where space is at a premium and good airflow is critical. Some users may find a bit of acoustic damping material around the drive is enough to reduce the noise to acceptable levels, given the advantages of SATA, or if RAID performance is desired. With the low thermal output of the drive, it's also easy to encase the drive for noise reduction. In any case, we welcome SATA to the notebook drive and look forward for it to be available on a wider variety of models.

WD Scorpio 80G
PRO
* Extremely quiet
* Low vibration
* Strong casing
* Modest market price
* Low thermals
CON
* Requires awkward PATA adapter
* Possible repetitive clicking noise
Fujitsu MHT2080BH 80G
PRO
* Convenient SATA for improved cable management, RAID functions, etc.
* Very low vibration
* Low thermals
CON
* A bit loud for a notebook drive
* Current pricing (but obviously subject to change)
* NCQ actually can hurt desktop performance

Many thanks to Western Digital for the Scorpio sample, and Fujitsu for the MHT2080BH sample.

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