Seagate Momentus 5400.2 120GB SATA notebook drive

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Our sample 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 a long established reputation as the specialist in this field. Unfortunately, Storage Review had not reviewed this drive at the time of writing. Although two other sites have reviewed the Momentus 5400.2, neither review is up to the standards of Storage Review, so those links are deliberately not provided here.

Our test drive was compared against our reference notebook drive, Samsung MP0402H, that we profiled in a recent notebook drive review.

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.

Unfortunately, AAM (Automatic Acoustic Management) is not supported as a user-configurable option on the Momentus 5400.2, which means that our standard means of generating seek noise via the AAM test function in Hitachi's HDD Feature Tool could not be used. Instead, seek noise was generated by copying a large file set within the drive. Unfortunately, this task does not require as much random seeking as the AAM test, so seek noise was not as constant as usual. To compensate, we spent more time than usual listening to and measuring the seek noise.

A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments are relevant to the sample we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without telling everyone.

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 19 dBA.

Mfg date
firmware version

(10 = no vibration)

Activity State
Airborne Acoustics
Measured Power
Samsung MP0402H
April 2004
firmware UC100-10
17 dBA/1m
0.8 W
Seek (AAM)
18 dBA/1m
2.3 W
Seek (Normal)
19-20 dBA/1m
2.4 W
Seagate Momentus 5400.2 ST9120821AS
Date Code: 06014
firmware 3.04
20 dBA/1m
1.5 W (heads unloaded)
2.3 (heads loaded)
Seek (Normal)
20-21 dBA/1m
3.3 W

The Momentus 5400.2 exhibits none of the whine that we heard in the last Momentus we reviewed. It is barely louder than our reference Samsung MP0402H, and most of the difference is in the low "whoosh" of the spinning discs. It's so similar to fan noise that it is almost guaranteed to be lost in the melange of other sounds in the typical PC, even a quiet one. There is also almost no high frequency noise —even less than the Samsung — and no humming motor noise. The noise character is very similar to that of the Western Digital Scorpio that we reviewed not long ago.

As mentioned above, AAM is not supported by the Momentus 5400.2 (or any current Seagate drive), but this does not prevent the seeks from being inaudible from a distance of one meter — at least when the drive is placed on soft foam. Seeks were clearly audible when the drive was placed on our vibration box. Any seek noise from the Momentus 5400.2 is likely to be vibration-induced. Even so, they are not loud enough to be bothersome, and may go unnoticed in a room where the ambient noise is higher than our lab.

Idle vibration was also very good, noticeably lower than the Samsung and on par with the best we've encountered, the Fujitsu MHT2080BH. Even on our highly resonant vibration test box, it was a challenge to hear the vibration noise for this drive. Unless the minimal seek noise bothers you, it is safe to say that this drive does not require decoupled mounting to be quiet.

The power consumption at idle is 1.5W even with all power saving features enabled. This is significantly higher than the other notebook drives we've tested, which typically idle around ~0.8-0.9W. Likewise, power consumption during seeks was almost a whole watt higher than any other notebook drive we've tested. Relatively speaking, the Momentus could be decribed as "power hungry", although it's difficult to apply such a description with a straight face to a device that draws just 3.3W maximum.

To be fair, most of the other drives we've tested have had less capacity and a different interface. The high power consumption may be attributed at least partially to the use of the SATA interface, which often draws more power than the same drive with an IDE interface. Its two platters also put it at a disadvantage, as they require more power to spin than a single platter. Still, the higher power consumption is something to consider if the drive is intended for use in a notebook computer where battery power is often more precious than performance.

In actual use, a single watt is not much to worry about for a desktop system. A much greater power saving can be had by undervolting and underclocking the main processor. Of more concern is what the power consumption means for internal heat in a notebook PC. The 5400.2 got quite warm to touch, especially when placed on foam that didn't conduct heat.

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