Seagate Momentus 5400.2 120GB SATA notebook drive

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2.5" HDD NOISE COMPARISON SUMMARY
(Chronological order: The most recently reviewed drives are at the top)
Drive Model
(linked to review)

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

Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Subjective Notes
Seagate Momentus 5400.2
ST9120821AS
20 / - / 20-21
9
Too close to the Samsung MP0402H to crown either drive as low noise champion, but a very good choice in any case. Idle noise has slightly more "wind noise" than the Samsung but no high frequency noise at all. Although AAM is not supported, seeks are completely inaudible when placed on soft foam. Consumes more power than most notebook drives.
Western Digital Scorpio
20 / 21 / 21
7-9
Sample variance makes it hard to rank the noise this drive, but it belongs somewhere between the Samsung notebook series 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 has not effect, but it would be hard to improve the seeks anyway. Vibration ranged from the level of the Barracuda IV to below the Samsung MP0402H.
Fujitsu MHT2080BH
22 / 23-24 / 23-24
9
Idle noise is rather disappointing; it sounds undamped and is louder than the Barracuda IV. 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 in all power states.
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.
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
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
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, but it did perform about as fast as or faster than the Seagate Barracuda-IV.
Fujitsu MHT2040AT
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
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.
QUIET REFERENCE 3.5" DRIVES
Seagate Barracuda IV ST340016A
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 (Nidec motor)
21 / 23-24 / 25-26
4
The idle noise is a touch higher, and 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.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

An audio recording was made of the drive and saved in MP3 format. The recordings below contains 10 seconds of idle noise, followed by 10 seconds of seek noise with AAM enabled and 10 seconds more with AAM disabled. Because the Seagate does not support AAM, the AAM portion of the recording was omitted, so for this drive, the recording is only 20 seconds long.

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.

Seagate Momentus 5400.2 (Idle: 20 / Seek: 20-21 dBA/1m)

Reference Comparatives:

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

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

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 @ 5V (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.

CONCLUSIONS

Our 120GB sample of the Momentus 5400.2 is one of the quietest drives we've tested. Although notebook drives tend to be quieter in general, this one is quiet even for a notebook drive — only the slowest 4200 RPM drives are likely to be quieter. In short, it is hard to do better if noise is the top priority and price is no object. As a bonus, the SATA interface makes it easy to install in a desktop system. There is a big price surcharge for early adopters who want a SATA notebook drive, but this is no surprise. The price is bound to drop as SATA permeates into the notebook PCs in coming months.

Although it boasts the highest capacity of any notebook HDD, 120 GB is not a dramatic gain over the 100 GB that the competition can offer, and it is still far from the 400~500 GB of the highest capacity desktop drives. The performance bonus from higher areal density is probably more useful to most users than an extra 20 GB.

The higher power consumption makes the Momentus 5400.2 less than ideal for a laptop if battery life is critical, but even then a single watt may not be much to worry about. For a desktop system, it's of no concern at all; much more than a watt can be saved by undervolting and underclocking the main processor.

The only question that creeps into mind is whether this sample is representative of most Momentus 5400.2s; and whether the original Momentus sample reviewed was a one-off anomaly. The vast sampling that would have to be tested to verify this is beyond almost any consumer review organization. However, careful readers can certainly help by posting their hands-on experiences with the Momentus drives in the forums.

* * *

Many thanks to Seagate for the Momentus 5400.2 sample.

Discuss this article in the SPCR Forums.



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