Seagate Momentus 7200.1 100GB SATA notebook drive

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October 31, 2005 by Devon Cooke

Product
Seagate Momentus 7200.1 ST910021AS
100GB 7,200 RPM Notebook drive
Manufacturer
Market Price
~US$320

There was some excitement when a sample of Seagate's new Momentus 7200.1 landed at SPCR. Notebook drives tend to be quieter than desktop drives, which is why we've been recommending (and using) them for the quietest desktop systems. By most metrics, notebook drives generally do not perform as well as desktop drives. A big reason for the performance lag is spindle speed, which affects latency: Most notebook drives spin at 5,400 RPM or slower, while standard desktop drives spin 25% faster at 7,200 RPM. The Momentus 7200.1 is Seagate's first notebook drive with a 7,200 RPM spindle speed.

It's a safe bet that the target market is the fast growing segment of PC users who are migrating to large, widescreen desktop-replacement portables as their main rigs. This product category emerged perhaps 18 months ago, and is now going strong, especially among gamers.

You know what we're talking about: >10 lb behemoths with Athlon FX57 processors, gigabytes of RAM, 17" monitors and so on, for gamers who want it all along with mobility for LAN parties and playing even in bed or on the shady porch. There's also a growing class of users who work with their PC, but want greater freedom to work on their PC where they want, whether its a corporate office, or small / home business. With the support of inexpensive wireless networks, many of these users are opting for high performance, but still very portable notebook computers and foregoing the conventional desktop PC altogether. Hard drive makers are just starting to introduce higher performance 7,200 RPM notebook drives for this growth market.

We've always tended to pooh-pooh typical performance metrics and marginal improvements on benchmarks, as they rarely translate to dramatic improvements in user experience. But it's true that improving a key bottleneck component can have a genuine, positive impact on user experience. A 7200 RPM drive has the inherent advantage of reduced latency over a 5400 RPM drive.

FEATURES & SPECIFICATIONS

SEAGATE MOMENTUS 7200.1 ST910021AS (quoted from Seagate's web site)
FEATURE & BRIEF COMMENT
Highest available notebook performance increases productivity while on the road.
The obvious source of the performance boost is the increase in spindle speed.

Low power consumption maximizes battery life and lets users work longer.

All notebook drives seem to have this feature. The higher spindle speed could make this claim hard to justify
Robust design and high shock tolerance enable mobility in rugged notebook operating environments. Another perennial "feature" of notebook drives.
900 Gs of nonoperating shock makes the drive ideal for notebook PCs and industrial applications.
900 Gs is quite high ... but the nonoperating shock is listed elsewhere as 800 Gs.
Serial ATA interface option offers blazing fast 1.5 Gbit/sec interface speed combined with NCQ for high performance.
SATA is nice because it is easily compatible with desktop systems, but it gives no real performance benefit over PATA.

Our sample 7200.1 is a SATA version that features Native Command Queuing, one of the most common "optional" features that is included on SATA drives. NCQ will be a standard feature of the next "official" SATA spec, SATA 2.5. In spite of its ubiquity, NCQ offers very little additional performance over a non-NCQ drive in a notebook context. It also offers no performance gain in a desktop system unless the drive controller supports NCQ.

The 7,200 RPM spindle speed and the 8 MB cache offer more performance improvements than either SATA or NCQ. As mentioned in the introduction, the faster spindle speed is rare in a notebook drive. 8 MB cache is becoming mainstream even on notebook drives, but there are still plenty of drives that still use only 2 MB. Unlike NCQ, usage patterns that benefit from a larger cache are not rare for laptop users, as any application with a large data set should be able to take advantage of it.

Seagate boasts about the high shock tolerance of the 7200.1, but they seem a little confused about just how shock resistant it is. The official specs on the PDF datasheet listed 900 Gs, while the official specs in HTML form quoted 800 Gs, so it seems like a tossup which is truer. In practical terms, the difference is less than 15% and probably not significant. An accident that causes damage will probably do the same damage regardless of which spec is correct.

SPECIFICATIONS

The specifications for our Momentus 7200.1 sample are provided in the table below, along with those for the previously tested Momentus 5400.2 and also for a Barracuda 7200.9, a new desktop drive that we have not tested. The desktop drive specs are listed simply for comparison. Please note that capacity, cache size, platter number, interface, and even performance vary from model to model even within a single product line. Acoustics and power dissipation also vary depending on the number of platters; smaller capacity drives tend to have fewer platters, produce less noise and use less power.

Three Seagate HDDs Compared
Model
Momentus 7200.1
Momentus 5400.2
Barracuda 7200.9
Capacity
100 GB
120 GB
120 GB
Cache
8 MB
8 MB
8 MB
Platters
2
2
1
Heads
4
4
2
Spindle Speed
7,200 RPM
5,400 RPM
7,200 RPM
Interface
SATA 1.5 Gb/s
SATA 1.5 Gb/s
SATA 3 Gb/s
Latency
4.2 ms
5.6 ms
4.2 ms
Average Seek
10.5 ms
12.5 ms
8.5 ms
Internal Transfer Rate
45.8 MB / second
42 MB / second
N/A
Weight
115 g
100 g
580 g
Operating Temperature
5 - 55°C
5 - 55°C
0 - 60°C
Power Dissipation: Idle / Seek
0.95 / 2.6 W
0.8 / 2.2 W
7.2 / 12.4 W
Acoustics: Idle / Seek
2.5 / 2.9 Bels
2.4 / 2.9 Bels
2.5 / 2.8 Bels

Seagate's specifications mark the Momentus 7200.1 as a fast notebook drive. The faster spindle speed allows an automatic 1.4 ms decrease in latency; the 4.2 ms cited is the same as in the new Barracuda 7200.9 desktop 3.5" model. Average seek is also quicker than its slower spinning relative, but again still 2 ms slower than the 8.5 ms of the desktop drive.

The rated power is slightly higher than usual for a notebook drive, especially the seek power consumption. The acoustic noise is specified to be only 0.1 Bel higher than the Momentus 5400.2 120GB drive we tested in August, which, again, is surprisingly small. But what's interesting is that the noise spec is actually higher than that cited for the similar capacity Barracuda 7200.9. Not having heard the Barracuda 7200.9, however, we're not in a position to comment on perceived differences.



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