Seagate Momentus 7200.1 100GB SATA notebook drive

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2.5" HDD NOISE COMPARISON
Drive Model
(linked to review)
SPL
Idle / AAM / Seek
(dBA@1m)
Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Subjective Notes
UNIT UNDER REVIEW:
Seagate Momentus 7200.1
ST910021AS
21 / – / 22-23
8
Seagate's high performance notebook drive, with a 7,200 RPM spindle speed that translates into seek times approaching desktop HDDs. There were increases in turbulence noise (at idle) and power consumption. Subjective noise quality was excellent, but the level was closer to the best desktop drives than the super quiet Samsung MP0402H. The primary spin noise was at a slightly more audible 120 Hz rather than 90 Hz for 5400 RPM drives. SATA interface makes it very desktop-friendly, w/no need for adapters.
Seagate Momentus 5400.2
ST9120821AS

Review: August 9, 2005
20 / – / 20-21
9
This sample was way better than our previous Momentus 5400, too close to the Samsung MP0402H to crown either drive as low noise champion. Idle noise had slightly more "wind noise" than the Samsung but no high frequency noise at all. Although AAM is not supported, seeks were completely inaudible when placed on soft foam. Consumed a bit more power than most notebook drives. SATA interface is nice.
Western Digital Scorpio
Review: June 5, 2005
20 / 21 / 21
7-9
This sample's acoustics belongs somewhere between the Samsung notebook drives and the Seagate Barracuda IV. Idle noise was mainly a low frequency motor hum with little high frequency whine. Seeks were almost too quiet to notice, and sounded mostly like a low rumble. AAM had no 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
Review: June 5, 2005
22 / 23-24 / 23-24
9
Idle noise was rather disappointing, sounding undamped and louder than the Barracuda IV. Seek noise was about average for a notebook drive, rising about 1-2 dBA/1m above idle. This sample had 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. Consumed ~0.2W more than other notebook drives. Very nice SATA interface.
Samsung MP0402H
(Current quiet 2.5" reference drive)
Review: Dec 23, 2004
17 / 18 / 19-20
8
The acoustics of this drive were virtually identical to the Fujitsu MHT2040AT, a considerably slower 4200 rpm drive and the quietest we've encountered. The Samsung was extremely quiet, with very little if any high frequency noise. It had minimal vibration, but placing it on soft foam did 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 was somewhat more audible than the 1 dBA gain suggests, but very soft.
Hitachi Travelstar 5K80
Review: Dec 23, 2004
19 / – / 20
The Hitachi came very close to the Samsung, but had a slightly sharper and higher pitched sound, with perhaps a touch more vibration as well. The seek noise was 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 was superior, according to SiSoftware Sandra 2005, and also subjectively.
Toshiba MK6022GAX
Review: April 28, 2004
22 / – / –
Slightly louder than the Seagate Barracuda IV single platter 3.5" reference hard drive. The noise signature had 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 was only moderately louder than idle, perhaps by 3 dBA. Vibration is higher than any of the 4200rpm drives; similar to the Momentus. Performance seemed quite speedy, as it should be with 16 MB cache and 5400rpm, but inconsistent results with all the benchmarks tried stopped me from publishing results.
Seagate Momentus ST94811A
Review: March 8, 2004
24 / – / –
This Momentus sample had a terrible constant "pure" tone somewhere in the 6~10KHz range. It dropped 2-3 dBA in level when the listener or the mic faced the edge of the drive because of directionality of the high frequency whine. Seek noise was substantially higher, probably 3~5 dBA. Vibration was 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
Review: March 8, 2004
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
Review: March 8, 2004
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" Desktop Drives
Seagate Barracuda IV ST340016A
Grandaddy of all quiet drives
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)
(Current quiet 3.5" reference drive)
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

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. Because the Seagate does not support AAM, the AAM portion of the recording was omitted, so for this drive only, the recording is only twenty 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 7200.1 ST910021AS (Idle: 21 / Seek: 22-23 dBA/1m)

Reference Comparatives:

Seagate Momentus 5400.2 ST9120821AS (Idle: 20 / Seek: 20-21 dBA/1m)

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)

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

The 7200.1 is an ambitious notebook drive. Aside from its 2.5" form factor, it is closer to a desktop drive than a notebook drive. Judging by Seagate's performance specifications, it should be faster than almost every other notebook drive. Our noise and power testing showed that it's also a bit louder and a touch more power hungry. While its seek performance is a little slower than most desktop drives, its noise level is on par with the very quietest desktop drives.The level of vibration is substantially lower than that of any 3.5" desktop drive.

For most users, it doesn't really make sense to buy the 7200.1 for a desktop system. With careful selection, a desktop drive that's suspension mounted is likely to perform better and probably be just about as quiet. The 7200.1 will consume less power, but the 4-5W difference between it and a desktop drive is not thermally significant in a full size system. In addition, the current price of any 80~120 GB 7200 RPM desktop drive is under US$100, a far cry from the current ~US$320 of the 100GB Momentus 7200.1.

The 7200.1 should find a market in those who use the high performance laptops. The high-end market can bear high prices, and the 7200.1 brings something that few competing products offer: Near-desktop performance in a 2.5" laptop-compatible form factor.

Many thanks to Seagate for the Momentus 7200.1 sample.

* * *

FOR THE RECORD: Momentus 7200.1 vs Momentus 5400.2 in a quiet Shuttle SFF
by Mike Chin

We have many reasons for not testing the performance of hard drives. The Seagate Momentus almost begs for a performance comparison, however. Its raison d'être is higher performance. So...

You may recall that the recent Shuttle SD11G5 review employed an elastically suspended sample of our Seagate Momentus 5400.2 120 GB hard drive. This very quiet system was still intact. It was a perfect platform to check the properties of the new 7200.1. The system details:

  • Intel 770 (Pentium M Dothan core, 2.13 GHz + 2 MB cache) processor.
  • 2 x 512 mb Corsair DDR2 memory
  • Seagate Momentus 5400.2 SATA 120GB 2.5" notebook HDD - suspended w/ clothing elastic in 3.5" HDD bays.
  • Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2 fully updated
  • On-board Intel GMA900 video

Norton Ghost was used to clone the 5400.2 drive to the new 7200.1. The system was used with the 5400.2 drive for a morning, then the 7200.1 drive swapped in place for the afternoon. These changes were made super easy because of the SATA interface for both of these Seagate drives. SATA is probably the one feature that can take 2.5" drives into broad desktop acceptance. The freedom from a clumsy adapter is really nice.

The first metric checked was Windows boot time. With the 5400.2, the total time before the desktop became visible was 60 seconds. The 7200.1 was noticeably faster, at about 45 seconds. A few other programs also launched a touch faster with the 7200.1. For the most part, once programs were open, there was little difference to note between the two drives. Saving or opening >100 mb image files in Photoshop was where I noticed the greatest in-program difference, but again, it wasn't really dramatic. It didn't turn a turtle into a hare; neither turtle nor hare are good analogies for how the system behaved with either drive. Some users may feel this is enough of a speed boost to make the 7200.1 worthwhile; this may be especially true for notebook systems. Value is always in the eye of the beholder.

Despite Devon's observations about the higher noise level of the 7200.1 drive, it was difficult to attribute higher system noise to the 7200.1 during this comparison. I did not hear any significant noise differences between the 5400.2 and the 7200.1 in actual use in the test system. Perhaps suspending the drive made it as quiet as its slower predecessor; perhaps the single quiet Nexus fan in the SD11G5 was enough to obscure the difference. Admittedly, with the cracking of Halloween fireworks in the neighborhood all through the day, the ambient noise level was a bit higher than before, too.

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