Recommended Hard Drives

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NOTEBOOK DRIVES

We've been recommending 2.5" notebook drives for desktop systems since early 2004. The 2.5" drive may become the norm in the near future. Notebook drives have many positive atributes for silent computing:

1. Lower noise. The quietest notebook drives are essentially inaudible from a meter away. They are audible in laptops when only a couple feet from the user, but still extremely quiet.

2. Low moving mass means very low vibration. Many notebook drives achieve either an 8 or a 9 on our 10 point vibration scale. By comparison, only the very best best sub-7200 RPM 3.5" drives can manage a 9. Most 7200 RPM 3.5" drives don't better 7.

3. Much lower power consumption, and correspondingly less heat, typically no more than 1W at idle, about 6~8 times lower than the power required by 3.5" 7200 RPM drives. This allows for a wider range of silencing techniques and less heat within the system, which usually translates to lower cooling requirements, and the use of quieter, slower fans.

4. Lower spindle speed means a lower primary frequency. Human hearing sensitivity drops off precipitously in the bass region. Below ~150 Hz, if all other factors are constant, the lower the frequency, the less audible the sound. The main noise of a 7,200 RPM drive falls at 120Hz. Most notebook drives spin at 5,400 RPM, which puts the fundamental frequency at 90 Hz.

GUIDE to the TABLES

A Cautionary Note: For a truly quiet computer, most 3.5" drives vibrate a bit too much to simply bolt into the case normally. Having suspended or soft-mounted all of the hard drives in our systems for many years, our position is that hardly any 3.5" drive is quiet enough without such treatment. For us, this applies to 2.5" drives as well, but it may be due to our hypersensitivity (cultivated?) to PC noise, and the low ambient acoustics of our environment.

Model: Manufacturer and model number.

Date of Manufacture: Date of manufacture of our sample model.

Firmware: Firmware version of our sample model.

SPL: The amount of noise produced by the hard drive at idle and when seeking with AAM enabled and disabled.

Vibration: The level of vibration produced by the drive at idle, evaluated relative to standard reference drives on our standard vibration box.

Power Consumption: The amount of power required by the drive. Can be used to roughly gauge thermal performance.

Comments: The SPL and Vibration ratings are incomplete without these comments. The month and year at the end of the comment is the date of the entry or update.

NOTE: Only HDDs that were tested (or retested) in SPCR's anechoic chamber are listed in this guide (mostly post-2008). This does not mean that previously tested and recommended HDDs are not quiet, only that we lack sufficiently accurate acoustic data to put them in context.

 

Solid State Drives
Please see comments on the first page.

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2.5" Notebook Drives
Drive Model
(linked to review)
Date of Manufacture
Firmware

SPL
Idle / Seek
(dBA@1m)

Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Power Consumption
Idle / Seek
(W)
Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB ST9500420AS
March 2009
0002SDM1
14 / 15
7
0.9~1.1 / 2.35
Our sample was quieter than its 5400 RPM counterpart, but with a bit more vibration. The higher spindle speed boosts performance.
Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B 500GB
Feb 2009
PB4OC60G
14 / 15
8
0.6~0.7 / 2.2
About the quietest high capacity 2.5" drive we've tested.
Sept 2008
01.01A01
15 / 15
7
0.8~0.95 / 2.5W
Our sample vibrated a bit more than expected but was otherwise extremely quiet.

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Sub-7200 RPM 3.5" Desktop Drives
Drive Model
(linked to review)
Date of Manufacture
Firmware

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

Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Power Consumption
Idle / Seek
(W)
Samsung F2 EcoGreen 500GB HD502HI
Feb 2009
1AG01114
12 / 15 / 16
8
3.2 / 5.3 / 6.1
Lowest measured idle noise of any 3.5" desktop drive, and very low vibration. 5400 RPM. We expect the other models in Samsung's EcoGreen line to be similarly quiet.
WD Caviar Green 1.5TB WD15EADS
Dec 2009
01.00A01
13 / 14 / 14
9
2.8~4.5 / 5.8
One of the quietest 3.5" hard drives, with unmatched power consumption and vibration. Seek noise is very muted. 5400 RPM.
WD Caviar Green 2.0TB WD20EADS
Feb 2009
01.00A01
13 / 14 / 14
7
4.0~6.4 / 5.5
Extremely quiet, but our sample had more vibration than many other drives, including the 1.5TB version in the same series. 5400rpm.
Seagate
Pipeline HD .2 1TB ST31000424CS
Oct 2009
SC13
12 / n.a. / 16
7
3.4 / 8.0
The quietest desktop drive in idle, the 5900RPM Pipeline series is Seagate's answer to Samsung and WD 5400 RPM drives. The extra revs gives them a minor performance edge. Maximum power on this model is a touch higher than its competitors, as is its vibration.
Seagate
Pipeline HD .2 500GB ST3500414CS
Oct 2009
SC13
12 / n.a. / 16
7
3.4 / 8.0
Very similar to the Samsung F2 500GB, this 5900RPM Pipeline has slightly softer sounding seeks and marhinally faster performance.
Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB ST32000542AS
June 2009
CC32
14 / n.a. / 17
6
4.4 / 8.6
A 5900RPM version of the mainstream Barracuda, LP stands for low power, but our sample measured higher than some of the standouts in this HDD category. Quite quiet, with a bit more vibration than expected.

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7200 RPM 3.5" Desktop Drives
Drive Model
(linked to review)
Date of Manufacture
Firmware

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

Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Power Consumption
Idle / Seek
(W)
Samsung F1 750GB HD753LJ
Feb 2008
1AA01109
16 / 19 / 21
6
6.9 / 8.9 / 10.2
A very quiet 7200RPM 3.5" desktop drive, performance is excellent due to high areal density, and vibration is quite low with just 3-platters. There's not much point to engaging AAM, which is off by default, because standard seek noise is very soft. Great pricing as well! Same comments likely apply to higher capacity 1TB drive, which was not available for retest in the anechoic chamber.

WD Caviar SE16
640GB WD6400AAKS

Feb 2008
03.03V01
16 / 17 / 19
7
6.8 / 8.1 / 9.3
The equal of Samsung's excellent F1 series, this WD 2-platter mainstream 7200 RPM drive offers low noise and modest vibration.

WD VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS 300GB, 10K rpm

May 2008
03.03V01
15 / 20 / 22
8
3.9 / 5.7 / 6.2
Neither 7200 RPM nor 3.5", the unusual Velociraptor is here because it comes with the aluminum frame IcePack heatsink which converts it to 3.5" desktop form. The measured data cited above is with the drive operated bare, without the IcePack. As delivered, it's no better than the previous gen Raptor. Bare, its idle is nearly as quiet as the 5400/5900 RPM drives. Yet, it's a 10K rpm drive that betters the performance of its predecessor (and all 7200 rpm desktop drives) in almost every way. The 2.5" enterprise drive form factor makes it unique and gives it a low power profile similar to the Green Power.

HDD NOISE REDUCTION PRODUCTS

HDD Noise Reduction products typically take the form of enclosures, although the category is not strictly limited to such devices. Noise reduction products are tested using the loudest and most vibration-prone drives in the lab. The noise levels are compared with and without the device. The measurements below reflect the sonic improvement effected by the products.

Recommended HDD Noise Reduction Products
Model
(linked to review)

SPL Improvement
Idle / Seek
(dBA@1m)

Vibration Improvement
(on our standard 10 point scale)
Smart Drive HDD Enclosure (also Smart Drive 2002 and 2002Copper versions)
6 / 6
2
Smarter realization of the seal-up-that-hard-drive idea, with slick metal / damping foam / metal construction and great attention to detail. Acoustic isolation is excellent, 6 dBA@1m for both idle and seek noise. Does not eliminate seek noise when mounted normally and has only a minimal effect on vibration. Does not overheat 7200 RPM drives. Mounts in a 5.25-inch drive bay. Updated Oct/05
Scythe Silent Box SBX-1000 HDD Enclosure
4 / 4
3
A foam-padded box that uses a heatlane to transfer heat away from the drive. Less effective at blocking acoustic noise than the Smart Drive but better at reducing vibration. Our review showed that it improved temperature slightly, but real world evidence has contradicted this. Fits into a 5.25-inch drive bay with difficulty. Added Oct/05

 

3 / 6
5
Reduces vibration-caused noise by decoupling the HDD from the case using elastic bands (industrial O-rings) in a 5.25-inch drive rack. Great for drives with low acoustic noise. Just about eliminates seek noise with many drives. It also almost completely eliminates vibration. Sturdy, simple, and effective. Among the commercial HDD noise reducers, this is SPCR's preferred product, mounted not in a 5.25" bay but rather, at the bottom of the case in the intake airflow path. Added Dec/02
Scythe Quiet Drive 2.5
4 / 3
1
An alumimum box containing another aluminum box surrounded by foam, this product is similar to the Smart Drive, but made for a 2.5" drive. It makes a super quiet drive even quieter or a quiet drive nearly super quiet. The increase in HDD temperature was only a couple of degrees.

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