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Our sample was 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.
The 7K500 was compared against the
older 7K400, as well as the recently reviewed
Seagate 7200.9 and our standard reference drive, a quiet but out-of-date
Seagate Barracuda IV.
Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:
- Airborne acoustics
- Vibration-induced noise.
These two types of noise impact the subjective
perception of hard drive noise differently depending on how and where the drive
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.
A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments
are relevant to the specific sample we tested. Your sample may not be identical.
There are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes
without telling everyone.
Ambient conditions at the time of testing were 18 dBA and 22°C.
Subjectively, the 7K500 was indistinguishable from the 7K400 at idle. That's
not a good thing not counting obsolete ball-bearing models, the 7K400
has the loudest idle of any drive we've tested, admittedly by a small margin.
Aside from the volume, the noise character wasn't bad mostly the hiss
of airflow with some low level hum audible at close range. In comparison to
the 500GB Seagate 7200.9, the noise was louder and more turbulent. However,
the piercing whine that made the 7200.9 so noticeable was absent.
The two Hitachi drives were also similar in the level of vibration about
average and both were beaten handily by the Seagates. This is no surprise,
as the 7200.9 exhibited very little vibration at all.
The only time the 7K500 could be distinguished from the 7K400 was when it was
seeking, especially with AAM was enabled. In fact, AAM was so effective on the
7K500 that the seeks could barely be distinguished from the idle noise. Even
without AAM, the seeks still sounded more muted than the 7K400. This is a welcome
change, as the subjective improvement is significant even though no difference
in SPL was measured. Seeks were more noticeable when the drive was placed on
a hard surface, so soft-mounting would be a benefit. Compared to the 7200.9,
the 7K500 is clearly better when it comes to seek noise. The muted seeks are
much less disruptive than the sharp, sudden seeks of the 7200.9.
The 7K400 is the most power hungry drive we've seen, again by a small margin,
so we were hoping that the smaller logic board would help the 7K500 cut down
on power consumption, but it wasn't to be. The power consumption dropped only
marginally, making it a close second. However, with AAM was enabled, it was
around the same level as the 7200.9.
Overall, the 7K500 was fairly close to the other high capacity models that
we've seen. None of them are in the same league as our reference Barracuda IV
when it comes to acoustic performance. The march of technology may carry speed
and capacity to new heights, but changes in noise performance are much less
The 7K500 has one saving grace that none of the other high capacity drives
can boast of: Advanced Power Management. Specifically, it has something called
Low RPM Standby mode, which we first investigated in our
review of the 7K250.
To test the Automatic Power Management, Low RPM Mode was enabled using Hitachi's
Feature Tool and the drive was left untouched for a while. After a shorter
interval than usual, about 5-10 minutes, the drive automatically reduced the
rotation speed, and the noise dropped dramatically.
ADVANCED POWER MANAGEMENT
Low RPM Standby
1-10 (10 = no vibration)
Low RPM Standby
Low RPM Standby
Perhaps because the 7K500 has so many platters, the reduction of noise wasn't
as complete as it was in the other models (the
7K250 and the 7K80).
The whoosh of airflow didn't disappear to the same extent, although it did sink
to about the level of our reference Barracuda IV.
For most users especially those who are likely to be considering a high
capacity drive the slightly higher noise threshold will probably be unnoticeable;
the drive was indeed very quiet in Low RPM Mode. Only those with systems that
are at or below the ambient room noise are likely to be able to hear the difference.
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
Keep in mind that the 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.
Deskstar 7K500 HDS725050KLA360 (Idle: 26 / AAM: 26 / Seek: 28 [email protected])
Deskstar 7K500 HDS725050KLA360 Low RPM Mode: 20 [email protected]
Barracuda 7200.9 ST3500641AS (Idle: 24 / Seek: 26-29 [email protected])
Deskstar 7K400 HDS724040KLSA80 (Idle: 25 / AAM: 27 / Seek: 27-28 [email protected])
Barracuda IV ST340016A (Idle: 21 / AAM: 23 / Seek: 25-26 [email protected])
case fan @ 5V (17 [email protected]) 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
on page four of the article
SPCR's Test / Sound Lab: A Short Tour
Like all the other high capacity HDDs we've seen thus far, the
7K500 is not a quiet drive. SPL measurements suggest the 7K500 is the noisiest
by a small margin, but the numbers don't really tell the whole story.
Subjectively, the 7K500 sounds much the same the 7K400 in idle,
and a bit better while seeking. It also sounds nicer than the
Seagate 7200.9, no matter what state the drive is in. That high pitch noise
in the Seagate is always there, and its seek noise is louder. However, the drives
are all too close to pick a clear winner on the basis of subjective noise impressions
Nevertheless, the 7K500 is preferable over the other high capacity
HDDs mentioned here for the simple reason that APM will allow the drive to drop
down into its Low RPM Mode whenever its not in use. High capacity drives often
serve as archive volumes which are not used constantly, so Low RPM Mode could
be a dealmaker for a system that requires lots of storage but only occasionally
access the drive. Video / audio achival applications likely fit this scenario.
Many thanks to Hitachi
Global Storage for the Deskstar 7K500 sample.
* * *
this article in the SPCR Forums.
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