Western Digital Scorpio: Another Quiet Notebook Drive

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July 3, 2006 by Devon Cooke

Product
Western Digital Scorpio WD1200BEVS
120GB, 5,400 RPM Notebook drive
Manufacturer
Market Price
US$140~200

SPCR recently looked at new revisions of Western Digital's mainstream and performance drives, one of which we liked enough to recommend. The considerable changes to their desktop drives made us wonder whether their notebook drives had changed as well. It seemed worthwhile to find out, since notebook drives are almost always quieter than their desktop counterparts.

Last time we looked at a Scorpio from Western Digital, it was not available with SATA (important if the drive will see use in a desktop system) and did not offer higher than 80 GB capacity. There was also the question of sample variance: The two samples that we looked at had a significant difference: One had more vibration than any other notebook drive we had seen, and the other had almost none.

In the year since then, Western Digital has boosted capacity to 120 GB — a 50% boost that is needed to keep pace with the likes of Fujitsu and Toshiba, both of which manufacture drives with 200 GB of capacity. Now that notebooks are beginning to make use of SATA, Western Digital has also released a SATA version of the Scorpio.

Even with these improvements, one gets the feeling that Western Digital is merely keeping pace. Neither of these improvements is groundbreaking, so Western Digital needs to find some other way to distinguish themselves from the pack. Perhaps they can repeat what they did in the desktop market and make the Scorpio quieter than the competition? We can always hope...

Western Digital Scorpio WD1200BEVS (quoted from Western Digital's specification sheet )
FEATURE & BRIEF COMMENT
Fast — spins at 5400 RPM and delivers seek times of 12 ms. It has a standard 2 MB cache with an 8 MB option.
Our sample has an 8 MB cache and a SATA interface.
Efficient — spins at 5400 RPM for fast performance but has power consumption specifications similar to slower 4200 RPM drives. Low power consumption yields increased overall reliability.
4,200 RPM drives are no longer as common as they once were and are becoming difficult to find on the retail market.
Quiet — features WD’s exclusive WhisperDrive™ technology with SoftSeek™ algorithms to deliver nearly inaudible operation. The question is how quiet? Most notebook drives are quiet; can the Western Digital distinguish itself?
Reliable — provides ShockGuard™ to protect the drive mechanics and delicate platter surface from shocks, both when it’s in use and when it’s not.
Reliability is tough to judge because it is so hard to test for. Is ShockGuard better than the competition? Hard to say without the technical details...
WD Scorpio’s DuraStep Ramp™ locks the heads off the data disk to provide additional shock protection. Using the most technologically advanced material available on the market, the drive is able to execute a minimum of 600,000 load/unload cycles — up to twice the performance of its competitors.
Again, the lack of technical details makes it impossible to know how this stacks up against other drives.

SPECIFICATIONS

The specifications below are specific to model that we examined. 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 in the drive; smaller capacity drives tend to have fewer platters, and tend to produce less noise and use less power.

Specifications: Western Digital Scorpio WD1200BEVS
Formatted Capacity
120,034 MB
Cache
8 MB
Platters
2
Heads
4
Spindle Rotation Speed
5,400 RPM
Interface
SATA 1.5 Gb/s
Latency
5.5 ms
Read Seek Time
12.0 ms
Buffer to Disk Transfer Rate
500 Mbits/s (Max)
Weight
0.117 kg
Operating Temperature
5 - 60°C
Power Dissipation: Idle / Seek
2.0 / 2.5 W
+5V Current: Idle / Seek
400 / 500 mA
Acoustics: Idle / Seek Mode 0
24 / 26 dBA (average)

There is little in Western Digital's marketing or specifications to distinguish the Scorpio from other drives on the market. It's not the biggest, the fastest or even the cheapest. In short, there seems to be little to get excited about — or if there is, Western Digital isn't telling.

So what is it good for? Just about anything that notebook drives are good for. Let's be realistic here: Hardly anyone needs bleeding edge performance or capacity. Those who do will not be interested in the Scorpio or most any other notebook drive, but that's hardly the whole market. The Scorpio is a mainstream notebook drive, and it will most likely be purchased by mainstream buyers preinstalled in a laptop computer.

The most pertinent features of the Scorpio are the ones that, while unremarkable, are undeniably important to a quiet computer: The form factor and the interface. What good is a SATA notebook drive? SATA is important because it allows a notebook drive to be easily integrated into a desktop system without requiring a separate adapter. And why would you want to do that? Because, as we wrote more than two years ago, notebook drives are nearly always quieter and less power hungry than their full-sized equivalents.


The SATA interface makes it compatible with a desktop system without an adapter.



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