Western Digital Scorpio: Another Quiet Notebook Drive

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Our sample was tested according to our standard hard drive testing methodology. Our methodology focuses specifically on 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. For comprehensive HDD performance testing results, we recommend Storage Review, who have established a long reputation as the specialist in this field. At the time of writing, Storage Review has not reviewed a Scorpio, so we direct you to reviews from X-Bit Labs and The Tech Report to help give you an idea of how the drive performs.

Our test drive was compared against two of the quietest notebook drives that we know of: A Samsung Spinpoint M Series and a Seagate Momentus 5400.3.

Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:

  1. Airborne acoustics
  2. Vibration-induced noise

These types of noise impact the subjective perception of hard drive noise differently depending on how and where the drive is mounted.

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 sample we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without telling everyone.

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 16 dBA. For the record, room temperature was 23¬įC.

Mfg date
firmware version
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State
Airborne Acoustics
Measured Power
Western Digital Scorpio WD1200BEVS
March 2006
firmware 01.06M01
1.0 W (heads unloaded)
1.1W (heads loaded)
Seek (AAM)
2.9 W
Seek (Normal)
20 [email protected]
2.9 W
Seagate Momentus 5400.3 ST9160821A
December 2005
firmware 3.ALA
19 [email protected]
1.2 W (heads unloaded)
1.4 W (heads loaded)
Seek (Normal)
20-21 [email protected]
2.7 W
Samsung MP0402H
April 2004
firmware UC100-10
17 [email protected]
0.8 W
Seek (AAM)
18 [email protected]
2.3 W
Seek (Normal)
19-20 [email protected]
2.4 W

At idle, the sound of the Scorpio was indistinguishable from the Momentus 5400.3. Both were characterized by the same quiet whoosh of airflow that was just loud enough to let you know it was there. The Samsung, on the other hand, was a little quieter overall, but its primary noise was a higher pitched squeal that ended up being about as noticeable. Choosing between the three drives was more a matter of preference than of volume. All are likely to be inaudible in all but the quietest systems.

Listening closely to the seek noise allowed sharper distinctions to be made. The Scorpio had the smallest audible difference between idle and seek noise, and seeks were very muted in comparison to the other two drives. However, none of the drives was particularly noisy during seek, and all are likely to be inaudible in a desktop system where the drive is located about a meter from the listener. Enabling AAM had no audible effect... but the seeks were already so quiet that it's difficult to imagine what audible effect it could have had.

Because the seeks are quiet, the systems that would benefit most from using a Scorpio are probably notebooks or very quiet small form factor systems that tend to be placed closer to the user. Unfortunately, the Scorpio also has an attribute that negates this advantage: It vibrates a bit more than the other drives. In a desktop system, the acoustic effect of this is probably minimal — the drive doesn't have enough mass to cause much vibration-induced noise in a steel case — but the low hum could possibly be an issue in a notebook.

One other noise could be heard from time to time: The sound of the heads loading and unloading was audible as a muted click that was about the same volume as the seek noise. The noise generally came after about 10 seconds of idling, and, unless we were listening for it, it was indistinguishable from a stray seek.

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