Seagate Momentus 7200.2 160GB 2.5" hard 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 7200.2 ST9160823ASG
20 / ? / 22
7
Seagate's 7,200 RPM notebook drive updated with perpendicular recording and fall detection. Fixes the high power consumption of the 7200.1, but otherwise is not much of an improvement. Our sample had higher vibration than any notebook drive we've tested, and the overall noise level was closer to a desktop drive than a notebook drive.

Seagate Momentus 5400.3 160GB
ST9160821A

19 / ? / 20-21
8
The successor of the Momentus 5400.2, featuring perpendicular recording technology to boost capacity to 160 GB. It also happens to be very quiet. Subjectively, it's probably too close to call between this, the 5400.2, and the Samsung, although the Samsung measures the best. A very good, if expensive, choice for a quiet system.

Hitachi TravelStar E7K100 100GB
HTE721010G9SA00

20 / 21 / 21-22
8
Hitachi's flagship 7,200 RPM notebook drive, competing directly with the Seagate Momentus 7200.1, and beating it handily in terms of both noise and idle power consumption. Power management is disabled, as the drive is targeted at the server and workstation segments, where low power is not a requirement. Unfortunately, the high rotation speed causes a lot of vibration, which resonates at the relatively high (and audible) pitch of 120 Hz.
Seagate Momentus 7200.1 100GB
ST910021AS
21 / ? / 22-23
8
Seagate's performance-oriented notebook drive, with a 7,200 RPM spindle speed that translates into a seek time that approaches desktop performance. Unfortunately, the faster spindle speed causes corresponding increases in turbulence noise (at idle) and power consumption. Subjective noise quality is good for both seeks and idle, but the level of noise is closer to desktop drives than the super quiet Samsung MP0402H. Vibration resonance is at 120 Hz rather than the usual 90 Hz for notebook drives.
Seagate Momentus 5400.2 120GB
ST9120821AS
20 / ? / 20-21
9
Too close to the Samsung MP0402H to crown either drive as low noise champion, but a very good choice in any case. Idle noise has slightly more "wind noise" than the Samsung but no high frequency noise at all. Although AAM is not supported, seeks are completely inaudible when placed on soft foam. Consumes more power than most notebook drives.
Western Digital Scorpio 80GB
20 / 21 / 21
7-9
Sample variance makes it hard to rank the noise this drive, but it belongs somewhere between the Samsung notebook series and the Seagate Barracuda IV. Idle noise is mainly a low frequency motor hum with little high frequency whine. Seeks are almost too quiet to notice, and can be characterized as a low rumble. AAM has not 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
22 / 23-24 / 23-24
9
Idle noise is rather disappointing; it sounds undamped and is louder than the Barracuda IV. Seeks are about average for a notebook drive, rising about 1-2 dBA/1m above idle. The Fujitsu has 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. Consumes ~0.2W more than other notebook drives in all power states.
17 / 18 / 19-20
8
The acoustics of this drive are virtually identical to the Fujitsu MHT2040AT, a considerably slower 4200 rpm drive and the quietest we've encountered. The Samsung is extremely quiet, and there is very little if any high frequency noise to speak of. It has minimal vibration, but placing it on soft foam does 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 is somewhat more audible than the 1 dBA gain suggests, but very soft.
19 / ? / 20
?
The Hitachi comes very close to the Samsung, but has a slightly sharper and higher pitched sound, with perhaps a touch more vibration as well. The seek noise is 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 is superior, according to SiSoftware Sandra 2005, and also subjectively.
Toshiba 60GB MK6022GAX
22 / ? / ?
?
Slightly louder than the Seagate Barracuda IV single platter 3.5" reference hard drive. The noise signature has 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 is only moderately louder than idle, perhaps by 3 dBA. Vibration is higher than any of the 4200rpm drives; similar to the Momentus. Performance seems quite speedy, as it should be with 16 MB cache and 5400rpm, but inconsistent results with all the benchmarks tried stops me from publishing results.
Seagate Momentus 40GB ST94811A
24 / ? / ?
?
The Momentus has a terrible constant "pure" tone somewhere in the 6~10KHz range. It drops 2-3 dBA in level when the listener or the mic faces the edge of the drive because of directionality of the high frequency whine. Seek noise is substantially higher, probably 3~5 dBA. Vibration is 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 40GB MHT2040AT
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 40GB MK4025GAS
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.
Seagate Barracuda IV ST340016A
21 / 23 / 25-26
6
In idle, it remains the quietest of all 3.5" drives. This sample is almost 4 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)
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 5 seconds of ambient noise, 10 seconds of idle noise, and 10 seconds of seek noise. Drives that feature AAM (currently all non-Seagate drives) are also recorded with 10 seconds of seek noise with AAM enabled.

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.

  • Seagate Momentus 7200.2 ST9160823ASGIdle: 20 / Seek: 22 dBA@1m One Meter

Reference Comparatives:

  • Seagate Momentus 7200.1 ST910021ASIdle: 21 / Seek: 22~23 dBA@1m One Meter
  • Samsung P80 MP0402HIdle: 17 / AAM: 18 / Seek: 19-20 dBA@1m One Meter, One Foot

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review. Two recordings of each noise level were made, one from a distance of one meter, and another from one foot away.

The one meter recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The one foot recording is designed to bring out the fine details of the noise. Use this recording with caution! Although more detailed, it may not represent how the subject sounds in actual use. It is best to listen to this recording after you have listened to the one meter recording.

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.

CONCLUSIONS

As a performance drive, the speedy 7200.2 has its merits. However, bear in mind that this is Silent PC review. Our bias favors low noise, and, acoustically, the 7200.2 doesn't pass muster. Our interest in notebook drives is largely based on using them as quieter alternatives to desktop drives, but our 7200.2 sample is no quieter than a good desktop drive, it's slower, smaller and four times the price. We could hope this is an anomaly, but without at least a handful of samples to compare, there's no way to know.

Taking noise out of the equation, it's possible to be a bit more positive. Elsewhere on the web, it has been widely reviewed as the fastest notebook drive (though this may already have changed with Hitachi's latest offering). Power consumption has been brought back in line with most other notebook drives, and, if you pick up the right model, the G-Force Protection should do wonders for road warriors.

We have no doubt we are going to see the market for speedy notebook drives expand, so we look forward to seeing a quiet drive in this category some time in the future. Perhaps the 7200.3 will win our affection...

Many thanks to Seagate for the Momentus 7200.2 sample.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR's Hard Drive Testing Methodology
SPCR's Recommended Hard Drives
Seagate Momentus 7200.1 100 GB SATA Notebook Drive
Seagate Momentus 5400.3 160 GB Notebook Drive
Hitachi E7K100 7.2k-RPM Notebook Drive

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