Momentus 5400.6 & Scorpio Blue: Seagate & WD 2.5" HDDs at 500GB

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AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, 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.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds 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. 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 recordings start with 8 seconds of silence, then 10 second segments of the drive in the following states: idle, seek with AAM disabled. Ideally, you should set the volume of the playback during the "sound of silence", then do not touch the volume control again throughout the listening.

  • Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500GB ST9500325ASG Idle: 16 / Seek: 18 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • WD Scorpio Blue 500GB WD5000BEVTIdle: 15 / Seek: 16 dBA@1mOne Meter

Recordings of Desktop Drives in the anechoic chamber:

  • Seagate Pipeline HD Pro ST31000533CSIdle: 15 / Seek: 16 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • WD Caviar Blue WD6400AAKSIdle: 16 / Seek (AAM): 16~17 / Seek (Normal): 18~19 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Samsung F1 3D HD753LJIdle: 16 / Seek (AAM): 18~19 / Seek (Normal): 20~21 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Seagate 7200.11 1.5TB ST31500341ASIdle: 17 / Seek: 19 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Seagate 7200.11 1TB ST31000340ASIdle: 18 / Seek: 19 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000KSIdle: 19 / Seek (AAM): 19 / Seek (Normal): 22 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALSIdle: 21 / Seek (AAM): 21 / Seek (Normal): 25 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFDIdle: 16 / Seek (AAM): 26~27 / Seek (Normal): 26~27 dBA@1mOne Meter

CONCLUSIONS

The WD Scorpio Blue and the Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500GB 5400RPM notebook drives both provide very good performance and capacity that would have been gi-normous even in a desktop drive a couple of years ago. The ~70 MB/s average read speed of these models makes them nearly as fast as today's desktop drives in data transfers. Yet, they are miserly in their energy demand, asking less than 1W in idle and no more than 2.5W at any time.

We've usually associated high capacity and performance with higher noise. In these 500GB notebook drives, the acoustic level is quite low, nearly equal, but there are subtle differences. The WD has a bit more vibration, which will cause the case it's mounted in to vibrate and increase its noise floor. The Seagate has much lower vibration but a bit more seek noise, and the contrast between that and idle will be more noticeable. It's a toss-up as to which is the better choice for the noise conscious user.

For a desktop PC, either of these drives should be soft-mounted for best noise benefits. As a replacement notebook drive, the Seagate gets the nod; its noise will be less evident in idle, which is the dominant mode even for power users. (Owners of older laptops should ensure that their machine accepts the SATA interface of these drives.)

At the ~$100 asking price, the capacity and speed of these little drives is astonishing for anyone who recalls paying $300+ for a 40GB 3.5" drive less than a decade ago. These are good times for HDD consumers.

Many thanks to Seagate and to Western Digital for the respective drive samples.

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POSTSCRIPT

In early 2009, looming over these and every other spinning drive is the dramatically declining curve of the price of solid state drives. SSDs' usability continues to improve, with performance besting the fastest of current disc drives. At time of writing, an excellent 128 GB Samsung based SSD is selling "on the street" for little over $300. For most laptop users, this capacity is perfectly adequate, and the relatively high price is balanced against the benefits of hugely improved shock resistance, zero noise and constant sub-1W power demand with attendent lack of heat. These are compelling factors that will transform the storage sector as price continues to fall and performance/reliability keeps improving. Spinning disk drives may soon be relegated to the task of mass data storage, while the SSD takes over the role of the OS drive.

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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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