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Seagate Momentus 7200.1 100GB SATA notebook drive

October 31, 2005 by Devon
Cooke

Product
Seagate Momentus 7200.1 ST910021AS

100GB 7,200 RPM Notebook drive
Manufacturer
Market Price
~US$320

There was some excitement when a sample of Seagate's new Momentus 7200.1 landed at SPCR. Notebook drives tend to be quieter than desktop drives, which is why we've been recommending (and using) them for the quietest desktop systems.
By most metrics, notebook drives generally do not perform as well as desktop drives. A big reason for
the performance lag is spindle speed,
which affects latency: Most notebook drives spin at 5,400 RPM or slower, while
standard desktop drives spin 25% faster at 7,200 RPM. The
Momentus 7200.1 is Seagate's first notebook drive with a 7,200 RPM spindle speed.

It's a safe bet that the target market is the fast growing segment of PC users who are migrating to large, widescreen desktop-replacement portables as their main rigs. This product category emerged perhaps 18 months ago, and is now going strong, especially among gamers.

You know what we're talking about: >10 lb behemoths with Athlon FX57 processors, gigabytes of RAM, 17" monitors and so on, for gamers who want it all along with mobility for LAN parties and playing even in bed or on the shady porch. There's also a growing class of users who work with their PC, but want greater freedom to work on their PC where they want, whether its a corporate office, or small / home business. With the support of inexpensive wireless networks, many of these users are opting for high performance, but still very portable notebook computers and foregoing the conventional desktop PC altogether. Hard drive makers are just starting to introduce higher performance 7,200 RPM notebook drives for this growth market.

We've always tended to pooh-pooh typical performance metrics and marginal improvements on benchmarks, as they rarely translate to dramatic improvements in user experience. But it's true that improving a key bottleneck component can have a genuine, positive impact on user experience. A 7200 RPM drive has the inherent advantage of reduced latency over a 5400 RPM drive.

FEATURES & SPECIFICATIONS

SEAGATE MOMENTUS 7200.1 ST910021AS (quoted from Seagate's
web
site
)
FEATURE & BRIEF COMMENT
Highest available notebook performance increases productivity
while on the road.
The obvious source of the performance boost is the increase in spindle
speed.

Low power consumption maximizes battery life and lets users work
longer.

All notebook
drives seem to have this feature. The higher spindle speed could make this
claim hard to justify
Robust design
and high shock tolerance enable mobility in rugged notebook operating
environments.
Another perennial
"feature" of notebook drives.
900 Gs of nonoperating shock makes the drive ideal for notebook
PCs and industrial applications.
900 Gs is
quite high ... but the nonoperating shock is listed elsewhere as 800 Gs.
Serial ATA interface option offers blazing fast 1.5 Gbit/sec interface
speed combined with NCQ for high performance.
SATA is nice
because it is easily compatible with desktop systems, but it gives no real
performance benefit over PATA.

Our sample 7200.1 is a SATA version that features Native Command Queuing, one of the most common
"optional" features that is included on SATA drives. NCQ will be a
standard feature of the next "official" SATA spec, SATA 2.5. In spite
of its ubiquity, NCQ offers very little additional performance over a non-NCQ
drive in a notebook context. It also offers no performance gain in a desktop system unless the drive controller supports NCQ.

The 7,200 RPM spindle speed and the 8 MB cache offer more performance improvements than either SATA or NCQ. As mentioned in the introduction,
the faster spindle speed is rare in a notebook drive. 8 MB cache is becoming mainstream even on notebook drives,
but there are still plenty of drives that still use only 2 MB. Unlike NCQ, usage
patterns that benefit from a larger cache are not rare for laptop users,
as any application with a large data set should be able to take advantage of
it.

Seagate boasts about the high shock tolerance of the 7200.1, but they seem
a little confused about just how shock resistant it is. The official specs on
the PDF datasheet listed 900 Gs, while the official specs in HTML form quoted
800 Gs, so it seems like a tossup which is truer. In practical terms, the difference is
less than 15% and probably not significant. An accident that causes damage will probably do the same damage regardless of which spec is correct.

SPECIFICATIONS

The specifications for our Momentus 7200.1 sample are provided in the table below, along with those for the previously tested Momentus 5400.2 and also for a Barracuda 7200.9, a new desktop drive that we have not tested. The desktop drive specs are listed simply for comparison. Please note that 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; smaller capacity
drives tend to have fewer platters, produce less noise and use less
power.


Three Seagate HDDs Compared

Model


Momentus 7200.1



Momentus 5400.2



Barracuda 7200.9

Capacity

100 GB

120 GB

120 GB
Cache

8 MB

8 MB

8 MB
Platters

2

2

1
Heads

4

4

2
Spindle Speed

7,200 RPM

5,400 RPM

7,200 RPM
Interface

SATA 1.5 Gb/s

SATA 1.5 Gb/s

SATA 3 Gb/s
Latency

4.2 ms

5.6 ms

4.2 ms
Average Seek

10.5 ms

12.5 ms

8.5 ms
Internal Transfer Rate

45.8 MB / second

42 MB / second

N/A
Weight

115 g

100 g

580 g
Operating Temperature

5 - 55°C

5 - 55°C

0 - 60°C
Power Dissipation: Idle / Seek

0.95 / 2.6 W

0.8 / 2.2 W

7.2 / 12.4 W
Acoustics: Idle / Seek

2.5 / 2.9 Bels

2.4 / 2.9 Bels

2.5 / 2.8 Bels

Seagate's specifications mark the Momentus 7200.1 as a fast notebook drive.
The faster spindle speed allows an automatic 1.4 ms decrease in latency; the 4.2 ms cited is the same as in the new Barracuda 7200.9 desktop 3.5" model. Average seek is also quicker than its slower spinning relative, but again still 2 ms slower than the 8.5 ms of the desktop drive.

The rated power is slightly higher than usual for a notebook drive, especially the seek
power consumption. The acoustic noise is specified to be only 0.1 Bel
higher than the Momentus 5400.2 120GB drive we tested in August, which, again, is surprisingly small. But what's interesting is that the noise spec is actually higher than that cited for the similar capacity Barracuda 7200.9. Not having heard the Barracuda 7200.9, however, we're not in a position to comment on perceived differences.

TEST RESULTS

Our sample was tested according to our standard
hard drive testing methodology
. We focus mostly 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.

It was compared against our reference notebook drive,
Samsung MP0402H, profiled in a recent
notebook drive review
.

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
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.

Unfortunately, AAM (Automatic Acoustic Management) is not supported
as a user-configurable option on the Momentus 7200.1, which means that our standard
means of generating seek noise via the AAM test function in Hitachi's
HDD Feature Tool
could not be used. Instead, seek noise was generated
by copying a large file set within the drive. Unfortunately, this task does
not require as much random seeking as the AAM test, so seek noise was not as
constant as usual. To compensate, we spent more time than usual listening to
and measuring the seek noise.

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 18 dBA.

NOTEBOOK DRIVE NOISE EVALUATION
Drive

Mfg date

firmware version
Vibration

1-10

(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics

Measured Power
Samsung MP0402H

April 2004

firmware UC100-10
8
Idle

17 [email protected]

0.8 W
Seek (AAM)

18 [email protected]

2.3 W
Seek (Normal)

19-20 [email protected]

2.4 W
Seagate Momentus 7200.1 ST910021AS

Date Code: 06101

firmware 3.04
8
Idle

21 [email protected]

1.7 W (heads unloaded)

2.9W (heads loaded)
Seek (Normal)

22-23 [email protected]

3.7 W

At 21 [email protected], the 7200.1 was slighter louder than most of the other notebook drives we've tested.
The noise level was roughly on par with a quiet desktop
drive, such as the Samsung Spinpoint P80. The quality of the noise was
similar as well: Primarily, broadband air turbulence (whoosh) with a small amount of motor hum.
There was no high frequency noise to speak of; no whine was present. By comparison, the Samsung MP0402H had much less
broadband noise, but it produced a very slight high frequency whine perceptible from certain angles.

The level of vibration was also slightly higher than other tested notebook drives. It still qualifies as a low
vibration drive when desktop drives are considered. The vibration level was
very similar to the reference Samsung MP0402H drive, and I could not decide which had lower
vibration even after several direct A/B comparisons.

Because of the high rotation speed, the 7200.1 vibrates at a higher frequency
than most other notebook drives. The resonant frequency was also higher because
of this: 120 Hz instead of 90 Hz. Because human hearing is more sensitive at
120 Hz than at 90 Hz, the vibration noise from the 7200.1 seemed
a little higher than the MP0402H even though the vibration levels were almost
identical. The low vibrational hum is the same pitch as an ordinary 7,200 RPM
desktop drive.

The AAM status cannot be changed for the 7200.1, but this hardly matters as
seeks are almost inaudible. Contrary to the measured noise level, I could barely
distinguish the seek noise from the idle noise at a distance of one meter. Soft-mounting
may help the seek noise, since I could clearly pick out the seek noise once
the drive was placed on our vibration test box, but they were still quite muted.
Although the seeks of the 7200.1 were a little louder than those of the MP0402H, they seemed quieter subjectively because they were closer
to the idle noise level. They were also softer, with less high frequency noise
and a less percussive "attack".

Probably because of its higher spindle speed, the power consumption was higher
than other notebook drives we've measured. The idle power of 1.7W is
a little more than twice that of the MP0402H. Likewise, the
peak power consumption of seeks was 3.7W, watt higher than the Samsung
drive.

2.5" HDD NOISE COMPARISON
Drive Model

(linked to review)
SPL

Idle / AAM / Seek

([email protected])
Vibration

1-10

(10 = no vibration)
Subjective Notes
UNIT UNDER REVIEW:

Seagate Momentus 7200.1

ST910021AS
21 / – / 22-23
8
Seagate's high performance notebook drive, with a 7,200
RPM spindle speed that translates into seek times approaching desktop
HDDs. There were increases in turbulence noise (at idle) and power consumption. Subjective
noise quality was excellent, but the level
was closer to the best desktop drives than the super quiet Samsung MP0402H. The primary spin
noise was at a slightly more audible 120 Hz rather than 90 Hz for 5400 RPM drives. SATA interface makes it very desktop-friendly, w/no need for adapters.
Seagate
Momentus 5400.2

ST9120821AS


Review: August 9, 2005
20 / – / 20-21
9
This sample was way better than our previous Momentus 5400, too close to the Samsung MP0402H to crown either drive as
low noise champion. Idle noise had
slightly more "wind noise" than the Samsung but no high frequency
noise at all. Although AAM is not supported, seeks were completely inaudible
when placed on soft foam. Consumed a bit more power than most notebook drives. SATA interface is nice.
Western
Digital Scorpio


Review: June 5, 2005
20 / 21 / 21
7-9
This sample's acoustics belongs somewhere between the Samsung notebook drives and the Seagate
Barracuda IV. Idle noise was mainly a low frequency motor hum with little
high frequency whine. Seeks were almost too quiet to notice, and sounded mostly like a low rumble. AAM had no 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


Review: June 5, 2005
22 / 23-24 / 23-24
9
Idle noise was rather disappointing, sounding undamped and
louder than the Barracuda IV. Seek noise was about average for a notebook
drive, rising about 1-2 dBA/1m above idle. This sample had 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. Consumed ~0.2W more than other notebook
drives. Very nice SATA interface.
Samsung
MP0402H


(Current quiet 2.5" reference
drive)

Review: Dec 23, 2004
17 / 18 / 19-20
8
The acoustics of this drive were virtually identical
to the Fujitsu MHT2040AT, a considerably slower 4200 rpm drive and the
quietest we've encountered. The Samsung was extremely quiet, with very little if any high frequency noise. It had minimal
vibration, but placing it on soft foam did 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 was somewhat more audible
than the 1 dBA gain suggests, but very soft.
Hitachi
Travelstar 5K80


Review: Dec 23, 2004
19 / – / 20
–
The Hitachi came very close to the Samsung, but had
a slightly sharper and higher pitched sound, with perhaps a touch more
vibration as well. The seek noise was 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 was superior,
according to SiSoftware Sandra 2005, and also subjectively.
Toshiba
MK6022GAX


Review: April 28, 2004
22 / – / –
–
Slightly louder than the Seagate Barracuda
IV single platter 3.5" reference hard drive. The noise signature
had 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 was only moderately
louder than idle, perhaps by 3 dBA. Vibration is higher than any of the
4200rpm drives; similar to the Momentus. Performance seemed quite speedy,
as it should be with 16 MB cache and 5400rpm, but inconsistent results
with all the benchmarks tried stopped me from publishing results.
Seagate
Momentus ST94811A


Review: March 8, 2004
24 / – / –
–
This Momentus sample had a terrible constant "pure"
tone somewhere in the 6~10KHz range. It dropped 2-3 dBA in level when
the listener or the mic faced the edge of the drive because of directionality
of the high frequency whine. Seek noise was substantially higher, probably
3~5 dBA. Vibration was 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
MHT2040AT


Review: March 8, 2004
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
MK4025GAS


Review: March 8, 2004
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.
Quiet Reference 3.5" Desktop Drives
Seagate
Barracuda IV ST340016A


Grandaddy of all quiet drives
21 / 23 / 25-26
6
In idle, it remains the quietest of all 3.5" drives.
This sample is almost 2 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)


(Current quiet 3.5" reference drive)
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 ten seconds of idle noise, followed
by ten seconds of seek noise with AAM enabled and ten seconds more with AAM
disabled. Because the Seagate does not support AAM, the AAM portion of the recording
was omitted, so for this drive only, the recording is only twenty seconds long.

Keep in mind that the audio 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 7200.1 ST910021AS (Idle: 21 / Seek: 22-23 dBA/1m)

Reference Comparatives:

Seagate
Momentus 5400.2 ST9120821AS (Idle: 20 / Seek: 20-21 dBA/1m)

Samsung
MP0402H (Idle: 17 / AAM: 18 / Seek: 19-20 dBA/1m)

Western
Digital Scorpio WD800VE (Idle: 20 / AAM: 21 / Seek: 21 dBA/1m)

Seagate
Barracuda IV ST340016A (Idle: 21 / AAM: 23 / Seek: 25-26 dBA/1m)

Samsung
Spinpoint P80 SP0802N, Nidec Motor (Idle: 21 / AAM: 23-24 / Seek: 25-26 dBA/1m)

Nexus 92mm
case fan @ 5V (17 dBA/1m) 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 Fans
on page four of the article
SPCR's Test / Sound Lab: A Short Tour.

CONCLUSIONS

The 7200.1 is an ambitious notebook drive. Aside from its 2.5" form factor, it is closer
to a desktop drive than a notebook drive. Judging by Seagate's performance specifications,
it should be faster than almost every other notebook drive. Our
noise and power testing showed that it's also a bit louder and a touch more power
hungry. While its seek performance is a little slower than most
desktop drives, its noise level is on par with the very quietest desktop drives.The level of vibration is substantially lower than that of any 3.5" desktop drive.

For most users, it doesn't really make sense to buy the 7200.1 for a desktop
system. With careful selection, a desktop drive that's suspension mounted is likely to perform better
and probably be just about as quiet. The 7200.1 will consume less power, but the 4-5W difference between
it and a desktop drive is not thermally significant in a full size system. In
addition, the current price of any 80~120 GB 7200 RPM desktop drive is under US$100, a far cry from the current ~US$320 of the 100GB Momentus 7200.1.

The 7200.1 should find a market in those who use the high performance
laptops. The high-end market can bear high prices, and the 7200.1 brings something
that few competing products offer: Near-desktop performance in a 2.5" laptop-compatible
form factor.

Many thanks to Seagate
for the Momentus 7200.1 sample.

* * *

FOR THE RECORD: Momentus 7200.1 vs Momentus 5400.2 in a quiet Shuttle SFF

by Mike Chin

We have many reasons for not testing the performance of hard drives. The Seagate Momentus almost begs for a performance comparison, however. Its raison d'être is higher performance. So...

You may recall that the recent Shuttle SD11G5 review employed an elastically suspended sample of our Seagate Momentus 5400.2 120 GB hard drive. This very quiet system was still intact. It was a perfect platform to check the properties of the new 7200.1. The system details:

  • Intel 770 (Pentium M Dothan core, 2.13 GHz + 2 MB cache) processor.
  • 2 x 512 mb Corsair DDR2 memory
  • Seagate Momentus 5400.2 SATA 120GB 2.5" notebook HDD - suspended w/ clothing elastic in 3.5" HDD bays.
  • Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2 fully updated
  • On-board Intel GMA900 video

Norton Ghost was used to clone the 5400.2 drive to the new 7200.1. The system was used with the 5400.2 drive for a morning, then the 7200.1 drive swapped in place for the afternoon. These changes were made super easy because of the SATA interface for both of these Seagate drives. SATA is probably the one feature that can take 2.5" drives into broad desktop acceptance. The freedom from a clumsy adapter is really nice.

The first metric checked was Windows boot time. With the 5400.2, the total time before the desktop became visible was 60 seconds. The 7200.1 was noticeably faster, at about 45 seconds. A few other programs also launched a touch faster with the 7200.1. For the most part, once programs were open, there was little difference to note between the two drives. Saving or opening >100 mb image files in Photoshop was where I noticed the greatest in-program difference, but again, it wasn't really dramatic. It didn't turn a turtle into a hare; neither turtle nor hare are good analogies for how the system behaved with either drive. Some users may feel this is enough of a speed boost to make the 7200.1 worthwhile; this may be especially true for notebook systems. Value is always in the eye of the beholder.

Despite Devon's observations about the higher noise level of the 7200.1 drive, it was difficult to attribute higher system noise to the 7200.1 during this comparison. I did not hear any significant noise differences between the 5400.2 and the 7200.1 in actual use in the test system. Perhaps suspending the drive made it as quiet as its slower predecessor; perhaps the single quiet Nexus fan in the SD11G5 was enough to obscure the difference. Admittedly, with the cracking of Halloween fireworks in the neighborhood all through the day, the ambient noise level was a bit higher than before, too.

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