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SHOOTOUT:
Hitachi Travelstar 7K100 Notebook Drive
versus the Seagate Momentus 7200.1
and Others

Posted October 28th, 2005, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist.

Since we tested the Seagate Momentus, Apple announced a 100GB 7200rpm drive CTO option for the PowerBook. During that same period of time we received a sample of the Hitachi Travelstar 7K100 2.5" ATA-6 drive. Which is faster? Which runs cooler? Which is noisier? Keep readng.

For this article, we tested the various drives in a FireWire 800 enclosure because we didn't want to crack open our new PowerBook test unit to play hard drive "roulette" and because we confirmed that the speeds recorded on the FireWire 800 port are virtually identical to those recorded on the internal ATA-6 bus. In other words, the drives' maximum potential is well below the limits of those two interfaces.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE DRIVE FILLS UP?
One more thing you should think about when choosing a drive for your Mac. When your drive gets full, loses a lot of speed. Check out this graph:

NEW "CACHE" EFFICIENCY TEST
We ran a sustained test using a 2MB test file (smaller than the drive cache) which we think tests the efficiency of the caching firmware -- especially since Disktester disables system caching. Check it out:

ANALYSIS
The Hitachi tested faster than the Seagate in five out of eight tests. It also uses less power, according to factory specs.

However, the Seagate was whisper quiet while the Hitachi's actuator could easily be heard clicking away. It's interesting that we could hear the difference even though the respective manufacturers rate their drives only one decibel apart. The case of the PowerBook tends to amplify any sounds the drive makes. (We've received a report from a reader that his new PowerBook came with the Seagate Momentus 7200.1 but Apple uses more than one brand of drive in the PowerBook so you can't be sure what you will receive when you order the 7200rpm CTO option.)

We measured the surface temperature of the drives with our infrared thermometer "gun." (We left the top off the FW800 enclosure.) The hottest spot was near the "axle" of the actuator where we recorded 120 deg F on both 100GB 7200rpm drives. When we "bashed" the Seagate 5400rpm 100GB drive, we got the same number. If there is any relationship between power draw and generated heat, there should be very little difference between the various models listed in the table below.

We don't have the patience to do any battery life comparison tests. That sounds too much like work. And it's a very imprecise science. The drain that the internal hard drive has on the PowerBook's battery is closely related to how much power it requires to operate. So here's the factory specs on power usage, performance, and noise levels:

Hitachi
Travelstar
4K120
Seagate
Momentus
4200.2
Hitachi
Travelstar
5K100
Seagate
Momentus
5400.2
Hitachi
Travelstar
7K100
Seagate
Momentus
7200.1
seek (watts)
1.7
2.3
2.3
2.0
2.3
2.6
read (watts)
1.4
2.0
2.0
1.8
2.0
2.2
write (watts)
1.4
2.1
2.0
1.8
2.0
2.4
avg seek (msec)
11.0
12.5
12.0
12.5
10.5
10.5
avg latency (msec)
7.1
5.6
5.5
5.6
4.2
4.2
noise level when active (decibels)
27
26
27
29
30
29

TEST HARDWARE
Test mule was a Apple G4/1.67GHz PowerBook.

Notebook (2.5") drives tested included the....
Hitachi Travelstar 7K100 (7200rpm, 100GB, 8MB cache)
Hitachi Travelstar 7K60 (7200rpm, 60GB, 8MB cache)
Seagate Momentus 7200.1 (7200rpm, 100GB, 8MB cache)
Seagate Momentus 5400.2 (5400rpm, 100GB, 8MB cache)
Hitachi Travelstar 5K100 (5400rpm, 100GB, 8MB cache)
Hitachi Travelstar 5K80 (5400rpm, 80GB, 8MB cache)
Hitachi Travelstar 4K80 (4200rpm, 80GB, 8MB cache)
Toshiba MK1032GAX (5400rpm, 80GB, 16MB cache)

The FireWire 800 enclosure used was the Oxford 922 based Speedster2-800 from FWDepot. It uses thin aluminum that not only dissipates the heat well but still looks good after months of abuse.

TEST SOFTWARE
IntechUSA's QuickBench 2.0
tests both random and sequential reads and writes. It tests from very small to 100MB file sizes. We used their ZoneBench to test the drives at 90% capacity.

FINDER DUPLICATE of a 1gigabyte document is our old reliable test that forces the drive to read from and write to itself simultaneously and furiously. It's a reliable predictor of overall performance and correlates to how fast a drive can boot a system.

DISKTESTER was used to do 10 iterations of our 2MB "cache" test. It's a useful tool since it allows you to define the test size, transfer size, and number of iterations.

WHERE TO BUY BUS POWERED FIREWIRE 800 2.5 INCH ENCLOSURES
(with or without pre-installed drives)

Small Dog Electronics (Wiebetech Combo FW800 enclosure)

Wiebetech.com (Combo FW800 enclosure and FW800 Docks)

FWDepot (Speedster2-800 and G-Drive FW800 enclosures)

WHERE TO BUY 2.5 INCH NOTEBOOK BARE DRIVES

Other World Computing (Seagate Momentus, Hitachi TravelStar, Toshiba "GAX", and Fujitsu)

Small Dog Electronics (Seagate Momentus)

TransIntl.com (Hitachi Travelstar, Toshiba "GAX")

WHERE TO BUY THE ULTRAGB+

Wiebetech (UltraGB+ bus powered FW800 enclosure)

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2005 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist