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MacBook Pro Drives:
5400rpm vs 7200rpm
FW400 vs FW800

Posted April 3rd, 2006, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

If you are buying a new MacBook Pro, you might be wondering if the 7200RPM drive option is worth the $$$. We were wondering the same thing. So we tested two MacBook Pros, one with the 5400RPM drive and one with the optional 7200RPM drive.

We were also wondering how much speed we were giving up by the loss of the FireWire 800 port. So we tested one of our fastest 3.5" 7200RPM drives on the MacBook's FireWire 400 Port and compared to what we got on a PowerBook's FireWire 800 port.

FW800 PowerBook -- PowerBook G4/1.67 connected to a Maxtor DiamondMax 10 300GB PATA drive via the FireWire 800 Port (and Wiebetech SuperDriveDock+)
FW400 MacBook -- MacBook Pro 2.0 connected to a Maxtor DiamondMax 10 300GB PATA drive via the FireWire 400 Port (and Wiebetech SuperDriveDock+)
Internal 7200 -- MacBook Pro 2.0 using the Configure-To-Order 7200RPM internal SATA 2.5" Seagate ST910021AS drive
Internal 5400 -- MacBook Pro 2.0 using the stock 5400RPM internal SATA 2.5" Seagate ST9100824AS drive

RANDOM TEST - average of random reads and writes using 32K, 64K, 128K, 256K, 512K and 1024K blocks.

LARGE SUSTAINED TEST - average of sustained reads and writes using 20MB, 30MB, 40MB, 50MB, 60MB, 70MB, 80MB, 90MB, and 100MB blocks. (We removed the Medium Size test -- 2MB to 10MB -- since we feel it's skewed by the 8MB drive cache.)

The numbers tell us several things:
1. The 7200rpm internal drive is NOT significantly faster than the stock 5400rpm when doing small RANDOM reads and writes. That implies that it won't give you much advantage for booting and normal operations.

2. Internal drives exhibited higher random write rates than external FireWire drives.

3. If you work on audio or video where large blocks are captured or played back, the 7200rpm internal drive of the MacBook has a clear advantage over the stock 5400rpm internal drive.

3. If you plan to connect a fast 3.5 inch 7200rpm hard drive to the FireWire 400 port of the MacBook Pro, you will lose a lot of speed compared to using the FireWire 800 port of the Powerbook G4. Thankfully, I know of at least two companies who will soon release ExpresCard/34 SATA and/or FireWire 800 products that will allow your MacBook Pro to enjoy truly fast external storage.


Small Dog Electronics -- New MacBook Pros; New and Refurbished PowerBooks; They accept custom orders; Also have memory and drive upgrades.

PowerMax -- New MacBooks Pros; New and Refurbished PowerBooks

Apple Online Store -- New MacBook Pros; New and Refurbished PowerBooks



Daystar Technology -- They specialize in CPU upgrades for "orphaned" Mac systems like the iMac G4 Flat Panel and various PowerBooks.

"AlumBook" upgrades take you up to 2.0GHz upgrade.

The base price of $499 includes all parts and labor.
  PowerBook G4 15": 1.0, 1.25, 1.33 can go to 1.92 GHz
  PowerBook G4 15": 1.5 can go to 2.0 GHz
  PowerBook G4 17": 1.33 can go to 1.92 GHz
  PowerBook G4 17": 1.5 can go to to 2.0 GHz


FirmTek -- SATA Cardbus (and soon SATA ExpressCard/32); SATA enclosures

OWC -- MacBook and PowerBook memory upgrades; hard drive upgrades

TransIntl -- MacBook and PowerBook memory and drive upgrades

Wiebetech -- SATA and FireWire drive enclosures

MaxUpgrades -- PowerBook Sleeves and Briefcases; SATA and FireWire drive enclosures

FWDepot -- FireWire and SATA Cardbus cards; external FireWire and SATA drive enclosures

For noise suppression, nothing beats ear covering headphones like the Bose Quiet Comfort 2. For ear "fobs," we use the Bose In-Ear Headphones when listening to our iPod -- Help support Bare Feats by ordering your Bose headphones from Sharper Image.

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© 2006 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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