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Optional Hitachi 5K80 Notebook Drive
Versus Other PowerBook Drives

Originally posted 09/29/03 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
9/30/03 - Correction on Fujitsu drive (8MB buffer, not 2MB)
and alternate standard factory drive (Hitachi 80GN)
10/1/03 - Test results for 80GN

Apple is shipping the new 15" (and 17") Aluminum PowerBooks with the Fujitsu MHT2080AT (80GB, 4200rpm, 8MB cache) drive as standard equipment. I thought this was the only brand of 4200rpm drive being shipped with the 15" and 17" PowerBook but two readers informed me that their 15" Aluminum PowerBook came with the 80GN IC25N080ATMR04 drive (80GB, 4200rpm, 8MB cache). So we got those tested and this edition has those results as well.

For an extra $125, you can order the optional Hitachi 5K80 (80GB 5400rpm 8MB cache) on your new Aluminum PowerBook as a Build-To-Order (BTO) option.

Many of you are asking which drive is the best choice for your PowerBook. Some of you, like me, want to go faster still. With the Hitachi 7K60 (60GB, 7200rpm, 8MB cache) drive dropping as low as $235 in recent days, it's tempting to order the cheapest drive from Apple and replace it with the 7K60.

Others are thinking they want maximum capacity. Maybe the 80GB 5K80 is fast enough. Maybe the stock 80GB drive is sufficient, too.

I decided to test the 4200rpm, 5400rpm, and 7200rpm notebook drives. I have posted results for those drives running inside the 15" Aluminum G4/1.25 PowerBook, as well as externally in FireWire 800 case kits.








The Hitachi 7k60 7200rpm drive is clearly the faster of the other four drives and is my personal notebook favorite. If the 7K60's 60GB is not enough storage, you can always archive inactive stuff to an external drive. The best performing external notebook drive would be another 7K60 inside a FireWire 800 bus powered notebook enclosure, as you can see from the graphs above.

If you replaced the factory drive with the 7K60, you can always use the slower 4200rpm factory drive for archiving or overflow. But in that case, there's little advantage to using a FireWire 800 case. A FireWire 400 case would be just as fast and yet cheaper.

The optional Hitachi 5K80 5400prm offered on the Apple Online Store does give an overall 22% gain over the standard factory Fujitsu MHT-AT drive but only a 7% gain over the Hitachi 80GN factory drive. You'll have to decide if it's worth $125 more.

Again, if it was me, instead of spending an extra $125 for the 5K80, I would save an extra $75 by specifying the 60GB 4200rpm option. Then I'd take the $75 that I saved plus the $125 I didn't spend and invest that ($200 total) toward a 7K60 drive, which which is currently selling as low as $269 with shipping.

The only possible downside to this scenario is that I haven't cracked open the 15" AlumBook case yet. I hear it is not as easy as the TiBook when it comes to replacing the drive. One drive vendor told me they are looking into this issue to see if they can generate illustrated instructions. If you are fearful about opening up your new PowerBook, then start sending email to Apple asking them to offer the 7K60 as a factory option.

If you have an older Titanium G4 PowerBook or G3 Pismo with a small, slow drive, you can use the 7K60 as well. The Pismo won't get quite as much speed as we got, however. If you need maximum storage space, I'm sure you will be happy with the Hitachi 80GN or Hitachi 5K80 as well.

The faster spinning drives do use more "juice" during normal operation (2.3 and 2.5W vs 2.1), but they also have sophisticated Adaptive Battery Life Extender logic to help offset that. The only way to tell for sure is if I did some kind of battery drain test with three different drives installed. (Yawn) I'll let one of you do that test.

No matter what drive you choose, don't expect the Aluminum PowerBook battery to last much more than 2 hours, according to reports I'm receiving. The 4.5 hour rating is mythical... I mean... theoretical. ;-)

I don't have a decibel meter but I can tell you that the Hitachi drives all use Fluid Dynamic Bearing motor technology and actuator dampers. The average noise rating according to the factory ranges from 27 to 33 decibels.

The subjective impressions? The 7200rpm drive makes a very low level whirring noise that can only be heard in a very quiet mountain cabin. The 4200rpm 80GN is the quietest. I can't hear it at all. The only notebook drives that ever made too much noise to suit me were the Toshiba 40G and 60G GAX drives. Their noisy actuator was more than I was willing to endure.

Again, I no heat measuring instruments, but when I feel the bottom of my PowerBook, the only heat generated came from the logic board area, not from the 5400rpm or 7200rpm drive.

The Hitachi Travelstar 80GN, 5K80, and 7K60 notebook drives are available from
Other World Computing and Trans International. Keep watching BizRate and C/Net Shopper for lowest priced sources.

The Firewire 800 bus powered enclosures are available from Wiebetech and FWDepot.

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© 2003 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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