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BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

200GB 7200rpm Notebook Drives
Hitachi versus Seagate

Originally posted November 30th, 2007 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

Seagate now has a 200GB 7200rpm SATA notebook (2.5 inch) drive, the Momentus 7200.2 ST9200420AS and ASG. We were curious how it compared to the 200G 7K notebook drive from Hitachi Travelstar 7K200 (HTS722020K9SA00).

We tested them on both FireWire 800 and SATA ports. And we included results from the Western Digital Scorpio (WD2500BEVS) 250GB 5400rpm notebook drive.

Hit 200G 7K = Hitachi Travelstar 7K200 200GB 7200rpm SATA notebook drive (HTS722020K9SA00)
Sea 200G 7K = Seagate Momentus 7200.2 200GB 7200rpm SATA notebook drive (ST9200420ASG)
WD 250G 5K = Western Digital Scorpio (WD2500BEVS) 250GB 5400rpm notebook drive

The Hitachi 7K 200G notebook drive posted the fastest times for large sustained transfers. However, the Seagate 7K 200G was fastest in the small random transfers -- which implies it would make a better boot drive of the two. I'd be pleased to have either drive inside my MacBook Pro. (As of November 1st, Apple is offering a 200GB 7K drive CTO option for the MacBook Pro. It's would be nice to know which brand they chose, though they have a history of double sourcing.)

The WD Scorpio 5K drive offers 50GB (or 25%) more storage than the two 7K drives but it lagged behind them both in performance -- especially doing small random transfers typical of a boot drive.

Though we didn't post the USB 2.0 results, we can tell you that the transfer rates were much lower than when we used FireWire 400, FireWire 800, and SATA. We're talking less than half of the speeds attained by FireWire 400 and one-third the speeds attained by FireWire 800 and SATA. You don't want to go there unless there is no other alternative to USB 2.0.

FireWire has one big advantage over SATA: it will power an external notebook drive enclosure using only bus power. External SATA enclosures require their own power source. A SATA ExpressCard does not produce bus power.

Many of you have asked if the 7K notebook drives will drain your battery faster or make your laptop run hotter. Here's a shocker: the 5K WD Scorpio averages 2.5 watts for read/write functions. The Hitachi 7K200 uses only 2.3 watts. When it comes to "active idle," the 5K WD drive requires twice as much power as the 7K Hitachi (2.0 vs 1.0 watts). In other words, the 7K Hitachi 200G notebook drive will have a lower impact on your MacBook Pro's battery life (and generate less heat) compared to the 5K WD 250G drive.

Power usage stats and noise levels are usually published by the manufacturers on their specifications web page or PDF file, in case you want to compare your favorite "horses."

Test "mule" was a MacBook Pro 17" 2.4GHz laptop running OS X "Leopard" (10.5.1).

We tested all drives externally using the Wiebetech ToughTech XE mini which has four interface options including FireWire 800 and SATA (which are featured in the graphs above). For FireWire, we used the buit-in FireWire 800 port. For SATA, we used the FirmTek SeriTek/2SM2-E ExpressCard/34 SATA host adapter (instead of "cracking" open the MacBook Pro to install each drive).

SpeedTools QuickBench 4.01 (SpeedTools Utilities) was the benchmarking software used. For "large sustained" test, we averaged the results for 5 runs with 60MB, 70MB, 80MB, 90MB, and 100MB block sizes (Extended Test). For the "small random" test, we averaged the results for 5 runs of 64K, 128K, 256K, 512K, and 1024K block sizes (Standard Test).

Apple Online Store

Check with Trans International and Other World Computing (OWC) for bare SATA notebook drives.

Trans International has the miniXpress825s and WiebeTech offers the ToughTech XE mini. These compact aluminum enclosures are the most versatile (FW800, FW400, SATA, USB2) and are therefore our favorites.

Other World Computing has clear plastic enclosures (Mercury On-The-Go) with either FW800 + USB2 or eSATA + USB2 port configurations.

Visit FirmTek's website for information on the
SeriTek/2SM2-E ExpressCard/34 SATA host adapter and other SATA adapters and enclosures for all the SATA host adapter options they offer.

Check with Trans International about their new ExpressCard/34 SATA host adaper.

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You can also purchase Apple systems and accessories from Small Dog Electronics. You can custom order from them just like with the Apple Store.

We have tested the memory from the following third party companies in our MacBook Pro "Rosa" and MacBook. We can recommend them wholeheartedly:

TransIntl.com is selling kits to take your "Rosa" MacBook Pro to 4GB.

Other World Computing sells various kits for the MacBook and MacBook Pro.

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2007 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist