TweetFollow Us on Twitter

MacTech Labs: Laptop Hard Drive Speed

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 01
Column Tag: MacTech Labs

Laptop Hard Drive Speed

4200, 5400, 7200 RPMs ... does it really matter?

By Neil Ticktin

RPMs: Are They Important?

It used to be that pretty much the only choices you had on laptop hard drives were size. But nowadays, there are a number of size choices (with larger sizes going from 100 to now 200GB), a couple of interface choices (PATA vs. SATA), and a few speed choices (4200, 5400 and 7200 RPM). As most 2.5 inch drive purchasers will tell you, there's a trade off between speed and size. You can't get the largest drives in the fastest speed ... in fact, they are almost inversely proportional.

For most laptop drive purchasers, the question becomes "how important are RPMs?" and "will I notice a difference?" With those questions in mind, we set out to do some real world testing, and see what we could find out.

Hitachi's Offerings

For the test, we used an older PowerBook G4 running at 1.67GHz. We used the G4 to make the differences more apparent, but in general use, we found the G4's results to hold proportional and consistent with all Mac laptops, including the Core Duo and Core 2 Duo machines. Some overview information on these Hitachi drives -- skip to the next section if you are just interested in the test results.


Figure 1. Hitachi Travelstar Drive

Travelstar 7K100 and Travelstar 5K100 are part of Hitachi's range of 2.5-inch hard drives. These drives are available with either the Parallel ("old-school") ATA (ATA-6), or Serial ATA interface. Native SATA implementation offers throughput at 1.5 Gbits/sec, and supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ), Hot Plug, Staggered Spin-up, Link Power Management, and other SATA extension features to meet the design requirements of single drive systems, as well as multiple drive architectures. (Yes, we realize that the 'hot-plug' feature is of little use for an internal laptop drive...) The optimized Femto-based actuator/suspension system of the Travelstar 7K100 and Travelstar 5K100 allows them to withstand 300 and 1,000 Gs of operating and non-operating shock, and to last for 600,000 load/unload cycles.

The Travelstar 7K100, a series of 7200 RPM 2.5-inch hard disk drives, is available in capacities of 60, 80, and 100 GB with 3, 4, and 4 data heads respectively and 2 data disks each. The maximum areal densities of 60, 80, and 100 GB hard drives are 66, 66, and 81 Gbits/sq. inch respectively. The sector size in 7K100 series of 2.5 inch hard drives is 512 bytes with 24 recording zones. Data buffers of the 7K100 series is 8 MB with latency average of 4.2 ms. Average seek time is 10 ms for a read cycle, and 11 ms for a write cycle. Track to track seek time is 1 and 1.2 ms for a read and write cycle, respectively. Full stroke seek time is 18ms for a read cycle, and 19 ms for a write cycle. The Travelstar 7K100 has a media transfer rate of up to 625 MB/sec, and power consumption of 0.85 W in low power idle mode. Power requirements of the 7K100 series are +5VDC (+-5 %) with power consumption of 5.5, 2.3, 2, 2, 1.1, 0.2, and 0.1 W in startup, seek, read, write, active idle, standby, and sleep modes respectively. The operating and non-operating temperature ranges of 7K100 series are 5 to 55 degrees C and minus 40 to 65 degrees C respectively. Dimensions of 7K100 series hard drive are 9.5 mm height x 70 mm width x 100 mm depth. Hard drives in the 7K100 series are 115 grams in weight.

The Travelstar 5K100 is a series of 5400 RPM 2.5-inch hard disk drives, available in capacities of 40 to 160 GB with 2, 3, 4, and 4 data heads and 1, 2, 2, and 2 data disks respectively. The maximum areal densities of 40, 60, 80, and 100 GB hard drives are 70, 70, 70, and 86 Gbits/sq. inch respectively. The sector size in 5K100 series of 2.5- inch hard drives is 512 bytes, with 16 recording zones. Data buffers of the 7K100 series are 8 MB with latency average of 5.5 ms. Typical average seek time is 12 ms. Travelstar 5K100 has a media transfer rate of up to 493 MB/sec, and power consumption of 0.60 W in low power idle mode. Power requirement of 5K100 series is +5VDC (+-5 %), with power consumption of 5, 2, 2, 0.85, 0.2, and 0.1 W in startup, read, write, active idle, standby, and sleep modes respectively. The operating and non-operating temperature ranges of 5K100 series are 5 to 55 degrees C and minus 40 to 65 degrees C respectively. Dimensions of 5K100 series hard drive are 9.5 mm height x 70 mm width x 100 mm depth. Hard drives in the 5K100 series are 95 and 102 grams in weight.

Both series of drives feature Enhanced ABLE (Enhanced Adaptive Battery Life Extender), a power-management technology that dynamically selects the appropriate mode to minimize power usage, and help preserve battery life, when the disk drive is idle. Both series of 2.5-inch hard drives come equipped with Enhanced Error Correction Code for ensuring data integrity, and Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB) motor for quiet operation. These hard drives also feature TrueTrack, which is a suite of advance servo technologies that enable hard drives to maintain true tracking accuracy of the heads despite disk shift from shock or vibration. The drives are also RoHS compliant. Typical suitable applications for Travelstar 7K100 and Travelstar 5K100 include, notebook and tablet PCs, gaming devices, compact desktop systems, graphics and CAD workstations, external storage solutions, and video editing and surveillance.

These drives range from about $50-60 up to $200-250, depending on the model and size. For more information visit: http://www.hitachigst.com

The Tests

There were two classes of tests that we ran -- shorter and longer ones. The longer tests included the time it took for booting to start after powering up, boot time, fixing permissions, a complex search in Eudora email, import into FileMaker, and having Safari open up many windows. The shorter tests included a file copy, launching Dashboard, launching Eudora, Safari and Word. In short, all the tests were not based around specs, but around real world operations. The system was identical on both, as were the contents of the drives.

The Results

Numerically, there was a noticeable difference: the 7200 RPM drive was 25-40% faster. The charts give you more detailed information.


Figure 2. Longer Tests, 5400 vs. 7200 RPM

As a user, what's more important is how it feels. And, there was no doubt about it ... the 7200 RPM felt considerably snappier and more responsive than the 5400 RPM drive, and while not included in the test, the 4200 RPM drive would have shown an even bigger difference.


Figure 3. Shorter Tests, 5400 vs. 7200 RPM

Conclusion

There's no question in our testing that the faster drives are noticeably faster. So, the question for you as you choose your drive is, "what's your priority?" If size is more important than speed, then go with size, but remember that not every operation will be as fast as your machine could make it. If speed is more important, then definitely go for the 7200 RPM drives in the smaller sizes. 5400 RPM drives are really the contemporary bare minimum speed you should settle for.


Neil is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of MacTech Magazine. Neil has been in the Mac industry since 1985. When Neil writes a review, he likes to put solutions into a real-life scenario and then write about that experience from the user point of view. That said, Neil has a reputation around the office for pushing software to its limits and crashing software/finding bugs.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Tomb of the Mask guide - How to increase...
Tomb of the Mask is a great endless arcade game from Happymagenta in which quick reflexes and a persistent attitude can go a long way toward earning a top score. Check out these tips to see if you can give yourself an edge on the leaderboards. [... | Read more »
Smooth Operator! (Games)
Smooth Operator! 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Smooth Operator is a weird, weird two-player kissing game. Squeeze in for 2 player fun on a single iPad, creating awkward... | Read more »
Sinless: Remastered (Games)
Sinless: Remastered 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
_PRISM Guide - How to solve those puzzle...
_PRISM is a rather delightful puzzle game that’s been tailor made for touch screens. While part of the fun is figuring things out as you go along, we thought we’d offer you a helping hand at getting in the right mindset. Don’t worry about messing... | Read more »
Set off on an adventure through the Cand...
Like match three puzzlers? If so, Jelly Blast, the innovative iOS and Android game which launched last year, is worth a look. Jelly Blast sees you head off on an epic adventure through the Candy Kingdom with your friends Lily, Mr. Hare, and Mr.... | Read more »
Ellipsis - Touch. Explore. Survive. (...
Ellipsis - Touch. Explore. Survive. 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Ys Chronicles II (Games)
Ys Chronicles II 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: After a hard fight to recover the six sacred books in Ys Chronicles I, Adol is back for a sequel! | Read more »
FINAL FANTASY Ⅸ (Games)
FINAL FANTASY Ⅸ 1.0.4 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $16.99, Version: 1.0.4 (iTunes) Description: ==========●Special sale price for the FINAL FANTASY IX release! ●20% off from February 10 to February 21, 2016... | Read more »
Tennis Club Story (Games)
Tennis Club Story 1.03 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.03 (iTunes) Description: Aim for the ace position of tennis club prestige in this simulation! Your leadership decides if players make it to the big... | Read more »
Juggernaut Wars guide - How to use skill...
Juggernaut Warsis a brand new auto-RPG on iOS and Android that challenges you to build a team of heroes, send them out into various different missions to defeat waves of heroes, and level them up to increase their power. The actual combat itself... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Sale! B&H Photo offers 12-inch Retina Mac...
B&H Photo has 12″ Retina MacBooks on sale for $300 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Gray Retina MacBook: $999 $300 off MSRP - 12″ 1.... Read more
App Annie Reveals Future of the App Economy:...
App Annie, a San Francisco based mobile app data and insights platform, has launched its first comprehensive app economy forecast. This new offering will provide brands, agencies, investors and app... Read more
Apple restocks Certified Refurbished Mac mini...
Apple has restocked Certified Refurbished 2014 Mac minis, with models available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $... Read more
What iPad Pro Still Needs To Make It Truly Pr...
I love my iPad Air 2. So much that I’m grudgingly willing to put up with its compromises and limitations as a production tool in order to take advantage of its virtues. However, since a computer for... Read more
21-inch 3.1GHz 4K on sale for $1399, $100 off...
B&H Photo has the 21″ 3.1GHz 4K iMac on sale $1399 for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP: - 21″ 3.1GHz 4K iMac (MK452LL/A): $... Read more
Apple price trackers, updated continuously
Scan our Apple Price Trackers for the latest information on sales, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers. We update the trackers continuously: - 15″... Read more
Save up to $240 with Apple Certified Refurbis...
Apple is now offering Certified Refurbished 12″ Retina MacBooks for up to $240 off the cost of new models. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook, and shipping is free. The... Read more
Apple refurbished 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $270 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.7GHz... Read more
Apple refurbished Time Capsules available for...
Apple has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for $120 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $179, $120 off - 3TB... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros... Read more

Jobs Board

Infrastructure Engineer - *Apple* /Mac - Rem...
…part of a team Requires proven problem solving skills Preferred Additional: Apple Certified System Administrator (ACSA) Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC) Read more
Lead Engineer - *Apple* OSX & Hardware...
Lead Engineer - Apple OSX & Hardware **Job ID:** 3125919 **Full/Part\-Time:** Full\-time **Regular/Temporary:** Regular **Listed:** 2016\-02\-10 **Location:** Cary, Read more
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Service Repa...
Simply Mac is the largest premier retailer of Apple products in the nation. In order to support our growing customer base, we are currently looking for a driven Read more
Infrastructure Engineer - *Apple* /Mac - Rem...
…part of a team Requires proven problem solving skills Preferred Additional: Apple Certified System Administrator (ACSA) Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC) Read more
Lead Engineer - *Apple* OSX & Hardware...
Lead Engineer - Apple OSX & Hardware **Job ID:** 3125919 **Full/Part\-Time:** Full\-time **Regular/Temporary:** Regular **Listed:** 2016\-02\-10 **Location:** Cary, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.