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

FileZilla 3.24.0 - Fast and reliable FTP...
FileZilla (ported from Windows) is a fast and reliable FTP client and server with lots of useful features and an intuitive interface. Version 3.24.0: New The context menu for remote file search... Read more
BusyContacts 1.1.6 - Fast, efficient con...
BusyContacts is a contact manager for OS X that makes creating, finding, and managing contacts faster and more efficient. It brings to contact management the same power, flexibility, and sharing... Read more
BusyCal 3.1.4 - Powerful calendar app wi...
BusyCal is an award-winning desktop calendar that combines personal productivity features for individuals with powerful calendar sharing capabilities for families and workgroups. Its unique features... Read more
Duplicate Annihilator 5.8.3 - Find and d...
Duplicate Annihilator takes on the time-consuming task of comparing the images in your iPhoto library using effective algorithms to make sure that no duplicate escapes. Duplicate Annihilator detects... Read more
MarsEdit 3.7.10 - Quick and convenient b...
MarsEdit is a blog editor for OS X that makes editing your blog like writing email, with spell-checking, drafts, multiple windows, and even AppleScript support. It works with with most blog services... Read more
WALTR 2 2.0.9 - $39.95
WALTR 2 helps you wirelessly drag-and-drop any music, ringtones, videos, PDF, and ePub files onto your iPhone, iPad, or iPod without iTunes. It is the second major version of Softorino's critically-... Read more
Paperless 2.3.9 - $49.95
Paperless is a digital documents manager. Remember when everyone talked about how we would soon be a paperless society? Now it seems like we use paper more than ever. Let's face it - we need and we... Read more
Adobe After Effects CC 2017 14.1 - Creat...
After Effects CC 2017 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous After Effects customer). The new, more connected After Effects CC... Read more
Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2017 11.0.2 - Digi...
Premiere Pro CC 2017 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Premiere Pro customer). Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2017 lets you edit... Read more
ExpanDrive 5.4.4 - Access cloud storage...
ExpanDrive builds cloud storage in every application, acts just like a USB drive plugged into your Mac. With ExpanDrive, you can securely access any remote file server directly from the Finder or... Read more

Super Mario Run dashes onto Android in M...
Super Mario Run was one of the biggest mobile launches in 2016 before it was met with a lukewarm response by many. While the game itself plays a treat, it's pretty hard to swallow the steep price for the full game. With that said, Android users... | Read more »
WarFriends Beginner's Guide: How to...
Chillingo's new game, WarFriends, is finally available world wide, and so far it's a refreshing change from common mobile game trends. The game's a mix of tower defense, third person shooter, and collectible card game. There's a lot to unpack here... | Read more »
Super Gridland (Entertainment)
Super Gridland 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Entertainment Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Match. Build. Survive. "exquisitely tuned" - Rock Paper Shotgun No in-app purches, and no ads! | Read more »
Red's Kingdom (Games)
Red's Kingdom 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Mad King Mac has kidnapped your father and stolen your golden nut! Solve puzzles and battle goons as you explore and battle your... | Read more »
Turbo League Guide: How to tame the cont...
| Read more »
Fire Emblem: Heroes coming to Google Pla...
Nintendo gave us our first look at Fire Emblem: Heroes, the upcoming mobile Fire Emblem game the company hinted at last year. Revealed at the Fire Emblem Direct event held today, the game will condense the series' tactical RPG combat into bite-... | Read more »
ReSlice (Music)
ReSlice 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Audio Slice Machine Slice your audio samples with ReSlice and create flexible musical atoms which can be triggered by MIDI notes or... | Read more »
Stickman Surfer rides in with the tide t...
Stickson is back and this time he's taken up yet another extreme sport - surfing. Stickman Surfer is out this Thursday on both iOS and Android, so if you've been following the other Stickman adventures, you might be interested in picking this one... | Read more »
Z-Exemplar (Games)
Z-Exemplar 1.4 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.4 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
5 dastardly difficult roguelikes like th...
Edmund McMillen's popular roguelike creation The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth has finally crawled onto mobile devices. It's a grotesque dual-stick shooter that tosses you into an endless, procedurally generated basement as you, the pitiable Isaac,... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple Ranked ‘Most Intimate Brand’
The top ranked ‘”intimate” brands continued to outperform the S&P and Fortune 500 indices in revenue and profit over the past 10 years, according to MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2017 Report, the largest... Read more
B-Eng introduces SSD Health Check for Mac OS
Fehraltorf, Switzerland based independant Swiss company- B-Eng has announced the release and immediate availability of SSD Health Check 1.0, the company’s new hard drive utility for Mac OS X. As the... Read more
Apple’s Education discount saves up to $300 o...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad using Apple’s Education Store and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free: -... Read more
4-core 3.7GHz Mac Pro on sale for $2290, save...
Guitar Center has the 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro (MD253LL/A) on sale for $2289.97 including free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Their price is a $710 savings over standard MSRP for... Read more
128GB Apple iPad Air 2, refurbished, availabl...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 128GB iPad Air 2s WiFis available for $419 including free shipping. That’s an $80 savings over standard MSRP for this model. A standard Apple one-year warranty is... Read more
13-inch 2.7GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 2015 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina Apple MacBook Pro on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro (MF839LL/A): $... Read more
Laptop Market – Flight To Quality? – The ‘Boo...
Preliminary quarterly PC shipments data released by Gartner Inc. last week reveal an interesting disparity between sales performance of major name PC vendors as opposed to that of less well-known... Read more
IBM and Bell Transform Canadian Enterprise Mo...
IBM and Bell Canada have announced they are joining forces to offer IBM MobileFirst for iOS market-ready enterprise applications for iPad, iPhone or Apple Watch. Bell, Canada’s largest communications... Read more
Otter Products is Closing… For a Day of Givin...
On Thursday, Feb. 9, Otter Products is closing doors to open hearts. In partnership with the OtterCares Foundation, the company is pausing operations for a day so all employees can volunteer with... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
Amazon has 2015 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros (MJLQ2LL/A) available for $1799.99 including free shipping. Apple charges $1999 for this model, so Amazon’s price is represents a $200 savings. Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* & PC Desktop Support Technician...
Apple & PC Desktop Support Technician job in Manhattan, NY Introduction: We have immediate job openings for several Desktop Support Technicians with one of our most Read more
Senior Workstation Administrator - *Apple*...
…with extraordinary HR. QualificationsJOB SUMMARY/OVERVIEWThe Senior Workstation Administrator - Apple supports the mission of TriNet by providing advanced level Read more
Intermediate *Apple* macOS Systems Integrat...
**Position Summary:** SC3 is actively seeking an Intermediate Apple macOS systems integration administrator that will be responsible for providing Apple Mac Read more
*Apple* & PC Desktop Support Technician...
Apple & PC Desktop Support Technician job in Los Angeles, CA Introduction: We have immediate job openings for several Desktop Support Technicians with one of our Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.