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

Skim 1.4.29 - PDF reader and note-taker...
Skim is a PDF reader and note-taker for OS X. It is designed to help you read and annotate scientific papers in PDF, but is also great for viewing any PDF file. Skim includes many features and has a... Read more
1Password 6.7.1 - Powerful password mana...
1Password is a password manager that uniquely brings you both security and convenience. It is the only program that provides anti-phishing protection and goes beyond password management by adding Web... Read more
FontExplorer X Pro 6.0.2 - Font manageme...
FontExplorer X Pro is optimized for professional use; it's the solution that gives you the power you need to manage all your fonts. Now you can more easily manage, activate and organize your... Read more
VOX 2.8.24 - Music player that supports...
VOX just sounds better! The beauty is in its simplicity, yet behind the minimal exterior lies a powerful music player with a ton of features and support for all audio formats you should ever need.... Read more
OmniPlan 3.7.1 - Robust project manageme...
With OmniPlan, you can create logical, manageable project plans with Gantt charts, schedules, summaries, milestones, and critical paths. Break down the tasks needed to make your project a success,... Read more
Dropbox 24.4.17 - Cloud backup and synch...
Dropbox is an application that creates a special Finder folder that automatically syncs online and between your computers. It allows you to both backup files and keep them up-to-date between systems... Read more
WhatsApp 0.2.4238 - Desktop client for W...
WhatsApp is the desktop client for WhatsApp Messenger, a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for... Read more
SteerMouse 5.1 - Powerful third-party mo...
SteerMouse is an advanced driver for USB and Bluetooth mice. It also supports Apple Mighty Mouse very well. SteerMouse can assign various functions to buttons that Apple's software does not allow,... Read more
OmniPlan Pro 3.7.1 - Professional-grade...
With OmniPlan Pro, you can create logical, manageable project plans with Gantt charts, schedules, summaries, milestones, and critical paths. Break down the tasks needed to make your project a success... Read more
1Password 6.7 - Powerful password manage...
1Password is a password manager that uniquely brings you both security and convenience. It is the only program that provides anti-phishing protection and goes beyond password management by adding Web... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Olli by Tinrocket (Photography)
Olli by Tinrocket 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Photography Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Get drawn in with Olli by TinrocketOlli instantly turns your everyday moments into hand-drawn art and animations. • Watch... | Read more »
Penarium (Games)
Penarium 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Fire Emblem Heroes is way more profitabl...
Profits for Nintendo's mobile game Fire Emblem Heroes are apparently impressive enough to beat out other Nintendo titles likeSuper Mario Run, despite having 10 times fewer downloads. [Read more] | Read more »
Classic series Robot Unicorn Attack 3 no...
The classic Adult Swim browser game, Robot Unicorn Attack, branched off into a series of popular mobile games. Now, the latest entry into the series, Robot Unicorn Attack 3, is available for iOS and Android mobile devices. [Read more] | Read more »
Sudoku Sweeper (Games)
Sudoku Sweeper 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A minimalist mashup of Minesweeper and Sudoku. Logic puzzle perfection. Every row, column and zone contains a bomb and one of... | Read more »
Under Leaves (Games)
Under Leaves 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Journey into the forest, the jungle or the depths of the deep blue sea. Find chestnuts for the pigs, a caterpillar for the... | Read more »
Ninja Pizza Girl (Games)
Ninja Pizza Girl 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: In the not-so-distant future, rampart traffic congestion has resulted in only one way to deliver pizzas across town in thirty... | Read more »
SCRAP (Games)
SCRAP 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: That day, for no apparent reason, SCRAP decided to wake up and run. He had to, because his activation was a mistake the "Factory" could... | Read more »
The Bunker (Games)
The Bunker 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: The critically acclaimed console hit "The Bunker" comes to iOS, The groundbreaking live-action thriller adventure set in a real... | Read more »
Die With Glory (Games)
Die With Glory 1.2.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.2.0 (iTunes) Description: Die with Glory is an epic adventure game where your goal is to die in glorious fashion. You must help Sigurd, a brave old... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Price drop: 15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro...
Amazon has dropped their price on 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros (MJLQ2LL/A) to $1709.99 including free shipping. Their price is $290 off MSRP for this model. Note that stock may sell out quickly at... Read more
2.8GHz Mac mini on sale for $899, save $100
B&H Photo has the 2.8GHz Mac mini (model number MGEQ2LL/A) on sale for $899 including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Check Apple prices on any device with the iTr...
MacPrices is proud to offer readers a free iOS app (iPhones, iPads, & iPod touch) and Android app (Google Play and Amazon App Store) called iTracx, which allows you to glance at today’s lowest... Read more
New System Clock for macOS by B-Eng Now Avail...
Fehraltorf, Switzerland based B-Eng has announced the release and immediate availability of System Clock, the company’s new system monitor and information app developed exclusively for macOS. System... Read more
DEVONtechnologies Celebrates 15th Anniversary...
DEVONtechnologies celebrates its 15th company anniversary with a 30% discount on all its software products from May 1st through 5th, 2017. In spring 2002, DEVONtechnologies opened its website and... Read more
WaterField Designs Invites Customers to Help...
San Francisco based WaterField Designs invites customers and air travelers to participate in developing the next generation in-flight travel case, the Air Porter. Frustrated with limited legroom,... Read more
Save up to $260 with Apple refurbished 12-inc...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 12″ Retina MacBooks available for $200-$260 off MSRP. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook, and shipping is free. The following... Read more
Digital Paper Tablet Offers Distraction Free...
I typically spend 8-10 hours a day gazing at the screens in my laptops and iPad, as tools of my livelihood, I don’t as a rule use electronic devices for pleasure reading. I subscribe to a daily... Read more
“Today at Apple” Bringing New Educational Ses...
Apple has announced plans to launch dozens of new educational sessions next month in all 495 Apple Stores ranging in topics from photo and video to music, coding, art and design, and more. The hands-... Read more
Smart Finance Free Comprehensive Personal Fin...
Moscow-based indie developer, Alexander Survillo has announced the release and immediate availability of Smart Finance: Personal Finance, Budget & Money 1.1.4, an update to his comprehensive... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Mobile Master - Best Buy (United Sta...
**501505BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobile Master **Location Number:** 000849-Gurnee-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Best Buy Apple Mobile Master do?** At Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**498428BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Location Number:** 000293-Rockville-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Best Buy Apple Read more
*Apple* Mac Computer Technician - GeekHampto...
…complex computer issues over the phone and in person? GeekHampton, Long Island's Apple Premium Service Provider, is looking for you! Come work with our crew Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Chicago...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Systems Engineer - California Polyte...
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo Apple Systems Engineer Department: ITS - Customer & Tech Support (134900) College/Division: Academic Affairs Salary Range: Position Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.