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

Skateboard Party 3 ft. Greg Lutzka (Gam...
Skateboard Party 3 ft. Greg Lutzka 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Skateboard Party is back! This third edition of the popular sports franchise features professional skater... | Read more »
Cubious (Games)
Cubious 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Cubious – How smart are you? How high is your IQube? Solve the impossible puzzles to find out, and help a lost little cube find his... | Read more »
Goat Simulator Waste of Space (Games)
Goat Simulator Waste of Space 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: ** IMPORTANT - SUPPORTED DEVICESiPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPod Touch 5 or better.** | Read more »
Wildfulness - Unwind in nature and calm...
Wildfulness - Unwind in nature and calm your mind with nature sounds and illustrations 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Healthcare & Fitness Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Spending time in nature helps you to... | Read more »
Dr. Panda Racers (Education)
Dr. Panda Racers 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: STEP ON THE GAS, RACE AND WIN!Fasten your seat belts and get ready to race! Speed your way to the finish line while doing... | Read more »
ROMANCING SAGA 2 (Games)
ROMANCING SAGA 2 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $17.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Romancing SaGa 2, originally released only in Japan in 1993, has been completely remastered and now receives its first... | Read more »
WRIO Keyboard (Utilities)
WRIO Keyboard 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Utilities Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: 40% OFF DURING LIMITED INTRODUCTORY OFFER | Read more »
Hatoful Boyfriend (Games)
Hatoful Boyfriend 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The hit PC game that everybirdie loves has now migrated to your mobile device! Now you are free to explore the wonders of St... | Read more »
Warp Shift (Games)
Warp Shift 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: [ CHECK YOUR HARDWARE: Warp Shift does NOT run on iPhone 4, iPad 1 and iPod touch 4G or older devices! It requires at least iOS8... | Read more »
Lifeline: Whiteout (Games)
Lifeline: Whiteout 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: Alone in a frozen wasteland with no memory of how he got there, a lost adventurer’s only hope is his last line of... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Goal Zero and OtterBox Partner to Expand iPh...
Goal Zero, specialists in portable power, have announced a partnership with OtterBox, brand smartphone case protection, to offer the Slide and Slide Plus Batteries as modules compatible with the new... Read more
15-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $210 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz Retina... Read more
Clearance 2015 13-inch MacBook Airs available...
B&H Photo has clearance 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available for $250 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB MacBook Air (MJVE2LL/A): $799... Read more
Apple refurbished Apple TVs available for up...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 32GB and 64GB Apple TVs available for up to $30 off the cost of new models. Apple’s standard one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more
21-inch iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 21″ 3.1GHz iMac 4K: $1379.99 $120 off MSRP - 21″ 2.8GHz iMac: $1189 $110 off MSRP - 21″ 1... Read more
Kanex Introduces GoPower USB-C Rechargeable B...
Kanex has announced its GoPower USB-C portable battery for the USB-C MacBook, featuring the new industry standard connector and cable used for connectivity and power. Providing users with a new... Read more
Convertible and Detachable Devices Winning Ov...
According to the latest figures published by International Data Corporation (IDC), Western European shipments of ultraslim convertibles and detachables posted positive growth (44.7%) to account for... Read more
New MacBook Pros And Will MacBook Air Be Upgr...
With my mid-2013 13-inch MacBook Air closing on its third anniversary come November, I’m in system upgrade mode. Actually the Haswell CPU equipped Air is still doing a fine job, but my good wife is... 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, and... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999,...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more

Jobs Board

Editor, *Apple* News - APPLE (United States...
Job Summary The Apple News team is looking for a passionate and knowledgeable editor with experience covering entertainment/pop culture and experience running social Read more
*Apple* Nissan Service Technicians - Apple A...
Apple Automotive is one of the fastest growing dealer...and it shows. Consider making the switch to the Apple Automotive Group today! At Apple Automotive , Read more
ISCS *Apple* ID Site Support Engineer - APP...
…position, we are looking for an individual who has experience supporting customers with Apple ID issues and enjoys this area of support. This person should be Read more
Automotive Sales Consultant - Apple Ford Linc...
…you. The best candidates are smart, technologically savvy and are customer focused. Apple Ford Lincoln Apple Valley is different, because: $30,000 annual salary Read more
*Apple* Support Technician II - Worldventure...
…global, fast growing member based travel company, is currently sourcing for an Apple Support Technician II to be based in our Plano headquarters. WorldVentures is Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.