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Half a Terabyte On Your Notebook

Half a Terabyte On Your Notebook

Notebook hard drives with 500GB of capacity are not new—Hitachi’s product has been on the market for several months. However, the introduction of Samsung’s HM500LI has made these drives more attractive, as the Korean manufacturer is the first to store the entire capacity of 500GB on two physical platters. Is this the drive you want in your notebook?

Hard drive makers are getting a lot of business due to the continuing shift from desktop to notebook computers. More people are deciding to get portable computers instead of bulky, grey boxes, and many newcomers tend to go for a mobile computer right away. No one will deny the obvious advantages of mobile PCs: you can use them wherever you want or stow them away when you don’t want to see them. As a consequence, the quantity of shipped 2.5” drives is soon going to exceed that of 3.5” models.

notebook hard drive

External Storage vs. Portable Storage

But that’s not all. Related storage products, such as external hard drives, don’t always have to be based on 3.5” hard drives either. Not everyone needs capacities of 750 or even 1,000GB, the larger sizes only available in the 3.5” form factor. Since 2.5” hard drives aren’t much larger than a box of cigarettes, the total size and weight of a portable solution is very acceptable. Hence we differentiate between external storage and portable storage, where external typically comprises high performance, and portable stands for maximum flexibility. We would guess that most users can live with 320-500GB capacity today.

12.5 mm vs. 9.5 mm Z Height

All 3.5” hard drives have a common height of 1” (25 mm) today; this is called “half-height” in reference to the height of much older drives. Manufacturers use this space to accommodate between one and five platters. Things are different in the 2.5” space, where the initial height of 0.5” (12.5 mm) has been replaced by 0.375” (9.5 mm), which can hold up to three platters, as demonstrated by Samsung’s Spinpoint M6. The latter has become the de-facto standard for most notebooks, but some drive manufacturers, such as Hitachi, sometimes still make 12.5 mm drives based on a three platter design. This is how Hitachi was the first to reach 500GB capacity on a 2.5” notebook hard drive. Samsung has now brought down the height to 9.5 mm at this capacity point.

We looked at both the Hitachi Travelstar 7K500 and Samsung’s Spinpoint M6 HM500LI, which both provide this capacity, but also show very different characteristics.

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  • 0 Hide
    Terry Kennedy , July 9, 2008 6:17 AM
    The article says there is a 2.5" 320GB PATA drive - what is it? The largest I've seen is the WD2500BEVE.
  • 0 Hide
    danwat1234 , July 9, 2008 7:01 AM
    TYPO:: Your article mistakenly say Hitachi Deskstar when it should say; "Hitachi Travelstar", all throughout all the benchmark results...

    Terry, I too have not heard of a laptop drive larger than 250GB that is PATA.
  • 0 Hide
    magicandy , July 9, 2008 11:03 AM
    Samsung has now brought down the height back down to 9.5 mm at this capacity point.

  • 0 Hide
    hrodward , July 9, 2008 11:29 AM
    Platters 2 3 3
    shouldn't it be 2 for the Samsung?


    Interface SATA 3 Gb/s SATA 3 Gb/s SATA 3 Gb/s
    shouldn't it be 1.5 for the Samsung?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 9, 2008 4:02 PM
    Patrick and Achim,
    try setting the drives to sata 1.5gbs instead of 3.0. the single drives do not need that much interface bandwidth, but the 3.0 interface uses more power.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , July 9, 2008 4:29 PM
    Terry--you are absolutely correct. Reference fixed to reflect your observation.

    Dan--We're fixing the charts right now and will have them updated as soon as they are ready.

    Magic--Axed the redundant "down"

    Hrod--according to the story's author Samsung's original launch documentation said 2 platters and 1.5 Gb/s. It has since been fixed and everything in the piece updated to reflect that the Spinpoint is actually a three-platter device with a 3 Gb/s interface.

    Thank you for the feedback guys!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 10, 2008 12:38 AM
    Guys why arent these HDD's on the charts, they have been reviewed by you and are close to the 2nd and 3rd fastest disks...?,1776-8.html
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 10, 2008 12:44 AM
    comparable chart found here,1776-5.html
  • 0 Hide
    Luscious , July 10, 2008 2:14 AM
    It would be nice if the Samsung drive wasn't such a power hog - I would love to have a fast 500GB drive in something like a HP mininote for using as a portable movie player. But getting 1.5TB raid 0 in a Clevo D900 now doesn't sound bad either...
  • 0 Hide
    ltcommander_data , July 12, 2008 3:20 AM
    A nice detailed review as usual.

    Any chance that you could do a review of 2.5" 7200rpm 320GB HDDs. I believe Hitachi, Seagate, Western Digital, and Samsung all have them now. I'm waiting for someone to do a comprehensive review before buying one to upgrade my laptop. I would think that Hitachi's might be the fastest given the performance of the 7k200, but I've been hearing good things about the WD 320GB Black so I guess we'll see.
  • 0 Hide
    Ivan X , September 23, 2008 8:30 AM
    Two errors: the opening paragraph claims that Samsung's 500 GB drive uses two platters, when it actually uses three (however, the detail page for this product gets it right).

    Also, 12.5mm was not the "initial" height of laptop drives -- there was a point in time when those were considered the slim ones, as there were 17mm and 19mm height drives before them (I used SCSI models in my PowerBook). Searching for "19mm laptop drive" will verify this.
  • 0 Hide
    MacUser , December 4, 2008 4:38 AM
    How long do you think it will take for these issues to get worked out?
    - Seeking the best performance 500GB drive for my MacBook Pro ASAP!