Six 2.5” High-Capacity Notebook Hard Drives

Advanced Format technology makes it possible to build 9.5 mm high 2.5” hard disks with 500 GB per platter. The result is a range of slim and speedy storage giants.

The race to achieve higher and higher hard disk capacities recently entered its next stage. While Western Digital just expanded the GoFlex line with its very first 3.5" 4 TB drive, physically smaller disks are setting records of their own. Now, the very largest 2.5” models (represented by Samsung’s M8 [HN-M101MBB] and Western Digital’s Scorpio Blue [WD10JPVT]) offer 1 TB of storage space.

That’s only half of the innovation, however. After all, 1 TB 2.5“ hard disks have been around since mid-2009. Back then, 1 TB drives used three 333 GB platters, which bumped their height to 12.5 mm (0.5“) and thus prevented them from being installed in most notebooks. Samsung and Western Digital resolved this issue; their 1 TB drives now only sport two 500 GB platters, resulting in a z-height of 9.5 mm (0.374“), which is suitable for laptops.

Advanced Format (AF) Leads to Higher Data Density

The breathtaking speed at which storage density progresses can be partly attributed to the Advanced Format (AF), though up until now it mostly benefited 3.5“ drives. AF sports a sector size of 4 KB, eight times the size of traditional 512-byte sectors. Thus, this format has only one-eighth of the gaps between sectors and one-eighth of the synchronization and error correcting blocks. According to disk manufacturers, AF is responsible for increasing disk capacity by 7 to 11 percent on its own.

In order to maintain compatibility with the outside world, AF-based hard disks emulate 512-byte sectors. Current Windows and Linux systems work flawlessly with AF-based drives; you simply can’t tell the difference. However, older operating systems like Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Home Server may exhibit performance problems because they don’t align their partitions to 4 KB boundaries. You can overcome that limitation by downloading an alignment tool from each manufacturer’s website.

Comparison Test of Six 2.5“ Hard Disks with 3 Gb/s SATA Interfaces

Only two of the notebook hard disks we tested offer 1 TB of storage capacity, namely the Samsung M8 HN-M101MBB and Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD10JPVT. The main topic of this test is, however, Advanced Format, as three of the remaining four test candidates are AF-equipped: Hitachi’s Travelstar 5K750 HTS547575A9E384 (750 GB), Samsung’s Spinpoint M8 HN-M500MBB (500 GB), and Western Digital’s Scorpio Black WD7500BPKT (750 GB). In total, five of the six hard disks we’re testing employ AF technology.

The only exception is Toshiba and its MK6461GSYN (640 GB), which does not merely emulate 512-byte sectors, but still uses them internally. The Japanese manufacturer didn’t miss the AF train; it already announced its MQ01ABD100, a 1 TB drive that features 4 KB sectors and a 9.5 mm (0.374“) height.

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25 comments
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    Top Comments
  • Zero_
    Talk about a bad time for a hard drive comparison...
    10
  • Other Comments
  • arpitnathany
    On the western digital hard disk page the Western Digital Scorpio Black WD7500BPKT is mentioned as 750 TB please correct it.

    Nice article as a whole
    0
  • arpitnathany
    On a lighter note I would love to have a 750 TB drive at that price
    someday.....
    2
  • acyuta
    Good to have all the latest data in one place. Wish Dell had put in the 750GB Scorpio Black instead of 750GB Momentus in my XPS15.

    One minor point: good to know that i7-920 is now part of Sandybridge. Can you check???
    0
  • JeTJL
    Wonder how well these things survive the drop test. If they can survive a fall that a SSD can sustain then I'll be up for it. Other than that wish higher capacity SSDs become cheaper.
    -8
  • Zero_
    Talk about a bad time for a hard drive comparison...
    10
  • howardp6
    GoFlex is a Seagate disk product line not Western Digital
    2
  • AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls
    Western Digital hard drives sound good in theory for laptops, but they're not. I would never use one unless they fix a fatal flaw.

    What flaw? The fact that the hard drive automatically goes to sleep (parks its head) after eight seconds of inactivity, and since this is hardwired into the firmware it completely dismisses what you set in your Power Options in the Windows 7 Control Panel. Why is this bad? Because if the HDD is inactive for more than eight seconds it needs to unpark its head, and that creates a very noticeable lag when launching applications or working with files because the process takes a few seconds to complete, not to mention it puts more stress on the HDD mechanics.

    Unless it's simply for a storage drive where you don't care about performance I recommend you go with Seagate, Hitachi, or Samsung for laptop HDDs instead.
    2
  • cadder
    Current prices are a bit higher than what is mentioned in the article, actually pretty scary:

    Hitachi 750GB $140-160
    Samsung 1TB $220
    WD 750GB $160
    WD 1TB $230
    4
  • ewood
    yeah prices are way off
    0
  • youssef 2010
    I'd go with the WD Scorpio Black
    0
  • youssef 2010
    cadderCurrent prices are a bit higher than what is mentioned in the article, actually pretty scary:Hitachi 750GB $140-160Samsung 1TB $220WD 750GB $160WD 1TB $230


    That's because of the incident at WD's factory
    0
  • 11796pcs
    youssef 2010That's because of the incident at WD's factory

    I was looking at Newegg and a 500GB Caviar Black that I had bought a year ago for $50-$60 was $150.
    0
  • egmccann
    cadderCurrent prices are a bit higher than what is mentioned in the article, actually pretty scary:Hitachi 750GB $140-160Samsung 1TB $220WD 750GB $160WD 1TB $230


    Yeah. Hard drive prices would have made for a great halloween article - they'd frighten all system builders and anyone looking for a storage upgrade. And we'll supposedly be seeing them like that for a while yet.
    0
  • crisan_tiberiu
    BTW, whats with the high prices on HDDs nowdays? i heard that the prices rised because some floding in some country?
    0
  • egmccann
    crisan_tiberiuBTW, whats with the high prices on HDDs nowdays? i heard that the prices rised because some floding in some country?

    Flooding in Thailand, yep.

    From toms (link up above the discussion)
    Quote:
    The hard drive market is reacting to the heavy floods in Thailand.


    Zoom
    Prices for hard drives have jumped by as much as 50 percent within one week, market research firm IHS said. About a quarter of all hard drives are manufactured in Thailand and it appears that all major vendors are affected in some way.

    Western Digital previously said that it may see a revenue decline of about 60 percent in the current quarter and told German publication Golem.de that it will be able to produce only 22 to 26 million drives this quarter, instead of the planned 58 million units. A spokesperson said that WD "currently waits for the factories to dry" to be able to restart its manufacturing tools. What makes matters worse are the usually thin profit margins in the HDD industry, which means that manufacturers typically have only five to seven days of material supply.

    A Seagate manager told CRN India that the company expects and "acute" shortage of drives and that the manufacturer expects prices to increase. However, there was no information how sharp this increase can be. Both WD and Seagate said that the floods in Thailand have created a problem for the industry that will take several quarters to resolve.


    Other sources:

    CRN
    PC World
    0
  • nebun
    arpitnathanyOn the western digital hard disk page the Western Digital Scorpio Black WD7500BPKT is mentioned as 750 TB please correct it.Nice article as a whole

    750 TB? i did not know that they made such large hard drives...maybe you mean 750GB :)
    0
  • nebun
    acyutaGood to have all the latest data in one place. Wish Dell had put in the 750GB Scorpio Black instead of 750GB Momentus in my XPS15. One minor point: good to know that i7-920 is now part of Sandybridge. Can you check???

    you can always replace it yourself, lol....it's not that expensive, lol
    0
  • danwat1234
    About the Scorpio Black 750GB drive and it's power consumption. I put one in my friend's Asus 1005HA netbook and it doesn't get very warm and cut the boot time in half versus the stock one platter 160GB 5400RPM drive.
    The heat/power consumption isn't an issue.
    0
  • danwat1234
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBallsWestern Digital hard drives sound good in theory for laptops, but they're not. I would never use one unless they fix a fatal flaw.What flaw? The fact that the hard drive automatically goes to sleep (parks its head) after eight seconds of inactivity, and since this is hardwired into the firmware it completely dismisses what you set in your Power Options in the Windows 7 Control Panel. Why is this bad? Because if the HDD is inactive for more than eight seconds it needs to unpark its head, and that creates a very noticeable lag when launching applications or working with files because the process takes a few seconds to complete, not to mention it puts more stress on the HDD mechanics.Unless it's simply for a storage drive where you don't care about performance I recommend you go with Seagate, Hitachi, or Samsung for laptop HDDs instead.


    Hmm, my WD Scorpio Black 750GB park it's heads about once a minute. I can hear it lock. But I have never experienced any lag from it and so far it hasn't worn out. My load cycle count is a 50,000 so far no problems with 2696 of power on hours.
    0
  • danwat1234
    Err, about every 3 minutes.
    0