It is common practice in the hard drive market for almost every model line to be replaced at least once a year. Whenever the areal density of disk surfaces grows and new capacity points are reached, there is room for performance improvements as well. In the desktop space, Seagate is in its ninth 7,200 RPM generation, and others are following closely. Yet things have been unusually slow in the notebook hard drive arena.
Back in 2003, Hitachi was the first hard drive manufacturer to release a 2.5" notebook model with a 7,200 RPM spindle. Since then there has been no other comparable offering available, either from Hitachi or one of its competitors. During this period, more models running at 5,400 RPM have become available, both from traditional notebook drive makers such as Hitachi, Samsung and Toshiba, as well as others jumping on the wagon, such as Seagate and Western Digital. But there have been no new 7,200 RPM drives for two years.
While most users focus primarily on capacity when buying a notebook or a notebook hard drive, spindle speed has a considerable impact on a drive's performance, and that of your notebook as a whole. The main reason for this is that the hard drive is by far the slowest component within any computer system. Thus any performance gain at the hard drive level may have an impact that you can easily feel.
While Hitachi is offering its second drive generation, Seagate is completely new to this high performance notebook space and the company provided both the UltraATA/100 and the Serial ATA versions for review. While both cannot keep up with the data transfer pace that is set by the new Hitachi drive, the new Momentus racers offer better I/O performance.