While 2.5" notebook hard drives cannot match the performance and storage capacities of their larger 3.5" cousins, they can still pack a wallop. The 2.5" drive format sits at a sweet spot between undersized 1.8" drives, which target the ultra-portable and consumer markets (think iPOD), and 3.5" drives, which show up in hundreds of millions of PCs and servers around the world. However, it is the 2.5" drive segment that has shown the largest growth in recent years.
Hard drive performance still represents the main performance bottleneck for notebooks, as most other components, such as graphics processors and CPUs, match the performance of their PC equivalents. A 2.5" hard drive is a compromise with its compact dimensions geared for robustness and good battery run times for road warriors. Yet, with Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) technology that enables more data per square inch, 2.5" drives are becoming increasingly powerful. They won't catch up with 3.5" drives, but any enthusiast should pay attention to getting a fast notebook hard drive.
While desktop users now have 750 GB hard drives available to store lots and lots of music, videos, photos, project files and software, hitting the 200 GB 2.5 barrier for notebook users hasn't come nearly as fast. In mid-October we reviewed Fujitsu's MHV2200BT, which boasted 200 GB in a 2.5" frame. The problem was that the height of the drive exceeded the 9.5 mm height standard and thus was a non-starter for most notebook users.
Notebook users of the world take note, 200 GB of hard drive capacity is here in a standard-sized 2.5" form factor with the Toshiba MK2035GSS now. While Toshiba is making its mark with smaller 1.8" and 2.5" drives, Western Digital has long made its mark with desktop-type 3.5" drives. Western Digital has also been making a play in the 2.5" form factor in recent years with the release of a new 120 GB top model for performance notebooks.
Let's take a look at the latest drive offerings from Toshiba and Western Digital that prove that sometimes good things can come in small packages.