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Four 2.5" Hard Drives From 500 GB To 1 TB, Benchmarked

Four 2.5" Hard Drives From 500 GB To 1 TB, Benchmarked
By , Achim Roos

Thanks to advances in manufacturing and 4 KB sectors, we finally have 2.5" hard drives with 500 GB per platter and a notebook-friendly 9.5 mm Z-height. Thanks to their high data density, even power-friendly 5400 RPM drives offer impressive transfer rates.

Over the past few years, 2.5" hard disk capacities have grown by leaps and bounds. And although they're still typically slower than 3.5" drives, performance in the 2.5" form factor continues to increase due to higher data density. Today, even 2.5" drives positioned as quiet energy-savers manage sequential transfer rates over 85 MB/s, while more performance-oriented disks sport transfer rates just shy of 100 MB/s.

We're adding four new drives to our 2012 Mobile Hard Drive charts: Hitachi's Travelstar 7K750 and Travelstar 5K1000, Toshiba's MQ01ABD100, and Western Digital's Scorpio Blue WD5000LPVT. Among these four models, only the Travelstar 7K750 is performance-oriented. The Travelstar 5K1000, Toshiba's disk, and the Western Digital drive are “green” offerings that focus on low noise and low power draw.

A 2.5" Hard Disk Market Survey

Of the five major hard disk brands (Hitachi, Samsung, Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital), there are really only three manufacturers. Hitachi’s drive division was acquired by Western Digital, and Samsung’s by Seagate. While Hitachi and Samsung disks only live on as brand names, so far the acquisitions aren't impacting the model line-ups. You can still choose among a wide variety of 2.5" repositories, including mammoth 1 TB models.

Although terabyte-sized monsters, such as the Toshiba MK1059GSM, have been available for more than two years, innovation in the 2.5" disk market has not halted. The evidence can be seen in one of our own little pet peeves: disk height. If you ordered a 1 TB drive two years ago to beef up your notebook, you might have been in for a surprise. Odds are good that the component wouldn't have fit in your notebook’s drive bay! Because the first generation of 1 TB drives typically used three 333 GB platters, their height necessarily increased to 12.5 mm, which is too tall for most mobile platforms.

500 GB Platters Allow Standard-Height 1 TB Drives

As the data density of platters increases, those problems are now surmountable. Most mobile 1 TB disks have transitioned to two 500 GB platters at a Z-height of 9.5 mm. In today's story, Toshiba's single-platter MQ01ABD100 is the density leader at 744 Gb per square inch, followed by Hitachi's Travelstar 5K1000 at 694 Gb per square inch and Travelstar 7K750 at 502 Gb per square inch.

Just because drive height compatibility issues are improving doesn't mean you should stop double-checking spec sheets before making purchases, though. Case in point, Western Digital still sells a 12.5 mm version of its 1 TB Scorpio Blue (WD10TPVT) alongside a 9.5 mm Scorpio Blue (WD10JPVT) with the same capacity.

There are other kinds of exceptions as well, like disks with a PATA interface. While parallel ATA has generally fallen out of favor, some manufacturers still offer models with this deprecated connector. For instance, Western Digital’s Scorpio Blue line-up still contains a handful of PATA-based disks. Fortunately, most mobile disks now sport at least a 3 Gb/s SATA interface. A few, such as the Hitachi Travelstar 5K1000 and Seagate Momentus XT, even support 6 Gb/s data rates.

Advanced Format is Already Ubiquitous

Achieving a 9.5 mm Z-height relies on greater data density. And while this is largely accomplished through improvements like smaller read/write heads and vertical recording, it is also partly attributable to Advanced Format (AF). AF sectors are 4 KB in size, or eight times larger than the classic 512-byte sectors. By making each sector larger, there are fewer gaps between them and less space wasted on error correction. Depending on the vendor you ask, the transition to AF is responsible for anywhere from a 7 to 11% capacity increase.

Lower-capacity disks inherently don't benefit from AF as much, and they could conceivably be built using the older legacy format if vendors wanted to do that. However, there's also a cost benefit to adopting AF. To top it off, IDEMA (the hard disk manufacturer trade group) decreed that, as of January 1, 2011, all 2.5“ and 3.5“ disks sold through the distribution channel must be AF-compliant.

AF is not just about Z-height reduction or cost savings, either. It also helped overcome the so-called 2 TB limit in 3.5" disks, whereas 32-bit-long values for partition size and logical block addresses (LBAs) would have made disks larger than 2 TB impossible.

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  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , October 4, 2012 8:59 AM
    this gives me some confidence in my WD scorpio blue, thill thinking about going with an ssd though
  • 4 Hide
    freggo , October 4, 2012 9:15 AM
    "9.5 mm Z-height."

    Isn't that like saying 9.5 mm "vertical height".
    There is no X-height or Y-height :-)
  • 8 Hide
    bennaye , October 4, 2012 9:33 AM
    depends on your initial orientation of your axes
  • -2 Hide
    theconsolegamer , October 4, 2012 10:04 AM
    Western Digital and Seagate deceiving Hitachi and Samsung consumers since [insert acquisition date here]
  • 1 Hide
    techcurious , October 4, 2012 10:21 AM
    theconsolegamerWestern Digital and Seagate deceiving Hitachi and Samsung consumers since [insert acquisition date here]

    The Hitachi and Samsung drives are still manufactured in the same factories they were before.. just cause ownership changes doesn't mean performance or features and characteristics of the drives are going to change right away.. that will take time to happen, and who is to say if they will change for the better or worse..
  • -4 Hide
    freggo , October 4, 2012 12:02 PM
    bennayedepends on your initial orientation of your axes


    Z-axis is height in any system I am aware of.
  • 2 Hide
    athulajp , October 4, 2012 1:21 PM
    Two hitachi drives have failed for me in the past year, i've got one Samsung drive that's been running for over two years(no issues) and a scorpio black that's much better. I don't know if it's just me but I don't really trust Hitachi HDD's anymore
  • 2 Hide
    ovymoont , October 4, 2012 2:09 PM
    Some of these drives are sold not only as low power but also as low noise options so I think a noise benchmark would have also been useful.

    I actually have a Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD10JVPT as the data storage drive in my desktop PC (I use a 64GB SSD as my boot drive) and the reason I went for it is exactly this, i.e. low noise, and I can say that it does deliver on that. It is clearly slower than my old 1TB 3.5" Samsung HDD at 7200RPM with 32MB of cache but I must say that it is noticeably quieter. And the noise difference comes in two flavors, on the one hand the actual noise generated by the drive motor which is clearly noticeable on a 3.5" 7200RPM drive but much less so on a 2.5" 5400RPM, and on the other hand in terms of the drive vibrations which are then passed onto the case to create a very disturbing humming noise even through the rubber vibration insulators I had installed on my old 3.5".
  • -5 Hide
    f-14 , October 4, 2012 2:44 PM
    techcuriousThe Hitachi and Samsung drives are still manufactured in the same factories they were before.. just cause ownership changes doesn't mean performance or features and characteristics of the drives are going to change right away.. that will take time to happen, and who is to say if they will change for the better or worse..


    you sir have no experience in the real world or in business i see. try being a business analyst. first thing to change is the staff like within 6 weeks and still goes on for 6 months to 2 years, then the thinking which is also why alot of staff who can't cope or disagree are gone. while doing all the contracts for everything are evaluated and everything that can be cut to help pay for the acquisition is gutted as much as is still profitable, that means whole segments can and typically are sold off if the buyer has a cheaper solution already implemented in such types of acquisition deals. supply contracts are bought out or cancelled if they don't meet profitability requirements ASAP.

    so what you said isn't true because what happens in reality is not only does the staff change almost immediately if they are not superior in EVERY WAY (cost most importantly) parts and materials are changed very quickly if they are not superior in EVERY WAY (cost most importantly) any segment that can be cut to improve profitability is cut.

    typically 30-66% of a bought out company gets cut as it is duplicate of what the buying company already has and can supply and or make already. i have seen as much as 90% get cut and as little as 10% cut.

    when dealing with american companies, labor force seems to be the most change made due to costs. i have seen labor forces that were 300-500% more cost effective for the work they get done cut due to labor costs as it meant less billable hours and profitability in squeezing a client for. those are some of the saddest things i have seen happen after an evaluation. i have also seen the same thing happen to products that were superior gutted down just so some one else can say they made the best on the market with out ever having to improve their product, change their ways or spend more money countless times.

    the aim of buying out another company in the same business in a bad economy is to eliminate competition and or buy them for their IP/patents, not to spend more money in a bad economy, i don't think that can be stressed enough companies are just fighting to stay in business in a bad economy.
  • 5 Hide
    ovymoont , October 4, 2012 3:21 PM
    I am afraid I do not agree with your view. In the current economy many mergers and acquisitions are made in order to consolidate a business and to increase the market share. If say you have 20% of the market and the company you are buying has 10% of the market you don't close down it's manufacturing capacities just to get rid of competition. If you do that you run the risk of not being able to deliver the capacity that you are supposed to deliver to your clients because you can't possibly increase the production in your own facilities to make up for the 10% you close down. Also, most companies these days are listed on the stock market and the fundamental aspect of such a company is that year on year it has to deliver growth to its shareholders. In a bad economy it is difficult to achieve organic growth and many businesses resort to mergers and acquisitions to deliver that growth although quite often that is more on paper that in actual fact. Also, in the case of companies in the HDD business the bulk of the production facilities are already base in low income economies such as China, Thailand, etc. and as such it is simply not possible to reduce the production costs even further through a reduction in the cost of labor.

    The one situation when you would buy off a competitor just to close it down is when there is an excess production capacity on the market which is driving down prices. In that situation you would try to reduce the level of supply so that you can get an increase in prices. However, in the HDD business that's not the case as production levels have only just recovered to the levels they were at before the floods in Thailand which took out a number of large HDD facilities and created major shortages on the market. This means there is hardly an excess in production capacity so it does not make business sense to close down facilities that have just been restarted. Plus, these acquisitions have been made for a cost which is not negligible and it is unlikely that cost can be offset by an increase in prices generated by a shortage in supply.

    Anyway, there's a lot more I can explain in terms of business policies and so on but I just don't have the time so in short I agree with techcurious in saying that right now the facilities that have been taken over are still producing drives and will still do for a while. That is not to say that will still be the case in few years time but that is definitely the case at the moment.
  • 2 Hide
    ovymoont , October 4, 2012 3:36 PM
    And to add to my previous post, in the real world of business, marketing tricks like saying 'oh, we make the best product on the market' don't work because a business will not base its product acquisition policy on TV ads. And if a big client requires the best product on the market and is used to getting it, you will not be able to just stop making it and try selling them an inferior product - it just doesn't work like that on the corporate market - they will just go to the competition and will make sure they never come back to you. So are you willing to loose that business? Probably not... Remember that you're not selling your products to the average Joe who is just sitting in front of the TV watching the football and who is likely to not have a clue and will just believe your marketing claims based on how shiny your adds are (see Apple). In the corporate market the people who are buying your products are professional experts who they know exactly what they want and what your product can deliver so they won't just buy your marketing bull, they'll base your decision on facts.
  • 0 Hide
    sherlockwing , October 5, 2012 3:42 AM
    techcuriousThe Hitachi and Samsung drives are still manufactured in the same factories they were before.. just cause ownership changes doesn't mean performance or features and characteristics of the drives are going to change right away.. that will take time to happen, and who is to say if they will change for the better or worse..


    Actually no, Samsung Eco Green F2 for example went from a very reliable product to a fairly bad product since the acquistion. Its newegg 1 egg review% is 10% overall(1541 reviews), however during the last 6 month this % have spiked to 22%(182 reviews), having read through most of those are from user who bought their drive since the acquisition.
  • 1 Hide
    luciferano , October 5, 2012 1:30 PM
    sherlockwingActually no, Samsung Eco Green F2 for example went from a very reliable product to a fairly bad product since the acquistion. Its newegg 1 egg review% is 10% overall(1541 reviews), however during the last 6 month this % have spiked to 22%(182 reviews), having read through most of those are from user who bought their drive since the acquisition.


    Agreed. The new Samsung hard drive are all re-branded Seagate units IIRC. They might be built in the same factories, but things are not the same as when it was Samsung doing quality control.
  • 1 Hide
    shloader , October 5, 2012 9:44 PM
    f-14. You're not getting down-voted because you sound uninformed. Much of what you say can be completely true of Seagate gobbling Samsung, though I don't think it's exactly the same with WD and HGST. You're getting down-voted likely do to your first line. Such dickish nature threw your post right into the TL;DR bucket.
  • 1 Hide
    mapesdhs , October 6, 2012 5:48 PM
    I'm in the midst of deciding on several 2.5" drives to buy for backup
    purposes (being fitted into a Startech 4-bay 2.5" SATA enclosure, to be
    housed in an external case), so I spent some time trawling through
    numerous sites for pricing, etc. My priority is minimum power
    consumption, but not sacrificing too much speed in the process. Perhaps
    my results might be useful to someone, so here thay are, ordered in terms
    of least power consumption at maximum write throughput. See:

    http://www.sgidepot.co.uk/misc/hdsummary.txt

    There are separate tables for 1TB, 750GB and 500GB models. Any model not
    mentioned in the article is not included.

    I was shocked to discover just how many of these drives have been
    discontinued or were never sold at all by many suppliers. Strange for a
    review to mention so many drives which already one cannot buy (at least
    not here), but anyway, pricing is included nonetheless (all in UKP;
    relative differences and availability might be different in the US, etc.)

    So, my conclusion based on this data for my own needs would be:

    1TB: Hitachi 5K1000 5400rpm
    750GB: Hitach Travelstar 5K750 5400rpm or 7K750 7200rp,
    500GB: Samsung M8 HN-500MBB 5400rpm

    If one's priority is performance then the conclusions would likely
    be different. Anyway, hope this is useful to someone. Pricing correct
    as of 06/Oct/2012.

    Ian.

  • 1 Hide
    mapesdhs , October 6, 2012 5:49 PM

    PS. Sorry for any typos, suffering from a cough/cold atm. :}

  • 1 Hide
    drkjedi , October 7, 2012 9:31 PM
    athulajpTwo hitachi drives have failed for me in the past year, i've got one Samsung drive that's been running for over two years(no issues) and a scorpio black that's much better. I don't know if it's just me but I don't really trust Hitachi HDD's anymore



    same thing here. 2 drives failed since dec. 2011. and they don't ship replacement drives before getting the dead drives back like others' do.
  • 0 Hide
    danwat1234 , October 8, 2012 2:46 AM
    Sigh, still no 1TB 7200RPM laptop drives. The 750GB Scorpio Black has been out since February 2011! Over 1.5 years and not a 1/3 increase in capacity.
  • 0 Hide
    Christopher1 , October 16, 2012 7:41 AM
    Bah..... I'm not really interested in hard disk drives anymore. I'm more interested in SSD drives for OS storage (128GB's is enough) and a external hard drive or regular hard drive for other things.
  • 0 Hide
    mapesdhs , October 16, 2012 11:18 PM

    For those with mbds that just have SATA2, the OCZ 120GB Vertex2E is a nice option; only 52 UKP from Amazon. They also
    have the SATA3 120GB MAX IOPS Vertex3 for 80.

    Ian.

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