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Scorpio Blue: Big Notebook HDDs Go Mainstream

Scorpio Blue: Big Notebook HDDs Go Mainstream
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The hard drive market seems to be spinning faster than the drives themselves, with news arriving on an almost daily basis. Seagate just announced that it will release flash SSD drives this year. Traditional hard drive maker Fujitsu first said that it intended to support UltraSCSI for a few more years in an effort to cover this niche, but then said that it wanted to get rid of its hard drive business, leaving an unclear future for the division. Western Digital is a likely customer, and it is also WD that has managed to introduce the first fully-standard 500 GB 2.5” mobile hard drive.

There Are Small Differences At 500 GB

But is a 500 GB notebook drive really anything new? Looking at it from a capacity standpoint alone, it is not. Hitachi has had the Travelstar 5K500 and Samsung has offered its Spinpoint M6 (HM500LI) drive for a while, and both are 2.5” models. Hitachi deserves kudos for being first to market at this capacity point. Samsung was the first to squeeze it into a 9.5 mm height format. However, both reach their high capacity based on a three-platter design.

While the Hitachi drive is based on a 12.5-mm z-height, Samsung actually managed to fit three platters into the standard 9.5 mm height, which was a first. Both sizes are common for 2.5” mobile hard drives, but the smaller one is necessary for over 90% of all notebook designs. The 12.5 mm drives can be used for other low-power or small form factor storage appliances, set top boxes, media players and such, but are simply not standard for notebooks.

Less Is More

There are several reasons why making the move from three platters to only two platters is appealing. First, the capacity per platter, and hence the storage density, increases, which may result in improved throughput. We will reveal more details in this review, but the throughput experiment was a successful one. Second, the reduced platter count results in fewer moving parts, which has a positive impact on drive power consumption. Last but not least, WD is able to move the hard drive sweet spot from 160 GB to 250 GB, as drives utilizing only a single platter typically are the cheapest models, which system integrators often prefer. Being able to offer more capacity in common configurations may provide a business advantage for Western Digital (though Seagate’s new Momentus 5400.6 will follow in a few weeks).

Let’s see just how good WD’s new storage top model for notebooks really is.

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  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , January 6, 2009 10:26 AM
    Seems to be the perfect drive for my circular livingroom pc. Been impossible to fit a standard 3,5" drive in a it, and this thing's faster than the drive I tried to fit....
  • 0 Hide
    liemfukliang , January 6, 2009 11:18 AM
    Try review the black edition. It seem that the black edition is the fastest 7200 rpm?
  • 0 Hide
    elerick , January 6, 2009 12:53 PM
    This entire review is pounding the idea this drive is the best in this category but it could be better. Yet another point in the article is that it is better and cheaper than it's previous version. I'm sure WD will come up with a "green" laptop hard drive with these idle power features the author referred to quite a number of times, but until then this drive looks awesome. I myself have a SSD, and tweaked with the OCZ webpage suggestions. But as my 64GB was quickly filled after one months worth of typical use I find myself looking for a daily use hard drive once again. This might just be it, or the WD Scorpio Black.
  • 0 Hide
    cjl , January 6, 2009 1:43 PM
    I thought the Seagate Momentus 5400.6 has been out for longer than this drive...

    I believe it is 250GB/platter, and achieves 500GB in a 2 platter configuration, just like this WD. I'd actually be curious to see a comparison of the two.

    Oh, and liemfukliang: the black editions are all 7200RPM. There aren't any 7200RPM 500GB drives on the market yet, though Seagate's 7200.4 drives should be out soon at 250GB/platter.
  • -5 Hide
    talzara , January 6, 2009 1:46 PM
    Fewer platters is better? Since when?

    The more platters you have, the more disk accesses you have working in parallel. That's the whole point of RAID 0 and RAID 10.
  • 3 Hide
    cjl , January 6, 2009 1:56 PM
    talzaraFewer platters is better? Since when?The more platters you have, the more disk accesses you have working in parallel. That's the whole point of RAID 0 and RAID 10.

    Since always. Hard drives don't access more than one platter simultaneously. The heads aren't perfectly enough aligned - it can only be perfectly aligned on one track (on one platter) at once.

    For a given capacity, fewer platters means a higher data density, which means higher data rates. Don't believe me? Look at these benchmarks in this article compared to those for the 3 platter 500GB drives (I believe they were reviewed a while back). Note that this one absolutely flattens the older ones in performance.
  • 0 Hide
    TheGreatGrapeApe , January 6, 2009 3:04 PM
    Nice review, but, DANG !!

    I just got my WD Blue 320GB for Thanksgiving (Canuck Version) last fall, would've been nice to get this, but considering I got it for $80C /$65US and the new one is $140C right now, I don't feel too bad. :sol: 

    Anywhoo, gonna grab an SSD soon enough anyways, so it won't matter so much.

    Thanks again for the look at the new drive. :hello: 
  • 0 Hide
    Siffy , January 6, 2009 4:50 PM
    cjlI thought the Seagate Momentus 5400.6 has been out for longer than this drive...I believe it is 250GB/platter, and achieves 500GB in a 2 platter configuration, just like this WD. I'd actually be curious to see a comparison of the two.Oh, and liemfukliang: the black editions are all 7200RPM. There aren't any 7200RPM 500GB drives on the market yet, though Seagate's 7200.4 drives should be out soon at 250GB/platter.


    hardware .info shows the 500gb 5400.6 released on 11/04 and the 500gb Blue released on 12/03, but hardwaresphere did a release article on the Blue way back on 9/14. But yeah, both have been out long enough they should have been compared as the only two 2 platter/4 head 500gb 2.5" drives on the market.

    Seagate's data sheet on the 7200.4 line, which only contains a 250gb and a 500gb model, does not specify how many platters the drives contain, but I would assume 2 in the 500gb and 1 in the 250gb as they are 9.5mm drives.

    Maybe we can get a really comprehensive review of all the drives (and in both platter counts) once the 7200.4 series has hit the shelves. If Tom's is looking for hints on things to review today, I'd like to see how the single platter WD RE3 and Seagate ES drives (250/320GB) preform compared to their 1TB/750GB flagships. I know most people don't care about 250GB drives these days, but from any user tests on forums I've seen they give VelociRaptors good competition for throughput, and you can build a basic Raid 5 array out of them for less than 1 300GB VR.
  • 1 Hide
    Siffy , January 6, 2009 4:57 PM
    These huge 5400rpm notebook drives are perfect for someone like me with a dual bay laptop. It currently only has a Momentus 7200.2 160gb and a 5400rpm 120gb in it, but once the OCZ Vertex drives are out I'll be looking to replace them for better performance and be able to stop lugging around a 500gb external drive at the same time. Like cjl, I'd be interested in a Momentus 5400.6 500gb review to know which drive will be best on my battery and heat on my lap.
  • 0 Hide
    randomizer , January 7, 2009 4:04 AM
    talzaraFewer platters is better? Since when?The more platters you have, the more disk accesses you have working in parallel. That's the whole point of RAID 0 and RAID 10.

    And how do you expect to fit 4-5 platters inside a notebook and still keep it a notebook?
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , January 7, 2009 5:57 AM
    talzaraFewer platters is better? Since when?The more platters you have, the more disk accesses you have working in parallel. That's the whole point of RAID 0 and RAID 10.


    Fewer platters mean higher transfer rates (if assuming same effective amount of space on the 2 and 3 platter drives). Also, all heads move to the same position, at the same time, so having more heads won't improve seek time or anything.

    Besides, fewer platters mean less stress on the motor, fewer parts that can go wrong, lower power requirement, and sometimes even lower noise levels.
  • -1 Hide
    pearl298 , January 26, 2009 12:58 AM
    I just purchased the 1Tb version and was disappointed to find that it was bundled with a bunch of "30 day trial" software that did not reveal the 'trial" nature until after it was installed. The hardware looks great,but if they have to me about one thing, what else are they lying about? Back to the vendor it goes ...
  • 1 Hide
    codeslinger42 , January 29, 2009 2:23 AM
    OffTopic:

    Let me get this straight, you bought a 1TB HD because presumably you wanted a big fast inexpensive HD. The drive came with some "free" bonus software which turned out to be trial-ware.

    And now you want to return the drive, not because there is anything wrong with the HD but because of the software?

    Hmmm, maybe I missed something? Was there something about the packaging that lead you to choose this drive specifically because of the included software?

    Maybe it's just me, but I still remember the day not that long ago when a 1 Gig HD cost $1000 and came with no software. That's right disk drives used to cost $1000 per gig and the biggest you could get was about 5 gig.

    Why not just ignore the software?

  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 4, 2009 1:31 AM
    What about heat? These babies usually rest just under your hand palms.

    My current 320 WD Scorpio Blue can get pretty warm inside my MacBook Pro. With the aluminium casing, it can feel pretty damn hot.
  • 0 Hide
    customisbetter , March 6, 2009 10:39 PM
    i just purchased two of the Scorpio black 320s for mu laptops and damn they are awesomely fast. My old Macbook had a 60 gb 5400 rpm turd in it before. The reads were so slow that it was bottlenecking my 10/100 network connection. lol.

    thanks for the awesome review! i am glad you compared as many drives as you did, especially mine. :) 
  • 0 Hide
    speedbump1963 , April 10, 2009 11:16 PM
    I really liked the review. I was looking t the DIY notebooks and didnt really know if a SSD or mechanical hard drive would be the best. I have a WD Cavalir Black 1 TB in my desktop and love it. I wish the WD blue had a higher cache than 8 megs. but in all it was an excellent review. very informative to ones considering a future purchase. Good job!A very well informed article of numerous hard drives.
  • 0 Hide
    glauco , April 23, 2009 10:29 PM
    Hallo. Has anyone successfully put a WD5000BEVT into a MacBook? I'm considering it!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 24, 2009 4:47 AM
    I put one in my MacBook Pro, glauco. It's been a solid champ for a few months now.
  • 0 Hide
    glauco , April 24, 2009 6:48 AM
    Thanks for the info. I've googled further and found that others have happily done the same. Ciao!