Six 2.5” High-Capacity Notebook Hard Drives

Supersize My Storage, Please

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.

  • 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
  • arpitnathany
    On a lighter note I would love to have a 750 TB drive at that price
  • 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???
  • 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.
  • Zero_
    Talk about a bad time for a hard drive comparison...
  • howardp6
    GoFlex is a Seagate disk product line not Western Digital
  • 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.
  • 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
  • ewood
    yeah prices are way off
  • youssef 2010
    I'd go with the WD Scorpio Black