We looked at seven 500 GB 2.5” notebook hard drives. They appear to be very similar, as they all use modern SATA/300 interfaces, but the specific characteristics vary.
Five of the drives are 5,400 RPM models, while two were a bit different. First we had to use Samsung’s HM500LI, as the new HM500JI had not reached our test lab by the time we completed this roundup. Expect Samsung’s latest generation to perform at the level of the other drives. Second, Seagate’s Momentus 7200.4 was added to this review, as it is the first 500 GB hard drive that spins at the faster 7,200 RPM. As a result, this clearly is the fastest notebook drive you can get. If performance is all you want, there is no alternative to the Momentus 7200.4. But let’s look at the 500 GB mainstream, which is probably most interesting for the vast majority of users.
The Fujitsu MJA2500BH cannot dominate any of the low level performance benchmarks, but it actually reaches strong PCMark Vantage application scores, which it pairs with low power requirements. Fujitsu delivers good everyday performance at low power without attracting much attention. Hitachi’s Travelstar 5K500.B and the Toshiba MK5055GSX both deliver balanced performance without significant peaks in any area, paired with low power requirements. The Toshiba drive is the choice if you’re looking for maximum power savings, while Hitachi offers better low level performance.
Seagate and Western Digital are strong in specific performance segments: WD offers the quickest access time, best I/O performance and high throughput, but it does not perform consistently in the PCMark Vantage application benchmark. Seagate is slightly behind when it comes to performance, but it requires less power to operate.
Obviously, the perfect 500 GB notebook hard drive does not exist. Seagate dominates the performance segment with the Momentus 7200.4, Toshiba impressed by having the most modest power requirements, and Fujitsu, Hitachi, Seagate’s 5400.6 and WD all have different characteristics and hence are all suitable for mainstream notebook users. All drives are great for mobile storage applications, with a little advantage for Seagate, which supports a higher operating temperature range.