We had a few hard disk drives in the lab from acquired systems and previous reviews. The review community has largely ignored spinning disks, but we wanted to test a few to gauge performance. Many of these drives came from notebooks. HDDs still dominate OEM systems, especially lower cost notebooks.
SSD marketing tells us that hard disk drives are spinning rust, power hungry, slow, and inefficient. Some of that is true, but not all of it. Windows does a good job with cache algorithms to increase hard disk drive performance, but these products are still more latent compared to SSDs. The battery life results, however, will be closer than you may naturally have assumed.
Notebook Battery Life
Hard disk drive technology is in the middle of an evolution, much like SSDs. Some use a flash translation layer and advanced write methods with the tracks overlapping. The more complex the drive the more power it can consume. The Seagate Laptop HDD 2TB is one of the newest we have. It uses shingle magnetic recording (SMR) to achieve its colossal capacity without increasing the physical size.
To hear SSD manufacturers tell the story, hard disk drives drain battery life much faster than flash-based products. Our results show the Seagate Momentus Thin 500GB, a popular drive used in OEM systems, delivering better battery life than 13 SATA SSDs and 24 NVMe SSDs.
SSHDs, the combination of disk and flash technology, is often said to deliver battery life superior to that of pure spinning disk technology. That wasn’t what we found in our limited sample size. The SSHD from Seagate delivered roughly the same battery life as a similar hard disk drive without the flash package used as a large cache.
Power Restricted Performance
We wanted to bring in the hard disk drives for their performance rating results. The numbers show just how severe notebooks cripple storage performance. Some of the SSDs are as fast, or in this case as slow, as HDDs. Windows cache technology has improved considerably since many of us walked away from spinning disks. In a desktop or on AC power, the results are quite a bit different and flash wins every time. On DC power in a notebook, the results are much closer than expected.
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