Notebook Drives At Up To 160 GB Put Under the Microscope

How To Select A Notebook Hard Drive

Two factors have a significant impact on the purchase decision of a hard drive: drive capacity and performance. Issues such as operating noise, temperature or power consumption are interesting, but usually only of great importance to a limited number of users and applications. 4,200 RPM drives are almost silent, and those spinning at 5,400 or 7,200 RPM generally can only be heard only as long as the CPU fan does not kick in.

Notebook users can choose among lots of different 2.5" drives in capacities ranging from 30 to 160 GB. The selection includes 4,200, 5,400, and 7,200 RPM models, with UltraATA/100 or Serial ATA/150 interfaces. Be careful with ultra portable notebooks, though. Models such as the Dell X1 or Samsung's Q30 family are based on tiny 1.8" hard drives. These require less power and space, but their performance is considerably worse, which you will easily notice in everyday work with such a device.

While most users consider capacity only, we strongly recommend taking a close look at performance parameters as well. Choosing a faster hard drive will make your daily work more pleasant than will having a few extra gigabytes. The somewhat higher energy consumption of faster spinning drives is usually compensated for by finishing read/write tasks much quicker. In the end, the battery run time of notebooks using high-speed hard drives is not considerably less than that of models with slower drives.

Currently, 7,200 RPM drives are available at up to 100 GB, while 5,400 RPM reach all the way up to 160 GB. If you intend to use your notebook intensively, we recommend going for nothing below 7,200 RPM. All other users should select a 5,400 RPM drive; 4,200 RPM models should be avoided as they are slower and at this point, provide little to recommend them.