Next-Gen 7,200 RPM Notebook Hard Drives

Western Digital Scorpio WD3200BEKT

The Scorpio family has been around for a while, but Western Digital has decided to split it into two segments: Scorpio Black and Scorpio Blue. The Blue series emphasizes high capacity hard drives running at 5,400 RPM, while the Black series sounds a bit like Mercedes AMG sports cars. The comparison is quite suitable, as Scorpio Black is the high-performance series. WD says it’s “desktop-class performance for notebook computers”. Let’s see if that’s the case.

Feature Rich

The Scorpio Black family is available at multiple capacity points, ranging from 80 GB through 120, 160 and 250 GB, all the way up to the 320 GB top model we received for review. All utilize a 300 MB/s SATA interface with native command queuing support, the 7,200 RPM spindle speed and 16 MB cache memory.

Scorpio Black drives are the only ones that match Seagate’s 5-year warranty and extended operating temperatures of 0 - 60°C for the drives’ environment. Hitachi and Samsung are specified at 5 - 55°C.

The entire Scorpio Black series is also available with a free fall sensor option. If you want one of these, look for the series suffix WJKT instead of BEKT (e.g. WD3200BJKT). According to the data sheet, the free fall sensor requires 200 ms to park the heads securely, which would be faster than Seagate’s “third of a second”; this would obviously be hard to verify…

Can It Beat Seagate?

This is the question that probably matters most to our readers. The Scorpio Black does offer the slightly quicker access time (15.4 ms vs. 15.6 ms) and clearly superior I/O performance. In fact, this is the fastest 2.5” 7,200 RPM SATA drive when it comes to high transaction capability. But the Scorpio Black cannot deliver the transfer rates of the Momentus 7200.3. It hits 84 MB/s compared to 89 MB/s for the Seagate drive; this is a 5% difference.

The Scorpio is faster in the PCMark05 Windows XP startup benchmark, and it is slightly slower in the file write performance benchmark (most likely due to the marginally slower throughput).


WD’s Scorpio Black reaches the same, excellent performance per watt result in our workstation-type I/O test scenario, and is only a bit behind the Momentus 7200.3 in the streaming read benchmark, which also focuses on performance per watt.

While the Scorpio Black requires more idle power, more peak power and more low idle power after a few minutes of idling than the Momentus 7200.3, it turned out to be the most efficient 7,200 RPM drive when it has to deliver a defined data stream. When we checked power requirement for providing the datastream of a DVD vob file, it only required 1.3 W, way below the competition and very close to many efficient flash SSDs.