Enthusiast 2.5" HDDs: Speed or Capacity?

250 GB At 5,400 RPM Or 160 GB At 7,200 RPM?

We took a look at three new 160 GB 2.5" notebook hard drives in April, and reviewed the 250 GB Scorpio drive by Western Digital in early June. With the release of Fujitsu's new 160 GB high-performance 2.5" drive and Samsung now offering a 250 GB model, the enthusiast space offers two choices for high-end users: you can either get a 7,200 RPM drive at a maximum capacity of 160 GB, or get as much as 250 GB storage capacity with 5,400 RPM drive performance. First 200 GB notebook Hitachi drives at 7,200 RPM have been around for several weeks, but we did not receive the samples before completion of this article.

All new hard drive models are based on perpendicular magnetic recording technology (PMR), which was been the key to recent increases in capacities. The 2.5" hard drive space has also finally made the transition from UltraATA to Serial ATA, as several new notebooks are exclusively SATA and no longer available with UltraATA interfaces at all. This applies to most of the high-end notebook drives at 7,200 RPM, as well as the high-capacity drives. Serial ATA offers more robust cabling and a higher interface bandwidth (150 or 300 MB/s as opposed to 100 MB/s with UltraATA/100). In addition, the protocol supports the performance enhancing feature called Native Command Queuing (NCQ), which reorganizes incoming commands to process them in the most efficient order. The only disadvantage of the serial protocol is higher power requirements.

More and more notebook designs have also been transitioned to SATA. Other solutions such as industrial PCs, consumer devices and storage applications also benefit from high capacity 2.5" drives, and the ease of use of SATA. Fujitsu has been targeting these markets with 2.5" SATA drives that feature a 12.5 mm height instead of the common 9.5 mm. The 200 GB MHV2200BT became available in the fall of last year, and Fujitsu has recently upgraded its portfolio with two 12.5 mm drives at 250 GB and 300 GB as well. Since those are thick and rather slow - rotating at only 4,200 RPM - they cannot be used for notebooks. These new high-end drives by Fujitsu and Samsung certainly can, though, and you will probably like both. The Fujitsu MHW2160BJ is a 7,200 RPM high-performance 2.5" drive, while Samsung's HM250JI targets capacity-hungry customers with a bigger 5,400 RPM offering Compare Prices on Notebook Hard Drives.

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