No, we're not turning into a review site for notebook hard drives, but a couple of products have launched that deserve a look after we visited the topic a few weeks ago. We then introduced Samsung's Spinpoint M6, which was the world's first 320 GB notebook hard drive Compare Prices on Spinpoint M6. The hard drive still is one of the bottleneck components in every system, as it still takes a noticeable amount of time to launch complex applications, to store huge files or to start or shutdown Windows. The faster your hard drive, the quicker the entire system will run.
Samsung, Toshiba and Western Digital were among the first OEMs to offer laptops with 320 GB hard drives, but it was the Samsung Spinpoint M6 that made it to our test lab first. But since the publication of our review on the Spinpoint M6, we received two other contenders: the Toshiba MK3252GSX and Western Digital's Scorpio WD3200BEVT. All three hard drives offer a whopping 320 GB capacity at 5,400 RPM and they can be installed in every laptop or notebook with a standard 2.5" drive bay based on the Serial ATA interface. While Samsung utilizes a maximum bandwidth of 150 MB/s, both Toshiba and WD decided to go with 300 MB/s. While this is faster on paper, it actually doesn't provide better performance for everyday applications. The only scenario where the quicker interface delivers small benefits is with read or write operations that involve the drives' 8 MB cache memory. The downside of SATA/300 is increased power requirements, as you will see in our benchmark section.
It's interesting to see that both Hitachi and Seagate, which had regularly offered hard drives with bleeding edge capacities and levels of performance, do not yet offer drives with capacities over 250 GB. And both aren't able to compete with the three 320 GB drives in terms of performance, as their 250 GB offerings appear to be one product generation behind the drives that Samsung, Toshiba and Western Digital offer at this point. Fujitsu is out of the competition, as its 300 GB 2.5" drive is based on three platters and hence won't fit into a standard 2.5" notebook drive bay.
At the same time, Samsung and Toshiba are doing well in our benchmark parcours. After being out of the running for a while, Toshiba has now entered the fray again with its MK3252GSX. For Samsung, it took the Korean company several years before it began to offer drives that posed a serious threat to the established drive makers. Only some months ago, its Spinpoint F1 1 TB 3.5" desktop hard drive took the performance crown away from Hitachi, Seagate and WD. Can it maintain its leadership position against the new models from Toshiba and Western Digital?