9 Notebook Hard Drives Make Their Debuts
The advertisements for desktop PCs usually don't include much additional technical information on the hard drive, and even these details are often skipped entirely in notebook ads. Manufacturers try to attract people with capacities of 60 or 80 GB or more, but many of these mainstream notebook hard drives fail to deliver adequate performance.
At the turn of the millennium, desktop hard drives transitioned from 5,400 to 7,200 RPM, noticeably speeding up systems. Today, the 5,400 RPM drives still are popular in ultra low-cost applications such as media centers, PVRs and other consumer electronic devices. But in PCs, 5,400 RPM drives are no longer considered acceptable to most. Generally speaking, people have finally become aware of the fact that a hard drive's rotation speed is the most important key to decent performance.
A similar move is occurring in the market for 2.5" notebook hard drives. These are basically smaller cousins of the well-known desktop models, and thus all the same principles apply: faster rotation speeds allow for better transfer rates, shorter latencies and lower access times. Seagate's Momentum was the first notebook hard drive to hit 5,400 RPM, while Hitachi's TravelStar 7K60 is the first 7,200 RPM notebook drive, and has been available for a year now.
Friction of the rotating platters is considerably lower in notebook drives, compared to desktop units. This means even a 7,200 RPM notebook drive never reaches the temperature levels that would make cooling necessary. In addition, noise levels are amazingly low, a result of the small platter size and the use of fluid bearings.
One might also wonder whether the energy consumption of a faster spinning hard drive, and thus the impact on battery life, might be an argument for not getting a faster model. We already dealt with this question one year ago and found a pretty clear answer: it is simply not the case.
The first 100 GB notebook hard drives are now becoming available. The problem is that most of the current 100 GB drives a slow 4,200 RPM; only Seagate is starting to produce the big drives at 5,400 RPM. Once again, we face the question of which spindle speed to choose, in the form of a trade-off between speed and capacity. We picked out a representative set of nine different hard drives to help you get an idea of what drive options you have.