High-Capacity 2.5-Inch Hard Disk Drives: Chasing the Leader

Today we would like to continue testing high-capacity 2.5-inch hard disk drives and within our today’s roundup we will introduce to you four new models from Samsung and Western Digital with 100GB+ storage capacities. We will not only compare them against one another but will also add up the results from our previous test session when we looked at the latest solutions from Seagate, Toshiba and Fujitsu.

by Andrey Kuznetcov
05/02/2006 | 09:05 PM

This time we decided to share with you the results of our tests performed on the highest-capacity hard disk drives of the 2.5-inch form-factor.

 

The storage capacity of these hard disk drives has been growing up lately. As we have already mentioned in our previous reviews, one of Seagate’s solutions has already hit 160GB storage capacity (for details see our article called Seagate Momentus 5400.3 160GB Hard Disk Drive with Perpendicular Recording Technology). None of the other vendors have reached or overcome this bar yet. Of course, all the HDD makers do their best to achieve this, but while they are still trying we suggest taking a closer look at the currently available 2.5-inch HDD solutions from different manufacturers that boast the highest storage capacity in their family.

We will primarily deal with 120GB and 100GB solutions today that are available in the product line-ups of all major HDD makers. We have already tested some of them before, so today we will focus mostly on the three new models in our labs: the new Samsung SpinPoint M60 and two Scorpio drives from Western Digital.

Note that all the drives tested today feature 5,400rpm spindle rotation speed, 8MB buffer and support ATA interface. The only exception is going to be the Toshiba drive that features a 16MB buffer and supports SATA interface.

You can check out the detailed specifications of the testing participants in our spec table here:


Click to enlarge

Closer Look

Samsung SpinPoint M60 120GB and 100GB (HM120JC and HM100JC)

Our major heroes today are the two new 2.5” hard disk drives from Samsung’s second generation of products. Their major distinguishing feature is the use of larger 60GB platters, as you may have guessed from their family name. These platters are designed with the TMR effect (tunnel magneto resistance). The HDDs are 120GB and 100GB respectively (however there are also 60GB and 80GB models in this product family) and feature an 8MB buffer. The spindle rotation speed is 5,400rpm.

The drives provide average seek time of 12ms, and track-to-track of 2ms. The average latency is 5.6ms. UltraATA interface ensures maximum theoretical data transfer rate of 100MB/s. the hard drives are highly shock resistant. They can withstand up to 300G of operational shock and up to 1000G of non-operational shock. The HDDs are 9.5 x 100 x 70mm big and weigh about 100g.

These hard disk drive family uses hydro-dynamic bearing motors. They are also built with Wireless Suspension heads. Among other supported technologies we can certainly name such things as SilentSeek, Silentec Hybrid latch and Load/Unload.

The HM120JC HDD sells at about $145, while the smaller mode, the HM100JC – for $125.

Western Digital Scorpio 120GB and 100GB (WD1200VE and WD1000VE)

Another two hard disk drives that we decided to include into our today’s test session are the two solutions from the Scorpio family from Western Digital. Two HDDs with 120GB and 100GB storage capacity are the biggest ones in the Scorpio family. They feature an 8MB buffer and their spindles rotate at 5,400rpm. The average seek time equals 12ms, and track-to-track seek – 2ms. The claimed average latency is 5.5ms. UltraATA interface boasts the theoretical data transfer rate of 100MB/s. These hard drives can withstand the operational shock of 300G, and non-operational shock of 900G. The size of these drives is also the same as that of the previous two models: 9.5 x 100 x 70mm, but these babies are heavier: they weigh 117g.

The hard drives support WhisperDrive technology using SoftSeek algorithm that reduces the level of generated noise during work. WD’s brand name ShockGuard technology protects the HDD mechanics and platter surface against physical damage caused by external shock. Another innovation from Western Digital is DuraStep Ramp that locks the HDD heads in a safe position when the drive is idle. The hard disk drive case is made of highly robust stainless steel.

WD1200VE is currently selling for around $180, while the smaller model, WD1000VE – for $135.

Testbed and Methods

The following testing utilities were used:

Testbed was configured as follows:

The tests were performed with the generic OS drivers. The drives were formatted in FAT32 and NTFS as one partition with the default cluster size. In some cases mentioned specifically we used 32GB partitions formatted in FAT32 and NTFS with the default cluster size, too. During the tests the hard drives were connected to the Promise SATA150 TX controller with enabled Write Through mode.

Performance in Intel IOMeter Sequential Read and Write Patterns

The low-level Intel IOMeter benchmark was used to test the linear read and write speed of the hard drives. During the test session there was a stream of read/write requests sent to the drives with the queue depth=4. The data block size changed every minute. As a result we can see the dependence of the linear read/write speed on the data block size.

At first let’s see the results of linear reading. The best result here belongs to Western Digital Wd1200VE HDD. Out of four hard drives we are paying special attention to today, it looks best of all. It outperforms Samsung HM120JC when working with smaller data blocks and runs almost equally fast with the Samsung solution in all other cases. At the same time, it yields to the linear read speed leader – the Seagate ST9160821A HDD. Both 100GB models from Samsung and WD run slower than their elder brothers, but the Western Digital WD1000VE is again performing linear reading faster than the Samsung HM100JC fellow. They have also turned out the slowest of all the hard drives we looked at today.

The general picture has hardly changed if you look at the diagram with the linear write speed measurements. Once again Western Digital WD1200VE and Samsung HM120JC manage to achieve much higher results than their 100GB counterparts. At the same time the WD HDD is once again doing better than the Samsung one thanks to more convincing results when working with data blocks of smaller size. The Western Digital WD1000VE is also achieving a convincing victory over the Samsung HM100JC. As we can see again, even the fastest solutions from the four HDDs in question cannot compete with the leader – Seagate ST9160821A.

Performance in WinBench 99

We will start analyzing the results in this benchmark with the surface read speed:

From the graphs above you can see that the 120GB hard disk drives are evidently faster than their 100GB brothers. At the same time, there is certain parity between the solutions of the same storage capacity. The graph for Western Digital WD1000VE boasts the most exotically shaped graph, which seems to have evident technological reasons behind it.

Let’s check out the performance of our testing participants in FAT32 file system first.

We will start with the results of High-End Disk WinMark, and the second best result here belongs to Samsung HM120JC. The second Samsung drive won the third place from the end having left behind both Western Digital solutions. As we can see, Samsung HM120JC is the only hard disk drive that managed to make a very good impression in this test: all the other three fellows showed no performance wonders.

Now let’s take a look at the NTFS file system.

Just like in the previous case Samsung HM120JC once again proves its worthiness: it again won the second prize getting just a little bit behind the winner. The second Samsung solution looks slightly better this time, as it managed to get in the middle of the testing participants’ crowd. Unfortunately, nothing has really changed about the Western Digital solutions. The two new drives are stably occupying the bottom of the chart, with Western Digital Wd1200VE being far ahead of Western Digital WD1000VE.

The next diagram shows the data transfer rate during reading from the beginning and from the end of the HDDs. The fastest of the four HDDs in question is Western Digital WD1200VE, although if we look at it against the background of other rivals, it will occupy a very average position having fallen far behind the race leader – Seagate ST9160821A. Close behind WD1200VE follows the Samsung HM120JC. Two remaining drives with 100GB storage capacity got listed at the very end of the chart, with Western Digital WD1000VE results being slightly higher than those of Samsung HM100JC.

The last diagram of this section illustrates the results obtained during access time measurements. Western Digital drives look somewhat better than Samsung solutions here, although all four of them showed longer access times than the HDDs from Seagate, Hitachi and Toshiba.

Performance in FC-Test

Now let’s take a look how the four hard disk drives from Samsung and Western Digital are going to perform in FC-Test. This benchmark produces the most realistic performance results, because the algorithms used in this suite create real-life situations.

The credibility of the results is based on the working principles of this program. The main idea of FC-Test is to measure the time the hard disk drives need to create (write), read and copy file sets, which differ from one another by the type, size and number of files. Then we calculate the practical performance of the drives basing on the time measurements.

As you remember from our previous HDD reviews, Windows and Programs patterns include a large number of smaller files, and the remaining three patterns – ISO, MP3 and Install – work with a limited number of larger files. For copy operations each drive is formatted into two 32GB equal logical partitions. The patterns are copied either within the same partition or from one partition to another. Although the tables contain complete performance reports, we decided to use the results of only three patterns for the illustrative diagrams.

We will start the discussion of obtained results with the FAT32 file system. The file Create (Write) diagram places three HDDs into the leading position. The winners are Samsung HM120JC, Seagate ST9160821A and Seagate ST9120821A, as they have demonstrated the best results in all three patterns. Western Digital WD1200VE and Samsung HM100JC are just a little bit behind the leaders. And the youngest WD1000VE drive turned out the slowest of all.

The read speed diagram places the Seagate ST9160821A to the winners stand. The leader is closely followed by four other drives with very similar results. These four HDDs are Seagate ST9120821A, Samsung HM120JC, Hitachi HTS541010G9AT and Fujitsu MHV2100AH. The read speed of Western Digital WD1200VE and Samsung HM100JC is slightly lower. And the slowest of all is again Western Digital WD100VE.

The file copy speed within one partition shows no definite leader. A few hard disk drives demonstrated pretty similar performance level. I could probably give a little more credit to Seagate ST9160821A again and specifically single out Seagate ST9120821A, Samsung HM120JC, Western Digital WD1200VE and Fujitsu MHV2100AH. Samsung HM100JC yields a little bit to the leaders, and the 100GB Western Digital WD1000VE is again at the bottom of the chart.

When the files were copied from one logical partition to another, the race was won by Seagate ST9160821A, Seagate ST9120821A and Samsung HM120JC. Western Digital WD1200VE and Fujitsu MHV2100AH follow closely behind. Samsung HM100JC and Western Digital WD1000VE are the slowest of all the tested HDDs.

Now let’s take a closer look at the results demonstrated by our testing participants in NTFS file system. The diagram devoted to file creation (writing) again doesn’t contain any surprising details. The leaders are Seagate ST9160821A, Seagate ST9120821A and Samsung HM120JC. Western Digital WD1200VE is slightly slower, but it still looks very decent in this test. The other two drives, Samsung HM100JC and Western Digital WD1000VE, are again the last ones to finish this race, the latter being the slowest of all.

The file reading results give the laurels to Seagate ST9160821A. The nest best after the leader are Seagate ST9120821A, Fujitsu MHV2100AH, Samsung HM120JC and Hitachi HTS541010G9AT. Unfortunately, Samsung HM100JC and Western Digital WD1000VE are again the slowest hard disk drives in our today’s test session.

Copying files within the same partition doesn’t allow us to name an indisputable leader, but the leading group remains the same. Seagate ST9160821A and Seagate ST9120821A look more attractive than the rest of the tested HDDs. Samsung HM120JC, Fujitsu MHV2100AH and Western Digital WD1200VE fell a little bit behind the leaders. As for the file copy speed of Samsung HM100JC and Western Digital WD1000VE, they are again the slowest of all except for one product: Hitachi HTS541010G9AT.

The file copying from one partition to another is won by Seagate HDDs that showed very close level of performance. The next best drive here is Samsung HM120JC with Fujitsu MHV2100AH and Western Digital WD1200VE following right behind it. Unfortunately, Samsung HM100JC and Western Digital WD1000VE failed to impress us again.

Conclusion

Life of computer users who need to store a lot of data on their laptop hard disk drives becomes much easier these days, because there appear a lot of 2.5-inch HDDs with the storage capacity of over 100GB. The new technologies, such as perpendicular recording, for instance, make the future look very optimistic from this standpoint and give us a lot of hopes for even greater storage capacities within a small mobile form-factor. As for today, we can state that all the largest HDD makers can already offer the users 100GB+ mobile HDD models.

The today’s test session where we investigated the performance of four new hard disk drives from Samsung and Western Digital gives us some food for new conclusions. HDDs with 120GB storage capacity are considerably faster than their 100GB fellows. It is actually quite logical, because the platter surface is used more efficiently in the former case. Even though Samsung HM120JC yielded to Western Digital WD1200VE in linear reading and writing tests performed on smaller data blocks, it still outperformed the opponent in most other cases. This hard drive made a very good impression overall and deserves a stable third place after the two newest Seagate solutions we have already reviewed before. It could be the efficient firmware of Samsung hard disk drives that helped in this case. All in all, I have all the evidence to say that Samsung has made quite a bit of a progress in 3.5-inch as well as 2.5-inch form-factor HDDs lately.

Western Digital WD1200VE HDD that followed closely behind Samsung HM120JC also performed very well today. If I ever end up choosing between these two HDD models, I would still prefer the Samsung drive thanks to its slightly higher performance and more competitive price. As for the two 100GB models of the two companies, their performance is much lower, so the only case when you would probably go for any of them is when you have very limited budget and cannot afford a more expensive 120GB hard drive. Here Samsung’s drive is also slightly faster and slightly less expensive than the alternative solution from Western Digital.

Summing up our roundup of the today’s highest-capacity 2.5-inch hard disk drives I have to repeat once again that at this time there is no alternative to Seagate ST9160821A, although nothing is eternal in this world and one day a worthy competitor should definitely appear.