Seagate is one of three manufacturers now making 7,200 RPM Notebook drives. Their Momentus 7200.1 was an acoustic disappointment, but it’s been updated with Perpendicular recording and fall detection in the 7200.2. Did the improvements extend to the acoustics?
November 12, 2007 by Devon
Seagate Momentus 7200.2 ST9160823ASG
160GB, 7,200 RPM Notebook Hard Drive
Although 7,200 RPM notebook drives have been around for a couple of years, they
are still very much a specialty item found mainly in high performance desktop-replacement
notebooks. They are priced significantly higher than regular notebook drives,
and not all manufacturers have products in this category.
Seagate is now on their second generation of 7,200 notebook drives, the Momentus
7200.2, which brings a higher 200 GB capacity to the table thanks to perpendicular
recording. At the time of its release, it was widely reviewed as the fastest
notebook drive in existence, but Hitachi’s recently released Travelstar
7K200 may have stolen the performance crown. It also debuts a fall detection
technology to improve shock resilience by unloading the read / write heads when
a fall is detected. This feature is optional, available only on the 200, 160
and 80 GB models with a “G” suffix on their model number. The G stands
for “G-Force Protection”. (No word on whether the technology will
also protect the drive from nVidia’s line of GeForce graphics cards.) Fujitsu
also introduced 7,200 RPM notebook drives in two product lines earlier this
year, including one that features perpendicular recording and tops out at 160GB.
We gave the original Momentus
7200.1 a decidedly mixed review. Along with desktop-class performance came
desktop-class noise that negated the main advantage of using a notebook drive
in a full-sized setup: Low noise. This didn’t have to be the case — Hitachi’s
E7K100 was much quieter at the same spindle speed — so we have hopes
that the 7200.2 may be an improvement.
Seagate Momentus 7200.2 ST9160823ASG (from Seagate’s
|FEATURE & BRIEF||COMMENT|
|8-MB cache buffer||Appropriate for the capacity.
16MB is available on the 200 GB version.
|SATA 3.0Gb/s interface||The highest SATA bus speed
|Highest available laptop hard
drive performance for maximum productivity
|…so long as you’re willing
to take Seagate’s word for it.
|Superb reliability||G-Force Protection should
help in this regard.
|Rugged mobility||What does this mean?|
|Whisper-quiet operation||Better than the Momentus
|Low power consumption||A standard claim for notebook
drives; the 7200.1 was exceptionally power-hungry.
|5-year warranty||Standard for Seagate.|
Perpendicular recording is old news now, but it’s probably the biggest reason
for the new model designation of the 7200.2. Thanks to this, Seagate was able
to push the maximum capacity of the line to 200 GB (our sample has 160 GB).
Along with Hitachi’s 7K200 series, this is the largest 7,200 RPM notebook drive
available, but it’s quite far off the largest 5,400 RPM drives from Western
Digital and Toshiba,
which are currently at 320 GB.
The other big addition is the G-Force Protection, which embeds an accelerometer
in the drive that senses when the drive is dropped. Assuming there is enough
fall time (approximately 140 ms based on Seagate’s 8 inch minimum fall distance),
the drive will park the heads to prevent the head crash that would otherwise
occur on impact.
The jumper on the right sets the interface to 1.5 Gbps speed for better compatibility.
The specifications below are specific to model that we examined. Capacity,
cache size, platter number, interface, and even performance vary from model
to model even within a single product line. Acoustics and power dissipation
also vary depending on the number of platters in the drive; smaller capacity
drives tend to have fewer platters, and tend to produce less noise and use less
Specifications: Momentus 7200.2 vs 7200.1
Seagate data sheets)
|Disks / Heads||
2 / 4
SATA 3Gb/s or 1.5Gb/s with NCQ
SATA 1.5 Gb/s
|Spindle Rotation Speed||
|Sustained Internal Transfer Rate||
45.8 MB / second
0 – 60°C
5 – 55°C
Idle / Seek
0.8 / 2.3 W
0.95 / 2.6 W
|Acoustics: Idle / Seek||
2.5 / 2.9 Bel
2.5 / 2.9 Bels
Compared to the Momentus 7200.1,
the specifications show a massive boost in sustained transfer rate, and a slight
increase in average seek time, though the latter might be chalked up
to rounding difference. The 7200.2 also updates the interface to full 3.0 GB/s
speed and adds NCQ to the feature list. Best of all, the rated power consumption
is significantly lower — we hope that we see a similar drop in our measured
results. On paper, it’s certainly one of the speediest notebook drives out there,
though it falls into the middle of the pack when full-sized desktop drives are
thrown into the mix.
Our sample was tested according to our standard
hard drive testing methodology. Our methodology focuses specifically on
HDD noise, and great effort is taken to ensure it is comprehensively measured
and described. Performance is not tested, for reasons discussed in detail in
the methodology article. For comprehensive HDD performance testing results,
we recommend Storage
Review, who have a long established reputation as the specialist in
this field. Their review of the Momentus 7200.2 can be found in a
roundup of several 160 GB notebook drives.
The 7200.2 was compared with our reference notebook drive, Samsung
MP0402H, that we profiled in a recent notebook
drive review. It was also compared against its predecessor, the Seagate
Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:
These two types of noise impact the subjective
perception of hard drive noise differently depending on how and where the drive
Both forms of noise are evaluated objectively and
subjectively. Both the subjective and objective analyses are essential to understanding
the acoustics of the drives. Airborne acoustics are measured using a professional
caliber SLM. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter above the top
of the drive using an A-weighted filter. Vibration noise is rated on a scale
of 1-10 by comparing against our standard reference drives.
Unfortunately, AAM (Automatic Acoustic Management) is not supported
as a user-configurable option on the Momentus 7200.2, which means that our standard
means of generating seek noise via the AAM test function in Hitachi’s
HDD Feature Tool could not be used. Instead, seek noise was generated
using the seek test of HDTach
A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments
are relevant to the sample we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There
are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without
Ambient conditions at the time of testing were 18 dBA and 22°C.
NOTEBOOK DRIVE NOISE EVALUATION
Seagate Momentus 7200.2 ST9160823ASG
1.0 W (heads unloaded)
1.2 W (heads loaded)
Seagate Momentus 7200.1 ST910021AS
1.7 W (heads unloaded)
2.9W (heads loaded)
Although it measured 1 dBA@1m lower than its predecessor, the noise quality
of 7200.2 is not really an improvement. Subjectively, the measurement can be
heard in the slightly lower amount of whooshing — the sound of air turbulence
over the disk spinning at 7,200 RPM. However, there was also a high pitched
electronic squeal that was lacking in the original. The squeal was not directional
and could be heard from almost any angle.
Seek noise saw a similar 1 dBA@1m improvement, and this difference was
audible subjectively. The seek noise had a deeper quality with less sharpness
on each individual seek. The volume and the amount of rumble increased a lot
when the drive was placed on a hard surface, indicating that resonance could
be an issue when the drive is hard-mounted.
The level of vibration was much higher than any other notebook drive we’ve
seen. The vibration rating of 7 is the lowest score we’ve ever given a notebook
drive, and there’s no question soft-mounting could improve things here —
it’s the only notebook drive we’ve encountered that actually needs it.
Making things worse is the 7,200 RPM rotation speed, which has a fundamental
frequency of 120 Hz — significantly more audible than the 90 Hz frequency
of a 5,400 RPM drive. The only good thing we can say is that it’s possible we
got a bad sample. It’s so far out of line with our usual expectations (and the
original 7200.1) that we can’t help but wonder if most of samples are better
In comparison to the Samsung reference drive (and most regular notebook drives)
there is no contest. As with the original 7200.1, the 7200.2 sounds more like
a desktop drive than a notebook drive. While we have recommended notebook drives
as ultra-quiet alternatives to regular drives in the past, that recommendation
does not apply in this case.
The brightest spot for the 7200.2 is the amount of power it consumes —
it’s back in line with our expectations for notebook drives, consuming a single
watt in idle, and jumping up to ~3W during seeks. This is a huge improvement
over the 7200.1, which consumed more power than any other notebook drive we’ve
2.5″ HDD NOISE COMPARISON Drive Model
(linked to review)
Idle / AAM / Seek
(10 = no vibration)
Subjective Notes UNIT UNDER REVIEW:
Seagate Momentus 7200.2 ST9160823ASG
20 / ? / 22 7 Seagate’s 7,200 RPM notebook drive updated with perpendicular
recording and fall detection. Fixes the high power consumption of the
7200.1, but otherwise is not much of an improvement. Our sample had higher
vibration than any notebook drive we’ve tested, and the overall noise
level was closer to a desktop drive than a notebook drive.
19 / ? / 20-21 8 The successor of the Momentus 5400.2, featuring perpendicular
recording technology to boost capacity to 160 GB. It also happens to be
very quiet. Subjectively, it’s probably too close to call between this,
the 5400.2, and the Samsung, although the Samsung measures the best. A
very good, if expensive, choice for a quiet system.
Hitachi TravelStar E7K100 100GB
20 / 21 / 21-22 8 Hitachi’s flagship 7,200 RPM notebook drive, competing directly
with the Seagate Momentus 7200.1, and beating it handily in terms of both
noise and idle power consumption. Power management is disabled, as the
drive is targeted at the server and workstation segments, where low power
is not a requirement. Unfortunately, the high rotation speed causes a
lot of vibration, which resonates at the relatively high (and audible)
pitch of 120 Hz.
Seagate Momentus 7200.1 100GB
21 / ? / 22-23 8 Seagate’s performance-oriented notebook drive, with a 7,200
RPM spindle speed that translates into a seek time that approaches desktop
performance. Unfortunately, the faster spindle speed causes corresponding
increases in turbulence noise (at idle) and power consumption. Subjective
noise quality is good for both seeks and idle, but the level of noise
is closer to desktop drives than the super quiet Samsung MP0402H. Vibration
resonance is at 120 Hz rather than the usual 90 Hz for notebook drives.
Seagate Momentus 5400.2 120GB
20 / ? / 20-21 9 Too close to the Samsung MP0402H to crown either drive as
low noise champion, but a very good choice in any case. Idle noise has
slightly more “wind noise” than the Samsung but no high frequency noise
at all. Although AAM is not supported, seeks are completely inaudible
when placed on soft foam. Consumes more power than most notebook drives.
Western Digital Scorpio 80GB 20 / 21 / 21 7-9 Sample variance makes it hard to rank the noise this drive,
but it belongs somewhere between the Samsung notebook series and the Seagate
Barracuda IV. Idle noise is mainly a low frequency motor hum with little
high frequency whine. Seeks are almost too quiet to notice, and can be
characterized as a low rumble. AAM has not effect, but it would be hard
to improve the seeks anyway. Vibration ranged from the level of the Barracuda
IV to below the Samsung MP0402H.
Fujitsu MHT2080BH 22 / 23-24 / 23-24 9 Idle noise is rather disappointing; it sounds undamped and
is louder than the Barracuda IV. Seeks are about average for a notebook
drive, rising about 1-2 dBA/1m above idle. The Fujitsu has the lowest
vibration of any drive tested. May avoid the intermittent clicking problem
common with notebook drives because it waits for 10-15 seconds after a
seek before unloading the heads. Consumes ~0.2W more than other notebook
drives in all power states.
17 / 18 / 19-20 8 The acoustics of this drive are virtually identical
to the Fujitsu MHT2040AT, a considerably slower 4200 rpm drive and the
quietest we’ve encountered. The Samsung is extremely quiet, and there
is very little if any high frequency noise to speak of. It has minimal
vibration, but placing it on soft foam does reduce low freq. noise audibly.
The unit used in the test PC was suspended in elastic string and mostly
surrounded by soft but dense foam. Seek noise is somewhat more audible
than the 1 dBA gain suggests, but very soft.
19 / ? / 20 ? The Hitachi comes very close to the Samsung, but has
a slightly sharper and higher pitched sound, with perhaps a touch more
vibration as well. The seek noise is a touch louder too. When inside
even a very quiet desktop PC, the slightly higher noise level of this
drive over the Samsung may not be audible. The performance is superior,
according to SiSoftware Sandra 2005, and also subjectively.
Toshiba 60GB MK6022GAX 22 / ? / ? ? Slightly louder than the Seagate Barracuda IV single platter
3.5″ reference hard drive. The noise signature has the broadband shhhh
quality exhibited by the Samsung SP 3.5″ drives, but higher in pitch,
a bit like the Seagate. A trace of whine, but not like the Seagate Momentus.
Seek noise is only moderately louder than idle, perhaps by 3 dBA. Vibration
is higher than any of the 4200rpm drives; similar to the Momentus. Performance
seems quite speedy, as it should be with 16 MB cache and 5400rpm, but
inconsistent results with all the benchmarks tried stops me from publishing
Seagate Momentus 40GB ST94811A 24 / ? / ? ? The Momentus has a terrible constant “pure” tone somewhere
in the 6~10KHz range. It drops 2-3 dBA in level when the listener or
the mic faces the edge of the drive because of directionality of the
high frequency whine. Seek noise is substantially higher, probably 3~5
dBA. Vibration is much lower than any 3.5″ drive, but higher than either
of the 4200rpm drives tried. A real disappointment, but it did perform
about as fast as or faster than the Seagate Barracuda-IV.
Fujitsu 40GB MHT2040AT 16 / ? / ? ? The only noise maker in the Mappit
A4F PC, which seemed virtually inaudible to me. The noise is not
inaudible, but very low and soft, easily dismissed in the ambient noise
of all but the quietest spaces. There is no high pitched whine to speak
of, and the seek noise does not seem more than maybe 2 dBA higher than
idle. It is the slowest performer of all the drives here. Extremely
Toshiba 40GB MK4025GAS 16 / ? / ? ? This 8 MB cache 4200 RPM drive offers better performance
than 2 MB cache 4200 rpm drives, and it is identical in both idle and
seek noise to the Fujitsu above. Extremely low vibration.
Seagate Barracuda IV
21 / 23 / 25-26 6 In idle, it remains the quietest of all 3.5″ drives.
This sample is almost 4 years old, but seems unchanged in noise. There
may be a touch of high frequency whine but it is very low in level,
and easily obscured when mounted in a PC case. Seek is considerably
higher, possibly as much as 5~6 dBA. Low vibration, but much higher
than any of the notebook drives.
21 / 23-24 / 25-26 4 The idle noise is a touch higher, and its seek may actually
be lower than the Seagate B-IV. Similar vibration level as the B-IV,
but there are reports of some samples exhibiting much higher vibration
levels. This is cured by HDD decouple mounting (suspension in elastic
material or placement on soft foam), which is virtually mandatory for
a truly quiet PC anyway.
Audio recordings were made of the drives and are presented here
in MP3 format. The recordings below contains 5 seconds of ambient noise, 10
seconds of idle noise, and 10 seconds of seek noise. Drives that feature AAM
(currently all non-Seagate drives) are also recorded with 10 seconds of seek
noise with AAM enabled.
Keep in mind that the recordings paint only part of the acoustic
picture; vibration noise is not recorded, and drives often sound different depending
on the angle from which they are heard.
HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE
These recordings were made
The one meter recording
The one foot recording is
More details about how
we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio
Recording Methods Revised.
As a performance drive, the speedy 7200.2 has its merits. However,
bear in mind that this is Silent PC review. Our bias favors low noise,
and, acoustically, the 7200.2 doesn’t pass muster. Our interest in notebook
drives is largely based on using them as quieter alternatives to desktop drives,
but our 7200.2 sample is no quieter than a good desktop drive, it’s slower,
smaller and four times the price. We could hope this is an anomaly, but without
at least a handful of samples to compare, there’s no way to know.
Taking noise out of the equation, it’s possible to be a bit more
positive. Elsewhere on the web, it has been widely reviewed as the fastest notebook
drive (though this may already have changed with Hitachi’s latest offering).
Power consumption has been brought back in line with most other notebook drives,
and, if you pick up the right model, the G-Force Protection should do wonders
for road warriors.
We have no doubt we are going to see the market for speedy notebook
drives expand, so we look forward to seeing a quiet drive in this category some
time in the future. Perhaps the 7200.3 will win our affection…
Many thanks to Seagate
for the Momentus 7200.2 sample.
SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR’s Hard Drive Testing Methodology
SPCR’s Recommended Hard Drives
Seagate Momentus 7200.1 100 GB SATA Notebook
Seagate Momentus 5400.3 160 GB Notebook Drive
Hitachi E7K100 7.2k-RPM Notebook Drive
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