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Toshiba MK6022GAX 5400/16mb cache Notebook Drive

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Reviewed today is the MK6022GAX, the highest performance notebook drive in Toshiba‘s lineup: A 5400 RPM, 2.5" drive with 16 mb of cache. It surely performs, but does it plumb the sub-20 dBA depths or remain in more audible >20 dBA territory? Here’s our acoustic report on the Toshiba MK6022GAX.

April 28, 2004 by Mike Chin

This article is a continuation of our effort to identify quiet notebook drives, a process begun with the March 2004 article Is the Silent PC Future 2.5-inches wide? In that article, three notebook drives were assessed for noise, along with two 3.5″ reference standards for SPCR.

The drive being examined today is the MK6022GAX, about the highest performance 2.5″ drive in Toshiba‘s lineup. From Toshiba America’s web site:

The MK6022GAX offers the industries highest areal density per platter, at 49.8 gigabits per square inch. The drive’s 5400 RPM motor speed, improves system-level performance by as much as 12 percent when compared to 4200 RPM drives.

This new drive offers enough capacity for portable video recording and editing, with lower power consumption compared to the traditional 3.5-inch HDDs. This functionality provides ideal storage for a range of commercial and consumer notebooks, as well as non-PC applications such as PDAs, printers, copiers, GPS systems and MP3 players. The MK6022GAX is ATA-5 compliant, supporting high transfer rates of up to 100 megabytes per second.


Sorry for the generic image; my camera’s CF card memory somehow got corrupted…
They all look pretty much the same anyway. Like this:

Selected Specifications: (see the drive spec page for full details)

– 60GB capacity
– Rotational Speed of 5,400rpm
– Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB) motor drive
– 9.5mm High
– 12ms Average Seek Time
– ATA-5 Interface
– 100MB/sec Transfer Rate
– 16MB Buffer
– Power: 5W start, 2.9W seek, 2.5W write, 1.05W idle
– 300,000 MTTF Hours

Unfortunately, no noise specifications are given for this drive.

Here is a summary of this drive, compared to the other drives reviewed in the first 2.5″ drive article.

Hard drive model
Size
Cache
RPM
Capacity
Power*
Toshiba MK6022GAX**
2.5
16 MB
5400
60GB
2.9W
Seagate Momentus ST94811A
2.5″
8 MB
5400
40GB
2.87W
Fujitsu MHT2040AT
2.5″
2 MB
4200
40GB
2.1W
Toshiba MK4025GAS
2.5″
8 MB
4200
40GB
2.6W
Seagate Barracuda IV
ST340016A
(ref 3.5″ HDD)
3.5″
2 MB
7200
40GB
13W
Samsung SP0802N (ref 3.5″ HDD)
3.5″
2 MB
7200
80GB
8.6W
* Power consumption during seek. Max power is at turn on, and about double this, but lasts only a few seconds.
** This Toshiba MK6022GAX drive was made available courtesy of FrontierPC, a SPCR sponsor and Vancouver retailer with an online shop. They deserve much thanks for kindly providing loaners of all the notebook hard drives reviewed by SPCR thus far. Certainly if you are a Canadian or a Vancouverite, I recommend you pay FrontierPC a visit. They have recently moved to larger premises just a few doors from their old West Broadway location.

Several obvious things but still worthy of note:

  • The Toshiba MK6022GAX is only the second 5400 RPM notebook drive to be examined;
  • It has the biggest cache of any drive examined;
  • It is the biggest capacity 2.5″ drive examined to date.

TEST RESULTS

As in the previous acoustic testing, the drive was placed bare, one by one, on a small light side table that stands about 18″ off the carpeted floor. The room is basically an ordinary living room that measures 20 x 10 feet, with an 8′ ceiling and acoustics that represents a balance between very lively and completely damped. An IDE drive adapter was used to power each drive with a fanless PSU.

A highly accurate calibrated B&K model 1613 sound level meter was used for noise measurements.

This professional caliber SLM dates back to 1978, weighs over 10 pounds, and is completely analog in design. It has a dynamic range that spans over 140 dB. The microphone has a 1″ diaphragm that’s very responsive to low sound levels and low frequencies. The unit’s absolute sensitivity reaches below 0 dBA: I have seen it read -4 dBA in the midband (1kHz) for background noise in an anechoic chamber.

The drive was placed on its side, leaning a bit against a heavy thick dictionary to keep it stable. The microphone of the SLM was placed 1 meter away, at the same height as the drive so that it read directly off the large top surface of the drive. If the HDD is allowed to rest flat on the table, and present its side edge to the mic of the SLM, the noise actually drops 1~2 dBA.

The measurements were conducted after midnight on a weekday. The room ambient with no noise sources in the room (other than my breathing a few feet from the test mic) was ~14 dBA.

Only the idle noise was measured, but as I plugged the into an operational PC for listening and general use, I can comment on the subjective noise.

2.5″ HDD NOISE COMPARISON
Drive Model
Idle
(dBA/1m)
Subjective Notes & Seek Noise
Toshiba MK6022GAX
22
The overall noise is 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 is higher in pitch, a bit like the Seagate. There is a trace of whine, but not like the Seagate Momentus. Seek noise is only moderately louder than idle, perhaps by a maximum of 3 dBA. Vibration is higher than any of the 4200rpm drives; it’s probably 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 results.
Seagate Momentus 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 3~4 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 B-IV.
Fujitsu 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 low vibration.
Toshiba MK4025GAS
16
This 8 MB cache 4200 RPM drive offers 30% better performance than 2 MB cache 4200 rpm drives, and identical in both idle and seek noise to the Fujitsu above. Extremely low vibration.
Seagate Barracuda IV
ST340016A
20
In idle, it remains the quietest of all 3.5″ drives. This sample is almost 2 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.
Samsung SP0802N
21.5
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.

CONCLUSIONS

It’s too bad that a sample of the Seagate Momentus was not on hand. While the Toshiba MK6022GAX was clearly quieter that the Momentus, the question of the performance difference between the two would have been good to address. With 16 MB cache, the Toshiba would surely have been the winner.

The inconsistent results obtained with benchmark tests seemed to suggest that the Toshiba is faster than even an IBM/Hitachi 180GXP 120G 7200 RPM 8MB cache 3.5″ drive. I was not prepared to accept this result; the IBM is a very speedy drive, still tops among 3.5″ 7200RPM drives. So it’s back to the drawing board with performance benchmarks for now.

Still, this Toshiba is clearly a fast drive. With the boost of its 16 MB cache, performance is probably at least at the level of standard 3.5″ 7200 RPM drives. The level of noise and vibration are both very low, probably lower than most noise sources you are likely to have in your PC. Some creative noise damping and elastic suspension should get you down to the noise level of the 4200 rpm 2.5″ drives fairly easily, especially since the heat output is still very low.

FrontrierPC’s price on this drive (as I write) is CA$211, which is about US$160. Not low for a 60G drive in general, but not bad if a super low noise but still fast drive is your goal, because there is much less effort and expense needed to silence it compared to 3.5″ 7200 rpm drives. It looks like a worthwhile option to me.

Much thanks to FrontierPC for the loan of the notebook hard drives.

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