A close look and listen of the Scorpio Black 750GB and Scorpio Blue 1TB, Western Digital’s fastest and largest capacity notebook hard drives respectively. Whether they’ll be in short supply due to the flooding of WD plants in Thailand is not clear.
November 8, 2011 by Lawrence Lee
Scorpio Black WD7500BPKT
750GB 2.5" HDD
|Scorpio Blue WD10JPVT|
1TB 2.5" HDD
The Scorpio Black 750GB and Scorpio Blue 1TB are the current flagship models of Western Digital’s consumer 2.5" notebook hard drives. Like the desktop Caviar series, the Scorpios are differentiated by a color code, "Black" for high performance and "Blue" for mainstream; The electrically frugal "Green line" is absent however as low power consumption is always a consideration in notebook hard drive design to extend battery life. There’s quite a large performance difference between the Caviar Black and Blue lines and this gap should be amplified in these smaller drives as the Scorpio Black has the added advantage of a higher spindle speed than the Blue (7200 RPM vs. 5400 RPM).
For their respective rotational speeds, both models offer the highest capacity available for a 2.5" drive. The Blue is a bit more impressive in this regard as WD managed to pack 1TB into a standard 9.5 mm thick casing. Only one other drive can boast that, the MQ01ABD from Toshiba; All previous 1TB laptop models required an extra platter pushing the height to 12.5 mm, making them incompatible with most notebooks. The Black isn’t alone either as both Hitachi and Seagate have 750GB 7200 RPM models on the market. We reviewed the Seagate Momentus 750GB a few months ago and it turned out to be a well performing and quiet drive. From previous experience we suspect WD’s candidate will be faster but won’t be able to compete in acoustics.
Specifications: Scorpio Black 750GB & Scorpio Blue 1TB
|Capacity||750 GB (750,156 MB)||1TB (1,000,204 MB)|
|Cache||16 MB||8 MB|
|Interface||SATA 3 Gb/s||SATA 3 Gb/s|
|Rotational Speed||7200 RPM||5400 RPM|
|Transfer rate (sustained)||160 MB/s||150 MB/s|
|Average Latency||4.2 ms||5.5 ms|
|Power: Idle / Seek||0.8 W / 1.75 W||0.59 W / 1.4 W|
|Acoustics: Idle / Seek||28 dBA / 28 dBA||22 dBA / 25 dBA|
|Drive Ready Time||4 seconds||4 seconds|
|Weight (+/- 10%)||0.115 kg||0.11 kg|
|Warranty||5 years (limited)||3 years (limited)|
A specification rundown has the Scorpio Black boasting twice as much cache, a higher sustained transfer rate and lower latency while the Blue has the advantage in acoustics and power consumption. It should be noted that both drives use the (not really) new Advanced Format with 4K sector sizes so if you’re still working with an aging Windows XP system, it’s advisable to use WD’s partition alignment tool when setting up the drive.
Our samples were tested according to our standard
hard drive testing methodology. As of mid-2008, we have been conducting most acoustics tests in our own 10~11 dBA anechoic chamber, which results in more accurate, lower SPL readings than before, especially with <20 dBA@1m SPL. Our methodology focuses specifically on noise, and great effort is taken to ensure it is comprehensively measured and described. Performance is covered only lightly, for reasons discussed in detail in the methodology article.
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. Airborne acoustics are measured in our anechoic chamber using a lab reference
microphone and computer audio measurement system. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter from 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.
Summary of primary HDD testing tools:
Performance Test System:
Performance Test Tools:
A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments
are relevant to the samples we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There
are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without
Ambient conditions at time of testing were 10.5 dBA and 22°C.
HD Tune Performance
While not entirely indicative of real world performance, HD Tune does give us a glimpse into a hard drive’s inner workings. Its transfer rate benchmark measures speed across the entire disk, giving us an idea of how fast it is over its entire span.
According to HD Tune, the Black’s read speed is superior across the entire drive and remains fairly steady until it’s about halfway full while the Blue’s read speed drops fairly linearly. Access times were the same and were not effected by Automatic Acoustic Management settings either (we noticed no acoustic, power or performance difference when AAM was enabled and changed to the quietest setting).
Compared to other drives, the Scorpio Black fares well, just a notch below a couple of Western Digital’s desktop hard drives, the WD10EALS and WD20EARS. The Scorpio Blue is middle of the pack for a laptop drive, edged out by the Momentus 750GB.
Real World Performance
A Windows 7 image loaded with our test suite was cloned to a 50GB partition
at the beginning of each drive and our entire
test suite was run start to finish 3 times with a reboot and defragmentation
in between runs except for the Momentus
XT (defragmentation resets optimizations made to the XT’s flash memory).
Average times were collected for comparison.
The Scorpio Black booted up and loaded games quicker than all the other notebook drives we tested save for the Momentus XT, which has a natural advantage in these types of test: its 4GB of SLC cache. The Scorpio Blue 1TB beat out the older 500GB model but was edged out by the Momentus 750GB.
In application performance the Scorpio Black surprisingly beat out all comers, even the desktop Caviar Blue 1TB. Unfortunately the Scorpio Blue could not boast the same, posting a dismal time in ExactFile resulting in a very poor standing.
Real World Performance (Continued)
The Scorpio Black performed well in our file copy test, losing to the Momentus XT by a hair. The Scorpio Blue 1TB lagged behind somewhat but still managed to be a huge improvement over the 500GB version, particularly in the large file test.
In timed installs of PowerDVD and 3DMark06, the Scorpio Black had an average outing, falling behind all the desktop hard drives compared and the Momentus XT. The Scorpio Blue 1TB was actually beaten by its older, smaller brother by five seconds in the PowerDVD test, giving it a lower overall score. That being said, it still claimed victory over the Momentus 750GB by a large margin.
To gauge more fairly judge the overall performance of the drives, we assigned a score of 25 to the drive that excelled most in each benchmark series (loading, application, file copying, and installation) and the rest proportionally, giving each benchmark set an equal weighting. Of the drives compared, the Hitachi Deskstar 5K3000 2TB was the fastest, scoring a 94.5.
Overall the Scorpio Black 750GB was the speediest notebook drive we’ve come across delivering close to the performance level found in the 1TB desktop Caviar Blue and edging out the Momentus XT. The Scorpio Blue 1TB wasn’t nearly as an impressive, but did manage to come very close to Seagate’s 7200 RPM Momentus 750GB, not too too shabby for a 5400 RPM model.
Low drive power consumption is vital for notebook battery life, and in this regard the Scorpio Blue 1TB excels despite its high capacity. It was fairly frugal at idle (0.89W) and had the lowest draw during seek of any hard drive we’ve tested (1.86W). The Scorpio Black 750GB was on the high side, sucking down 1.18W when idle but only 2.28W when seeking which was lower than most 7200 RPM models.
The Scorpio Black 750G and Scorpio Blue 1TB at idle.
When idle both of our hard drive samples were reasonably quiet with the Scorpio Black 750GB measuring 16 dBA@1m and the Scorpio Blue 15 dBA@1m. The sound they emitted was very soft and inconspicuous though the Black generated a noticeably more prominent hissing sound, undoubtedly because of its higher rotational speed. As you can see from the spectrum graphs above, the Black’s 7200 RPM spindle speed produced a substantial spike at a frequency of 120 Hz.
The Scorpio Black 750G and Scorpio Blue 1TB during seek activity.
The Scorpio Black’s seeks were rather muted while the Blue’s seeks were sharper and more pronounced. It seemed to us the Black was actually quieter in this regard, but because its background idle noise was higher, the Black turned out to be the noisier of the two by about half a decibel.
DRIVE COMPARISON TABLE
NOTEBOOK HARD DRIVES
(10 = no vibration)
Hitachi Travelstar 5K320-250 250GB
1.08 W (0.85 W heads unloaded)
1.34 W (1.16 W heads unloaded)
Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B 500GB
0.7 W (0.6 W heads unloaded)
Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB ST9500420AS
1.1 W (0.9 W heads unloaded)
Seagate Momentus 750GB ST9750420AS
1.06 W (0.85 W heads unloaded)
WD Scorpio Blue 1TB WD10JPVT
0.89 W (0.75 W heads unloaded)
WD Scorpio Blue 500GB WD5000BEVT
0.95 W (0.8 W heads unloaded)
WD Scorpio Black 750GB WD7500BPKT
1.18 W (1.01 W heads unloaded)
WD Scorpio Blue 640GB WD6400BEVT
0.87 W (0.74 W heads unloaded)
Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500GB ST9500325ASG
0.8 W (0.65 W heads unloaded)
While not as quiet as some of the superb 500GB 5400 RPM models of the past, we consider the Scorpio Blue 1TB to be quiet enough especially considering its massive capacity. The Scorpio Black is the loudest 7200 RPM notebook drive we’ve reviewed in quite some time but it’s not that much louder than the Blue and frankly can be forgiven thanks to its superb performance. The Seagate Momentus XT 500GB delivers the best of both worlds but can’t offer as much capacity.
The Scorpio Black 750GB also had a noticeable amount of vibration scoring a 7 on our subjective scale, while the Scorpio Blue 1TB had very little. Hard mounted in a laptop, the vibration would transfer to the chassis unless dampened resulting in poorer acoustics. The vibration level was similar to that of the Momentus XT though, so it seems unavoidable if you want the good laptop drive performance unless you’re willing to sacrifice storage space and use a solid-state drive.
These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11
dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s.
We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from
the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what
we heard during the review.
These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn’t hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn’t record it either!
The recordings start with 5 to 10 seconds of ambient noise, then 10 second
segments of the drive in the following states: idle, seek with AAM enabled (if
applicable), and seek with AAM disabled.
Notebook Hard Drive Comparatives:
WD Scorpio Black 750GB
If you need a big, fast laptop hard drive, the Scorpio Black 750GB is a fine specimen, the speediest model we’ve encountered thus far. Unfortunately it achieves this success by sacrificing its acoustics somewhat. Its vibration level is a bit high and while not really a loud drive, it does emit more noise than other 7200 RPM drives so there’s definitely room for improvement. Of the other 2.5" hard drives that have passed through our doors, only the Seagate Momentus XT hybrid drive keeps pace. Of the two we would have to give Momentus XT the nod as it is a much quieter drive unless of course you need an extra 250GB of capacity — the largest Momentus XT is still only 500GB just as it was more than a year ago when it was released.
If storage space is less of an issue, now is the time to consider a solid state drive. The recent flooding in Thailand where many hard drive assembly plants are located, has driven up hard drive prices dramatically. While SSDs are still significantly more expensive per byte, the price gap between HDDs and SSDs has never been narrower.
WD Scorpio Blue 1TB
For the highest capacity 2.5" notebook drive, the Scorpio Blue 1TB’s power consumption is impressive, particularly when seeking. If you work your hard drive heavily you will probably see a slight improvement in battery life. From a noise perspective, it’s adequately quiet and generates only a low level of vibration. Its performance isn’t anywhere close to drives like the Scorpio Black 750GB or Seagate Momentus XT 500GB, but it does compete well against older, smaller 5400 RPM models and even the 7200 RPM Momentus 750GB. It’s a quintessential WD "blue" drive, a mainstream model that offers a bit of everything. There are quieter drives and faster drives, but if you’re in the market for a well-rounded model with a lot of storage space, it’s a great choice.
Many thanks to Western Digital for the Scorpio Black 750GB and Scorpio Blue 1TB samples.
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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
Hitachi Deskstar 5K3000 2TB 5940RPM Hard Drive
SSD Roundup: Corsair F180 vs. Zalman S Series vs. Kingston SSDNow V+100
OCZ RevoDrive 120GB PCI Express SSD
Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB & Momentus 750GB
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.C 1TB vs. WD Caviar Blue 1TB
Seagate Momentus XT: The Best of Both Worlds?
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