by eugene

5400 RPM & Speed: Hitachi's Travelstar 5K250 and WD's Scorpio WD3200BEVT


Since its introduction last summer, Hitachi's mighty Travelstar 7K200 has stood as the only mobile drive capable of delivering true desktop performance in a notebook configuration. Its 200 gigabyte capacity was nothing to sneeze at either. Since then, however, capacities have crept forward, especially in the 5400 RPM sector. The Travelstar 5K250 was introduced alongside the firm's 7200 RPM offering as a slower yet more capacious and more affordable alternative. A few months later, Western Digital debuted the largest mobile drive to date, the 320-gigabyte Scorpio WD3200BEVT. In the pages that follow, we will take a look at how these two 5400 RPM units stack up against other 5.4K and 7.2K units.

Top of the drive

Hitachi Travelstar 5K250

  • 5400 RPM
  • SATA 3 Gb/sec
  • 125 GB/platter
  • 11 millisecond seek time
  • 8-megabyte buffer
  • Available in (GB): 250, 200, 180, 120, 80
Hitachi's first native-SATA notebook drive design, the 5K250 family comes in a wide variety of capacities. Unlike its predecessor, the 5K250 is strictly SATA... no PATA versions are available.
Lowest Real-Time Price (250 GB):
Top of the drive

Western Digital Scorpio WD3200BEVT

  • 5400 RPM
  • SATA 3 Gb/sec
  • 160 GB/platter
  • 12 millisecond seek time
  • 8-megabyte buffer
  • Available in (GB): 320
A new design, the WD3200BEVT is the first mobile drive from WD to feature the 3 GB/sec interface. Unfortunately, this drive is not available in any smaller capacities.
Lowest Real-Time Price (320 GB):

The 250-gigabyte Hitachi Travelstar 5K250 and 320-gigabyte Western Digital Scorpio WD3200BEVT will be compared against the following drives:

Hitachi Travelstar 5K160 (160 GB) Predecessor to the Travelstar 5K250
Hitachi Travelstar 7K200 (200 GB) Current-generation 7200 RPM notebook drive
Seagate Momentus 5400.3 (160 GB) Competing 5400 RPM notebook drive
Seagate Momentus 7200.2 (160 GB) Current-generation 7200 RPM notebook drive
Western Digital Scorpio WD2500BEVS (250 GB) Predecessor to the Scorpio WD3200BEVT





Access Time and Transfer Rate

For diagnostic purposes only, StorageReview measures the following low-level parameters:

Average Read Access Time- An average of 25,000 random read accesses of a single sector each conducted through IPEAK SPT's AnalyzeDisk suite. The high sample size permits a much more accurate reading than most typical benchmarks deliver and provides an excellent figure with which one may contrast the claimed access time (claimed seek time + the drive spindle speed's average rotational latency) provided by manufacturers.

Average Write Access Time- An average of 25,000 random write accesses of a single sector each conducted through IPEAK SPT's AnalyzeDisk suite. The high sample size permits a much more accurate reading than most typical benchmarks deliver. Due to differences in read and write head technology, seeks involving writes generally take more time than read accesses.

WB99 Disk/Read Transfer Rate - Begin- The sequential transfer rate attained by the outermost zones in the hard disk. The figure typically represents the highest sustained transfer rate a drive delivers.

WB99 Disk/Read Transfer Rate - End- The sequential transfer rate attained by the innermost zones in the hard disk. The figure typically represents the lowest sustained transfer rate a drive delivers.

For more information, please click here.

WD's latest turns in a measured average read access time of16.3 milliseconds (ms), shaving nearly two ms off of the mark turned in by the drive's predecessor. When accounting for the rotational latency (5.6 ms) of a 5400 RPM spindle, the WD3200BEVT is left with a measured read seek time of 10.7 ms and handily beats its 12 ms spec. The newer Travelstar's measured score of 17.2 ms slips slightly when contrasted with the 5K160. Subtracting 5.6 ms from the 5K250's mark yields a measured seek time of 11.6 ms, about half a millisecond above the firm's 11 ms claim.

The WD3200BEVT's areal density allows the drive to overcome its slower spindle speed and join the 7200 RPM Travelstar 7K200 as the only 2.5” drive with a maximum transfer rate that exceeds 70 MB/sec. At just under 40 MB/sec, the Scorpio's inner-zone score is similarly impressive. Hitachi's drive builds upon its predecessor here with an outer-zone measurement just shy of 60 MB/sec.

Hitach Travelstar 5K250 Transfer Rate Graph

Western Digital Scorpio WD3200BEVT Transfer Rate Graph



Some Perspective

It is important to remember that seek time and transfer rate measurements are mostly diagnostic in nature and not really measurements of "performance" per se. Assessing these two specs is quite similar to running a processor "benchmark" that confirms "yes, this processor really runs at 2.4 GHz and really does feature a 400 MHz FSB." Many additional factors combine to yield aggregate high-level hard disk performance above and beyond these two easily measured yet largely irrelevant metrics. In the end, drives, like all other PC components, should be evaluated via application-level performance. Over the next few pages, this is exactly what we will do. Read on!





Single-User Performance

StorageReview uses the following tests to assess non-server use:

StorageReview.com Office DriveMark 2006- A capture of VeriTest's Business Winstone 2004 suite. Applications include Microsoft's Office XP (Word, Excel, Access, Outlook, and Project), Internet Explorer 6.0, Symantec Antivirus 2002 and Winzip 9.0 executed in a lightly-multitasked manner.

StorageReview.com High-End DriveMark 2006- A capture of VeriTest's Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004 suite. Applications include Adobe Photoshop v7.01, Adobe Premiere v6.5, Macromedia Director MX v9.0, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX v6.1, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9.0, Newtek Lightwave 3D 7.5b, and Steinberg Wavelab 4.0f run in a lightly-multitasked manner.

For more information, please click here.

The Scorpio WD3200BEVT weighs in with a StorageReview Office DriveMark of 526 IOs per second (IOps) and delivers a respectable 12% improvement over the WD's older 250-gigabyte unit. While WD's drive lags the 7200 RPM Travelstar, it nonetheless secures the highest Office DriveMark we've seen from a 5400 RPM unit.

Hitachi's relative gain is even greater than WD's. At 498 I/Os per second, the Travelstar 5K250 represents a 17% improvement over its predecessor.

The 5K250 leapfrogs over the WD3200BEVT in StorageReview's High-End Office DriveMark. Its 448 IOps build upon the 5K160 with an impressive 24% improvement. The 320 GB Scorpio manages a decent 14% increase between generations but trails slightly behind the 5K250.




Gaming Performance

Three decidedly different entertainment titles cover gaming performance in StorageReview's test suite.

FarCry, a first-person shooter, remains infamous for its lengthy map loads when switching levels.

The Sims 2, though often referred to as a "people simulator," is in its heart a strategy game and spends considerable time accessing the disk when loading houses and lots.

Finally, World of Warcraft represents the testbed's role-playing entry; it issues disk accesses when switching continents/dungeons as well as when loading new textures into RAM on the fly.

For more information, please click here.

In our captures of the disc activity from FarCry and World of Warcraft, the Travelstar 5K250 continues to deliver by scoring the highest marks yet seen for a 5400 RPM drive. Hitachi's drive stumbles slightly in our Sims 2 trace, a test in which WD's unit shines. In all three rounds, however, neither the 5K250 nore the WD3200BEVS can match the raw prowess delivered by the 7200 RPM Travelstar 7K200.





Multi-User Performance

Unlike single-user machines (whether a desktop or workstation), servers undergo highly random, non-localized access. StorageReview simulates these multi-user loads using IOMeter. The IOMeter File Server pattern balances a majority of reads and minority of writes spanning requests of varying sizes.

IOMeter also facilitates user-configurable load levels by maintaining queue levels (outstanding I/Os) of a specified depth. Our tests start with the File Server pattern with a depth of 1 and double continuously until depth reaches 128 outstanding I/Os.

Drives with any sort of command queuing abilities will always be tested with such features enabled. Unlike single-user patterns, multi-user loads always benefit when requests are reordered for more efficient retrieval.

For more information click here.

Under a simulation of a multi-user load, the Scorpio WD3200BEVS scales impressively and delivers the most IOps under heavy load. Despite its slower spindle speed, WD's drive compares quite favorably to the Travelstar 7K200 and Seagate's 7200 RPM Momentus 7200.2. The Travelstar 5K250 delivers a significant across-the-board improvement over the anemic 5K160 though it still lands in the middle of the pack in absolute terms.





Noise and Power Measurements

Idle Noise- The sound pressure emitted from a drive measured at a distance of 3 millimeters. The close-field measurement allows for increased resolution between drive sound pressures and eliminates interactions from outside environmental noise. Note that while the measurement is an A-weighted decibel score that weighs frequencies in proportion to human ear sensitivity, a low score does not necessarily predict whether or not a drive will exhibit a high-pitch whine that some may find intrusive. Conversely, a high score does not necessarily indicate that the drive exhibits an intrusive noise profile.

Operating Power Dissipation- The power consumed by a drive, measured both while idle and when performing fully random seeks. In the relatively closed environment of a computer case, power dissipation correlates highly with drive temperature. The greater a drive's power draw, the more significant its effect on the chassis' internal temperature.

Startup (Peak) Power Dissipation- The maximum power dissipated by a drive upon initial spin-up. This figure is relevant when a system features a large number of drives. Though most controllers feature logic that can stagger the spin-up of individual drives, peak power dissipation may nonetheless be of concern in very large arrays or in cases where a staggered start is not feasible. Generally speaking, drives hit peak power draw at different times on the 5V and 12V rails. The 12V peak usually occurs in the midst of initial spin-up. The 5V rail, however, usually hits maximum upon actuator initialization.

For more information, please click here.

Both review units yield an objectively measured idle noise floor significantly higher than their respective predecessors. The WD3200BEVT cedes about 2 dB/A of ground when compared with the smaller WD2500BEVS whereas the 5K250 comes in about 1 decibel higher than the 5K160 and results in one of the higher scores seen from a notebook drive. Even so, however, both drives in an absolute sense remain very quiet at idle -- one would be hard pressed to hear either drive spinning when mounted in a notebook. Hitachi's drive exhibits a slightly louder “chatter” when seeking when contrasted to the more muted WD.

When seeking, WD's latest hits 2.9 watts of power dissipation and joins 7200 RPM units at the bottom of the chart. The Scorpio's idle measurement of 1.1 watts is similarly high. The Travelstar 5K250 draws 2.6 watts when seeking, 0.3 more than its predecessor. Perhaps more significant, however, is the 5K250's idle score of 0.9 watts. No matter how long a span of inactivity the drive encountered, the 5K250 never approached the 5K160's enviable power draw of just 0.5 watts at idle.

Like its predecessor, the WD3200BEVT is a power hog when spinning up from a cold start and peaks at just under 5 watts. The 5K250 also more or less matches the 5K160 and lands in the middle of the pack.






Reliability

The StorageReview.com Reliability Survey aims to amalgamate individual reader experiences with various hard disks into a comprehensive warehouse of information from which meaningful results may be extracted. A multiple-layer filter sifts through collected data, silently omitting questionable results or results from questionable participants. A proprietary analysis engine then processes the qualified dataset. SR presents results to readers through a percentile ranking system.

According to filtered and analyzed data collected from participating StorageReview.com readers, the Hitachi Travelstar 5K250 is more reliable than of the other drives in the survey that meet a certain minimum floor of participation.

According to filtered and analyzed data collected from participating StorageReview.com readers, a predecessor of the Hitachi Travelstar 5K250, the Hitachi Travelstar 5K100 , is more reliable than of the other drives in the survey that meet a certain minimum floor of participation.

According to filtered and analyzed data collected from participating StorageReview.com readers, the Western Digital Scorpio WD3200BEVT is more reliable than of the other drives in the survey that meet a certain minimum floor of participation.

According to filtered and analyzed data collected from participating StorageReview.com readers, a predecessor of the Western Digital Scorpio WD3200BEVT, the Western Digital Scorpio WD2500BEVS , is more reliable than of the other drives in the survey that meet a certain minimum floor of participation.

Note that the percentages in bold above may change as more information continues to be collected and analyzed. For more information, to input your experience with these and/or other drives, and to view comprehensive results, please visit the SR Drive Reliability Survey.





Conclusion

Perhaps unsurprisingly, neither the Travelstar 5K250 nor the Scorpio WD3200BEVT can touch the Travelstar 7K200 when it comes to sheer performance. As a result, those looking for true desktop-level performance in their mobile rig remain with Hitachi's beast as their only choice. That said, both units reviewed here bring improvements to the table.

Hitachi Travelstar 5K250

The Travelstar 5K250 delivers across-the-board performance gains over the older 5K160 in both single- and multi-user tests. Our only caveat is perhaps a slightly louder than average actuator that yields a subtle yet audible seek noise when the drive is actively retrieving data.

Western Digital Scorpio WD3200BEVT

WD's latest turns in impressive scores when it comes to typical productivity/business-style access, an access pattern that represents the vast majority of use in today's notebook computers. Its prowess under multi-user loads also rivals that of 7200 RPM drives. This speedy showing, however, may also be responsible for its higher-than average power consumption... it matches 7200 RPM drives in its lust for current.

  Review Discussion