‘Downgrading’ from 7200 RPM HD to 5400 RPM HD sees speed increase?

June 11, 2008

My Macbook Pro was purchased in spring of 2006. At the time, I decided to choose the one hard drive Apple offered that was 7200 RPM – specifically, the Seagate Momentus 7200.1 100GB drive (ST910021AS). Over the past year or so, I found myself constantly running out of disc space, and decided it was time to do something about it. I decided upon the Western Digital Scorpio drive – a 320GB drive that is 5400RPM (WD3200BEVT).

Upon first look at the new drive specifications I was a little worried, as I wasn’t sure the effect dropping down from a 7200RPM drive to a 5400RPM drive would have on my systems performance. However, upon looking at the charts on Tom’s Hardware, I was surprised to see the 5400RPM driving beat the 7200RPM drive in nearly every category. In the following tests, the 5400 drive was shown to be superior:

  • Average Read Transfer Performance (h2benchw 3.6)
  • Average Write Transfer Performance (h2benchw 3.6)
  • File Writing Performance (PCMark05)
  • Idle Power Consumption
  • Interface Performance (h2benchw 3.6)
  • Maximum Read Transfer Rate (h2benchw 3.6)
  • Minimum Read Transfer Performance (h2benchw 3.6)
  • Maximum Write Transfer Performance (h2benchw 3.6)
  • Minimum Write Transfer Performance (h2benchw 3.6)
  • Windows XP Startup Performance (PCMark05)
  • Database I/O Benchmark Performance (IOMeter 2003.05.10)

For the following 4 tests, the 7200RPM drive has superior performance (and it should be noted that other than the Random Access Time test, the 5400RPM drive was only barely beaten).

  • Maximum Power Consumption
  • Random Access Time (h2benchw 3.6)
  • Webserver I/O Benchmark Pattern (IOMeter 2003.05.10)
  • Workstation I/O Benchmark Pattern (IOMeter 2003.05.10)

You can click this link to see graphs of the results and the raw numbers if you are so interested.

Since installing the new drive, my system has ‘seemed’ a bit zippier (of course, if the mind wants it to be, it will imagine it so). I have definitely noticed no negative impact on performance from the drop of 7200RPM to 5400RPM. A large part of this is most likely due to the fact that technology for drives has improved a lot since early 2006 – if I had dropped the equivalent 2006 5400RPM drive in, I would imagine I’d be having much different results! Either way, it is definitely nice to have an extra 200GB of free space in the drive (which I’m sure I will be reporting is almost full shortly).

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