Guide: Comparing Seagate Vs. Hitachi 7200 RPM 100GB Hard Drives

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by Dustin Sklavos, California USA

INTRODUCTION

Nearly a month ago, I reviewed the Hitachi TravelStar 7K100 and decreed, ye verily, it is good. Today I return with its primary rival, the Seagate Momentus 7200.1.

It’s no secret that the two biggest names in the notebook hard disk business right now are Seagate and Hitachi, and if you want pure performance, you go with either of these vendors. These two drives are the best of the best, and in most of the reviews I’ve seen online, the Seagate had a slight edge on the Hitachi. I’ll be putting the two drives through their paces in real world situations as well as general use, and I’ll condense the nonsense into something you can use.

You may want to see my previous review and my original hard disk guide to bring yourself up to speed on terminology, and to familiarize yourself with the Hitachi TravelStar 7K100.

THE SEAGATE MOMENTUS 7200.1

As of the time of the publishing of this article, the Seagate Momentus 7200.1 and the Hitachi TravelStar 7K100 can really only be found as OEM drives: as just the bare drive, sold in a padded box and antistatic bag, with no manuals or extras. While the package I received for the TravelStar 7K100 was a complete retail box, including an external USB enclosure (a very nice addition), I’ve been unable to find that retail box for purchase online. Likewise, I’ve been unable to find the Momentus 7200.1 in a retail package.

The two drives are fairly comparable, but there are some minor differences.




Hitachi has a very complete feature list. (view large image)




Seagate’s Momentus 7200.1 is missing two features the Hitachi has – Automatic Acoustic Management and Power-up in Standby – but also has a slightly larger cache. (view large image)

Storage capacity and rotational speed are identical between the two hard disks.

TESTING METHODOLOGY

The Seagate Momentus 7200.1 was tested against the Hitachi TravelStar 7K100 using the same methodology as in the previous review, and I have included benchmarks from the Fujitsu 4200rpm 100GB drive from that review for reference. All three drives were tested using my Gateway 7510GX laptop, the relevant specifications of which are as follows:

  • Mobile Athlon 64 3700+ (2.4 GHz, 1MB L2 Cache)
  • 1GB PC2700 DDR RAM
  • 128MB Mobility Radeon X600 (400MHz Core, 520MHz DDR Memory)

The drives themselves:

 

  Hitachi TravelStar 7K100 Seagate Momentus 7200.1  Fujitsu MHU2100AT
Rotation Speed  7200 RPM  7200 RPM  4200 RPM
Capacity  100 GB  100 GB  100 GB
Buffer  8MB Buffer  8MB Buffer  8MB Buffer
Connection Type  Parallel ATA  Parallel ATA  Paralell ATA

 

It’s worth mentioning that the Serial ATA versions of the Hitachi and Seagate drives have more features, including Native Command Queuing (NCQ).

As in my last review, this one will be based more on perceptable, real world performance than just a series of benchmarks that mean next to nothing to the average laptop user.

To closer approximate the average user, each drive was formatted and partitioned identically with the following installed:

  • Windows XP Professional SP2
  • Omega Catalyst 6.2 Video Drivers
  • Catalyst 6.3 Southbridge Drivers
  • Doom 3 v1.3
  • Stock Gateway Drivers for all other hardware
  • ATI Tray Tools on startup
  • Norton Antivirus Corporate Edition on startup

Additionally, they were configured to connect to the wireless network in my apartment on startup.

HDTUNE TESTS

This is the most widely used and respected hard disk benchmark on our site, and it’s the one I opened with last time, so I’ll open with it again. Hitachi and Fujitsu scores included from previous article for reference.

Fujitsu MHU2100AT HD Results



Your typical stock notebook drive, the Fujitsu MHU2100AT running at 4200rpm.(view large image)


Hitachi TravelStar 7K100 HD Results



The Hitachi TravelStar 7K100, which mercilessly pulverizes the MHU2100AT in pure performance. (view large image)


Seagate Momentus 7200.1 HD Results



The Seagate Momentus 7200.1, producing comparable performance to the Hitachi, if only slightly slower. (view large image)

I mentioned this in my original hard drive article and it bears mentioning again: the Hitachi absolutely screams. In terms of pure performance, the TravelStar 7K100 is the absolute fastest hard disk you can buy for your notebook.

But let’s break down the numbers, compare, and figure out exactly what we’re dealing with here. I’m going to omit the Fujitsu as, frankly, it’s clear the Hitachi and Seagate are much faster, and it’s not worth measuring how unspeakably better they are.

   Hitachi  Seagate  Difference (Seagate – Hitachi)
 Minimum Transfer Rate  26.1 MB/s  25.3 MB/s  -0.8 MB/s
 Maximum Transfer Rate  52.9 MB/s  46.3 MB/s  -6.6 MB/s
 Average Transfer Rate  41.2 MB/s  37.9 MB/s  -3.3 MB/s
 Access Time  15.3 ms  15.2 ms  -0.1 ms
 Burst Rate  77.7 MB/s  69.5 MB/s  -8.2 MB/s
 CPU Usage  6.6%  7.0%  +0.4%

The smaller differences are within the margin of error; burst and maximum transfer rates aren’t sustained and are more representative of “this is how fast it COULD go.” If we’re going to go by HDTune, the Seagate is slightly slower than the Hitachi, which was expected.

ACCESS TIMES

As before, boot time was measured with the Seagate and found to be by and large inconclusive. The system typically gets hung up on connecting to the wireless network or loading Norton. Outside of those situations, the Seagate and Hitachi are virtually indistinguishable.

I also measured loading time for the first level of Doom 3. Doom 3 is a very demanding game, and it loads a LOT of data off the hard drive. Even on snappier systems, loading Doom 3 can take a LONG time.

Doom 3 Level 1: this game level was used to test load times from each of the hard drives (view larger image)

My old 4200rpm Fujitsu loaded the level in one minute and four seconds (1:04).
The Hitachi TravelStar 7K100 loaded the same level in twenty-six seconds (0:26).
The Seagate Momentus 7200.1 loaded it in twenty-nine seconds (0:29).

   Time to Load Level 1 of Doom 3
 With Fujitsu 4200 RPM HD  1 min 04 secs
 With Hitachi 7200 RPM HD  0 mins 26 secs
 With Seagate 7200 RPM HD  0 mins 29 secs

I remember sitting there with the stopwatch waiting for it to load on the Seagate and going “oh God, the suspense is killing me!” But the difference in loading time is scarcely perceptible.

The last test I performed was a transfer of 28GB of data between partitions.

The 4200rpm Fujitsu finished the transfer in one hour and three minutes (1:03).
The Hitachi TravelStar 7K100 and Seagate Momentus 7200.1 tied at thirty-nine minutes (0:39).

  Time to Transfer 28GB of Data between partitions on HD
 With Fujitsu 4200 RPM HD  1 hour 3 minutes
 With Hitachi 7200 RPM HD  39 mins
 With Seagate 7200 RPM HD  39 mins

Marvel! As different as night and…later that night.

HEAT, NOISE, AND BATTERY LIFE

My poor Gateway has amazing performance, but battery life isn’t its thing. After the Athlon 64 and the X600 have had their piece of the power pie, there’s very little difference left for the hard drive to make. I’ve noticed no difference in battery life between any of these drives.

As for heat, the Seagate and Hitachi are actually pretty comparable, and their temperatures in regular use seemed more affected by ambient temperature of the room the notebook was in than by the drives themselves. The most amusing part is, of course, that these drives idled at lower temperatures than the 4200rpm Fujitsu did. Under load, they also both hit the same temperature, topping out at 52C.

And noise? I do have to credit the Seagate as being the quieter drive, but the difference is pretty nitpicky. If you put your ear up to the notebook while the drive is under load, the Seagate remains difficult to hear, while the Hitachi is a little easier to pick up. However, neither one can really be heard over the notebook’s fan, let alone music.

IN PRACTICE

In practice, the drives feel pretty much the same. In fact, I’d venture to say that if you had one in your notebook, and someone randomly switched them without telling you, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference (assuming the new one was properly imaged and blah blah blah).

Prior to writing this article and reviewing the Seagate, I was admittedly a little stressed. Both Hitachi and Seagate graciously provided me with their top of the line drives to review, and it’s safe to assume they both wanted the good press their drives would likely earn.

You can imagine my relief when the drives performed nearly exactly the same, ceding extremely minor victories back and forth. There’s no clear cut “winner” because 99% of users just aren’t going to experience a difference between one and the other, but they WILL experience a difference going from a 4200rpm or 5400rpm to either of these drives.

But I do have to be honest; using these high end Seagate and Hitachi drives, I couldn’t tell one from the other.

CONCLUSION

At the end of the review for the Hitachi TravelStar 7K100, I said Seagate had their work cut out for them trying to eclipse it. This has remained true, and Seagate was unable to eclipse the Hitachi. However, the Hitachi doesn’t exactly eclipse the Seagate either, and I have to declare a draw.

What’s important to note is, as I said before, either one will improve the performance of your system if you’re still on a 5400rpm or 7200rpm speed hard drive.

In fine NotebookReview.com tradition, I’ll list the pro’s and con’s of either drive:

 

   Hitachi 7K100 7200RPM / 100GB Seagate Momentus 7200.1 7200RPM / 100GB
Warranty  3 year 5 year
 Noise Slightly louder Slightly quieter
 Speed Slightly faster Slightly slower

 

Six months ago, this battle would’ve been won based on price: Hitachi had better market penetration and their drive was a full $80 cheaper. But now? The biggest lead in price I’ve seen the Hitachi have is $20, and if you shop around you can find either one for about the same price. Notebook hard drive prices have tanked in the last six months; these two were fetching $300 price tags and can be had for less than $200 apiece now.

Ultimately, I can happily recommend either drive, and for you it’s just going to be a matter of personal preference.

I’d like to thank Hitachi and Seagate for providing me with the opportunity to review these drives.

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