Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B Review

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  • Pros

    • Very fast transfer speeds
    • Low power consumption
    • Quiet operation
  • Cons

    • Slow seek access times

The Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B is a new eco-friendly notebook hard drive that aims to reduce your notebook’s power consumption. This model line-up offers halogen-free production, improved signal processing, and optional encryption for better security. In this review we put the 5K500.B head to head with some of the latest notebook hard drives to measure speed and power consumption to find out if you should replace your drive with a new Travelstar.

Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B Specifications:

  • Up to 500GB Capacity
  • 400G Operating Shock / 1000G Non-Operating shock
  • Altitude-sensing Thermal Fly-height Control (for improved soft error rate)
  • Up to 875Mb/s media transfer rate
  • 1.4W read/write power / 0.5W low power idle
  • Optional Bulk Data Encryption
  • Retail Price: $89

Performance
Notebook storage options keep getting faster and more power efficient as newer technologies like Solid State Drives (SSDs) come to the market, forcing hard drive companies to increase the speed and efficiency of their own drives. Hitachi managed to increase data transfer speeds on the 5400RPM Travelstar 5K500.B drive into the range usually reserved only for 7200RPM drives. They were also able to lower power consumption levels, which help to increase battery life on your notebook or netbook.

In our first run of HDTune comparison benchmarks we can see that the 5K500.B edges out both the Western Digital Scorpio Black and Blue drives in peak and sustained transfer speeds. The one area that the Travelstar falls behind in is access time. When we add the OCZ Vertex 30GB SSD into the equation the tables are turned and the Travelstar is easily outpaced in all categories.


500GB Hitachi 5K500.B 5400rpm HDD


30GB OCZ Vertex 30GB SSD


320GB WD Scorpio Black 7200rpm HDD


500GB WD Scorpio Blue 5400rpm HDD

In ATTO the Hitachi Travelstar still holds the lead against both Western Digital hard drives, but trails behind the OCZ Vertex.

 


500GB Hitachi 5K500.B 5400rpm HDD


30GB OCZ Vertex 30GB SSD


320GB WD Scorpio Black 7200rpm HDD


500GB WD Scorpio Blue 5400rpm HDD

Heat and Noise
Noise from the drive was minimal, even exposed during our benchmarks without any sort of insulating plastic around it. Some motor hum could be heard with your ear stuck next to the drive, but even head seeking noise was barely heard. Contrast this to a drive like the Seagate 5400.5 that you can hear clicking from a foot or two away and the Hitachi is better than whisper quiet.

Heat and power consumption go hand in hand with notebook hard drives, since the drive has to dissipate any power it consumes as waste through its metal body. Heat output was normal in our tests, staying at an average of 40C indicated by the internal temperature sensor. Direct readings from our IR gun measured the surface of the drive at 39-40C.

Power Consumption
Power draw of a hard drive directly affects the battery life in a notebook or netbook. When you consider that most power efficient notebooks and netbooks draw between 6-9 watts in low power modes, you realize that a one watt difference can increase battery life by 11% to 17%. The Hitachi Travelstar had the lowest idle power consumption, just above the OCZ Vertex. Peak power consumption during heavy disk access was also lowest compared to spinning drives, but still above the OCZ Vertex.

Hard Drive Power Idle/Active
OCZ Vertex 30GB    0.41/0.76W
Hitachi 5k500.B 500GB 0.66/2.31W
Seagate 5400.5 250GB 0.85/2.31W
WD Scorpio Blue 500GB                                                  1.00/2.68W
Hitachi 7k320 160GB 0.85/2.71W
Seagate 7200.3 320GB 0.95/3.03W
Seagate 7200.2 120GB 1.00/3.51W
WD Scorpio Black 320GB 1.00/3.51W


Conclusion
It is easy to think that as hard drive manufacturers produce newer and faster drives, that some might start reaching a point where all become close to equal. What we found in this review is some companies, specifically Hitachi, are able to produce a notebook drive that consumes less power, put off less heat (because it consumes less power), and still maintain very fast transfer speeds. As notebooks and netbooks continue to aim for longer battery life any advantage in power consumption is a huge plus. If you save half a watt of power switching to a newer drive, that might mean you gain 30 minutes of battery life on a notebook like the Lenovo Thinkpad T400 or ASUS Eee PC 1000HE that is extremely power efficient. Overall we were impressed by the Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B, living up to its claims of faster transfer speeds and lower power consumption.

Pros:

  • Very fast peak and sustained transfer speeds
  • Low idle and active power consumption
  • Quiet operation

Cons:

  • Seek access times are higher than Scorpio Blue and Black drives


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