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Appeared on: Friday, July 14, 2006
Seagate ST9100824A

1. Introduction

- Introduction

Despite the fact that most currently sold laptops include a 5400 rpm HDD, many still come with a lower performing 4200rpm drive. Since the hard disk is one of the major components where speed and overall performance are concerned, upgrading to a faster drive very often becomes a necessity.

Most of the well known HDD manufacturers offer 2.5" 5400 rpm drives, but after searching through users opinions and other online reviews, we decided to give the Seagate 5400 100GB drive a test run. The drive can be used either as an external backup device or as an upgrade to a currently installed, slower drive in a laptop. In this review, we will examine the drive's features along with its reading and writing performance.

- Seagate ST9100824A

The reasons that led us to opt for a Seagate 2.5" drive over those from one of the other well known manufacturers, are:

  1. Seagate offers a 5 year warranty
  2. According to several opinions, Seagate HDDs offer high speed with low operating temperatures

Seagate currently offers both IDE and SATA 2.5" HDD drives. For our tests, we used a Momentus 5400.2 drive with 100GB capacity.

As Seagate claims: "...Seagate Momentus 5400.2 enables the freedom of mobility and enhanced productivity with 5400-RPM performance. Users experience almost 50 percent more performance compared to 4200-RPM drives, but low power consumption enables users to work longer..."

Model Number:ST9100824A
Capacity:100 GB
Speed:5400 rpm
Seek time:12.5 ms avg
Interface:Ultra ATA/100

Features Benefits
SoftSonic FDB motor
Delivers inaudible operating acoustics
QuietStep ramp load technology
Enables whisper-quiet load/unload acoustics and 900 G's of non-operating shock tolerance
8-Mbyte cache buffer
Optimizes performance so applications run fast and smooth
5400-RPM spin speed
Provides almost 50 percent more performance for notebook computers while maintaining battery longevity

  • 4200-like power consumption for maximum battery life
  • Whisper-quiet load/unload acoustics
  • Operating shock of 250 Gs to withstand rugged notebook environment

- Features

Seagate Momentus 5400.2 series provides the following key features:

• 5,400-RPM spindle speed and 8-Mbyte buffer combine for superior performance.
• Quiet operation. Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB) motor.
• High instantaneous (burst) data transfer rates (up to 100 Mbytes per second) using Ultra DMA mode 5.
• Giant magneto-resistive (GMR) recording heads and EPRML technology, which provide the drives with
increased areal density.
• State-of-the-art cache and on-the-fly error-correction algorithms.
• Full-track multiple-sector transfer capability without local processor intervention.
• 800 Gs non-operating shock and 250 Gs operating shock.
• SeaTools diagnostic software performs a drive self-test that eliminates unnecessary drive returns.
• The 3D Defense System, which includes Drive Defense, Data Defense, and Diagnostic Defense,
• Support for S.M.A.R.T. drive monitoring and reporting.
• Support for Read Multiple and Write Multiple commands.
• Support for auto-detection of master/slave drives that use cable select (CSEL).

2. Package - Installation

Usually, 2.5" HDD drives do not come in a retail package, there's really no need since there's nothing to include with the drive. Our HDD drive can in a sealed anti-static bag. The retail price of our ST9100824A was around €140 (depends on your country and VAT). The installation process varies, depending on where you are installing it. With external cases, you open the case and simply connect the drive.

In the case of laptops however, the procedure could be more complicated, especially if the laptop's HDD is not easily accessible. Consult your notebook manual for more information on this. In any case, after the HDD is installed, you will need to format it. If you are installing it in a Windows OS environment, we recommend using the NTFS file format.

We installed our Seagate drive in an external 2.5" HDD case from Akasa (Integral), connected via the USB2.0 port on an Abit IL8 motherboard. We then ran Lavasys Everest Ultimate Edition 2006. The results are shown below:

3. Benchmarks

In order to test the performance of the Seagate ST9100824A, we used HD Tach RW, PC Mark05 and SiSoftware Sandra.

HD Tach RW provides both reading and writing benchmarking on the entire surface area of the HDD.

According to HD Tach, the HDD started with 35Mb/s throughput and finished with 20Mb/sec where the head is at the out layers of the disc. The random access time was 16.3ms, which can be considered as very good.

Next, we ran FutureMark's PC Mark 05 (v1.1.0). This benchmark suite can test an entire system, but we were only interested in the HDD suite of tests. The results are shown below:

The overall score awarded to the HDD is 2975.

The final benchmark was with Sisoft Sandra 2007. This software can compare the measured performance against other tested devices, so that you can get a rough idea of how well or how badly a device performs compared to other devices. By using the Physical Disk Test, we clocked 33Mb/sec throughput with 14ms Random Access Time. These figures, compared with a Fujitsu 2.5" 100GB SATA, look very good, and confirm our belief that the Seagate Momentus 5400.2 is a fast 2.5" drive.

Most laptop users are also concerned about heat and noise. Seagate claims that the Momentus series, runs cool and noiseless, due to its SoftSonic FDB motor. Our problem when the drive was connected with the USB interface, was that couldn't get any information about the temperature at full load using the various software utilities. For this reason, we used a digital thermometer and measured around 39°C surface temperature under full load. A Fujitsu 100GB 4200rpm drive we measured, was quit a bit hotter, at 59°C under full load, (installed on a laptop). Regarding noise..What noise? This must be one the quietest HDD we've ever heard. Seagate appears to have kept their promise about silent drives.

4. Conculsion

Seagate offers the Momentus 5400.2 series as an option for many laptop users who have slower 4200rpm HDDs installed. Most of us understand that higher RPM will bring higher and better performance but also more heat and noise. But this isn't necessarily so!

From what we saw, the Seagate Momentus 5400.2 100GB drive ran cooler and with dramatically less noise compared with a Fujitsu 100GB 4200rpm drive. Backed by a 5 year warranty (very easy RMA process), this is a very attractive solution and a definite winner. We recommend, without hesitation, Seagate's Momentus 5400.2 series drives, for anyone wanting to upgrade the overall performance of their laptop or simply is looking for a fast and reliable drive for daily backup tasks.

As a last note, we would like to mention that Seagate already plans/is shipping the next generation of 2.5" HDD drives, supporting the Perpendicular Recording Technology, that not only increases performance, but also reliability. We don't know if you will be able to find the Momentus 5400.3 series at your local store, but you can certainly ask for it. We certainly had trouble finding it :-)

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