once and for all: 5400rpm vs 7200rpm

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by 617media, Apr 8, 2010.

  1. 617media macrumors member

    Feb 25, 2010
    I have searched and read plenty of **** on this topic for replacement HDs and it is always just arguing back and forth with no real consensus.

    Some people say it drains battery life significantly (1-2 hours). Other people say it's barely noticeable.

    Some people say the speed is significantly faster. Others say it is barely noticeable.

    What the **** riht? I am trying to place an order on New Egg and it is driving me crazy.

    How could a drive that spins 1,800 revolutions per minute faster than a 5400rpm drive NOT be significantly faster?? I do a fair amount of FCP/advanced media production stuff, lots of rendering, photoshop, other heavy apps. I frequently have many programs, windows, music, transfers etc going at once.

    In my shopping cart I have the Seagate Momentus 7200rpm 500gb drive, it seems like a really solid drive and a great price but I can't read any reviews anymore they are always just back and forth and mess with my head.

    IF it will really cut my battery life down in a significant way, then I was considering going with the Seagate 5400rpm 640gb drive. I hate looking up from doing work on a trip to see that your battery is almost dead and you aren't even half way there yet... I don't care about noise that much, as long as it's not obnoxiously loud.

    Could someone please put this at rest.

    oh and i have a macbook pro 13inch unibody 2009

  2. spinnerlys Guest


    Sep 7, 2008
    forlod bygningen
    The battery life "cut" depends on the battery's capacity.

    I have the Seagate you want in my 17" uMBP and battery life is quite good, five to six hours with doing normal stuff like surfing and such.

    Also using the OS drive for any kind of media you work with is not recommended, as it slows down the whole process and also puts a lot more strain on the HDD, especially with video.

    Also there will be no end to that discussion, not with your thread and not with the one someone opens up in a year or three.
  3. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    I would jump for Western Digital's Scorpio Blue. While it's a 5400rpm drive, it performs as fast as most 7200rpm drives but no heat, battery or vibration issues
  4. Penguissimo macrumors 6502a


    Nov 17, 2009
    There's no consensus for the following reasons:

    1) Many different manufacturers make hard drives. In addition, each manufacturer makes several different models. Since there are only a few standard rotation speeds, but many other factors that vary from model to model, it makes no sense to reduce the issue to "what is the difference between these two rotation speeds?? JUST TELL ME!" This would be akin to asking "Which is more filling, burritos or pizza??" You can't answer this question without knowing how much someone is eating, what their body is used to, how their digestive system works, and what kinds of burritos/pizza we're discussing.

    2) To elaborate on that, rotation speed is not the only determining factor in a hard drive's performance. Other things can include seek time, cache size, platter density, etc. Different models will all differ on this. And there are many companies now making "green" drives that promise reduced power usage; the different design decisions that manufacturers have made in order to achieve this will also differ from drive to drive.

    3) Also, sometimes different people use their computers for different things. Some people do things that require lots of sustained, long writes. Others do things that require lots of random reads. A hard drive that's great for a database server might be terrible for someone doing video editing.

    4) Also, sometimes people have different models of computer from one another. Different manufacturers have released different models for several years. Drive X might perform wonderfully in my computer, but be terrible in yours. Maybe your battery is weaker, or my computer has a more efficient system bus, or....any of a thousand other things, really.

    5) People also sometimes use different operating systems from one another. Some choices include Mac OS X, Windows (of which there are many versions), and Linux (again, many versions). These OSes all use the hard drive differently, and it's a fair bet that most of those NewEgg reviews are not from Mac users.

    6) OS configuration can also affect hard drive performance. As an example, you can set OS X to spin down the drive after a period of inactivity. And some drives may take longer to spin back up when needed.

    7) And, perhaps most importantly, real-world hard drive performance is relatively subjective. Sure, you can benchmark read-write speeds and the like, but most people will go with how something "feels", which is again subject to a number of factors that may have nothing to do with the hard drive.

    To recap, you can't get a straightforward answer to "What's the difference between a 5400RPM and a 7200RPM drive??" because there are many, many differences that have nothing to do with rotation speed, and an individual user's computer, operating system, and usage habits all affect performance just as much as hard drive choice.

    Hope this helps :)
  5. G5isAlive macrumors 6502a

    Aug 28, 2003
    Theorists will drive you crazy

    I made the switch from standard apple 5400 to a WD 7200 and while i haven't gotten out my stop watch for that 2.2% variation I can say there was NOT a noticeable impact on battery life but it WAS noticeably faster on launching apps etc.

    Go for it.
  6. Nano2k macrumors regular

    Nov 6, 2009
    My experience on a late 09 MBP 15", original Hitachi 500gb to 2 years old WD Black.
    It is a lot faster but you definitely can hear that swoosh sound (which almost disappears when you lay your palm on the case). I actually switched back to the old hdd to double check the noise difference and decided it wasn't that bad at all.
  7. 617media thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 25, 2010

    word. ya that makes sense and is helpful for sure thanks. then in your guys opinions which drive would YOU personally buy if you had a 13 inch Macbook Pro Unibody 2009 with 4gb ram, 2.4ghz and stock nvidia card?

    A. seagate momentum 7200rpm 500gb
    B. seagate momentum 5400rpm 640gb
    C. Western Digital scorpio blue 5400rpm 500gb

    The caches on all the major internal HDs you can buy for that price range and storage size all seem to be the same, along with all the other specs..

    As for the Scorpio BLue or whatever, I know most of the reviews are BS but I saw several comments about how it had major compatibility issues with Macbook pro 2009s in general?

    And also, were you implying I should be running FCP/AFX/Photoshop off an external or raid setup? Although I understand the benefits of that, it's also very inconvenient... I could designate an external drive for the capture scratch in FCP for instance, which is the proper thing to do. But I don't want to have to be connected to an external to actually open and run my programs. Otherwise it kind of defeats the purpose of a mobil laptop workstation
  8. snaky69 macrumors 603

    Mar 14, 2008
    The external would be used as a scratch disk only, not for the apps themselves, this would speed up the process since the external does not have to run an OS as well as allow quick read/writes.
  9. neteng101 macrumors 65816

    Jan 7, 2009
  10. Relznuk macrumors 6502


    Sep 27, 2009
    UT, USA
    I have a high-end seagate 7200RPM drive, and it makes very little difference to my battery life. I moved from a 5400RPM 250GB Hitachi. I tested battery life empirically by playing the movie "Twilight" on endless loop on each set up (playing the movie from the hard drive). I used a simple counter app that communicates with the internet and emails me it's "kill time."

    On the stock hard drive (250G) I got 4 hrs, 32 minutes.

    On the 7200RPM drive, I got 4 hrs, 21 minutes.

    This test was done using a mid-2009 2.53ghz 15" Macbook Pro with 4GB Ram.
  11. 617media thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 25, 2010
    Doesn't Apple install Hitachi drives as their standard anyways? Thats kinda intriguing. If you have a range rover and bring it in to get serviced, most of the time you want it replaced with range rover parts... not Ford or another company right.

    I was just going off of Seagate and WD cause those 2 big name brands.

    Unless anyone else says otherwise I think I am goin to go with that. thanks a lot man
  12. apw100 macrumors regular

    Jan 24, 2010
    Jacksonville, FL
    Definitely use an external drive, preferably Firewire 800, for the scratch drive and to store your project files. This will have a much greater effect on Photoshop/FCP performance than a boot drive upgrade, which will mainly effect the speed of your OS and loading programs.

    You probably don't need to go the RAID route unless you will be doing serious HD/2K or 4K work. Just get a fast 7200rpm Firewire external drive and you should be fine. Here is a good choice...
  13. dscuber9000 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 16, 2007
    Indiana, US
    I just got a Western Digital Scorpio Black (7200 RPM) and it is quieter and much cooler than the 5400 RPM drive that came with my MacBook Pro. I noticed that the battery life is a good 30-45 minutes less, but I'm fine with that since everything opens and saves a lot faster.

    I noticed my MBP turns on a lot faster too, though I'm not sure why a new hard-drive would contribute to that. :p
  14. m85476585 macrumors 65816

    Feb 26, 2008
    There is no answer. There is no way to put this to rest. Speed and power use depend strongly on the drive, and even within the same manufacturer, speed and power use of new drives will be different as technology evolves.

    Speed is related to data density, rotational speed, latency, and cache size. Faster rotation should make a drive faster all else equal, but if one drive has a higher data density, it might be faster than a less dense drive spinning at a higher speed.

    Power use depends on the construction of the drive, power use of all its components, and power management. Higher rotational speed generally takes more power, but an inefficient slow drive could use just as much power as a highly efficient fast drive.

    Tom's Hardware has a great chart comparing most drives on the market in terms of speed, latency, benchmark results, and power use. You will see that there is no one answer, and power use is especially unpredictable.

    I'm waiting for them to test the Samsung M7E 640gb 9.5mm.

    I'm adding this to the MBP FAQ to hopefully reduce the number of questions on this topic.
  15. kjaxplicit24 macrumors regular

    Nov 18, 2009
    Hitachi for sure! I've done my research as you have, and hitachi is the clear winner...imo of course
  16. Libertine Lush macrumors 6502a

    Nov 23, 2009
    Thanks for that great link. There's so many benchmarks there, however, I don't have enough tech-savvy to understand what most of them mean and what direct real life activity would correlate with each. Would you be able to say which benchmark(s) would be most pertinent to the average user?
  17. 617media thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 25, 2010

    yeah no doubt... the only reason I am replacing the OEM drive because A. its tiny 160gb and B. I have to clone on over my old drive from my black macbook which ironically, is 250gb and filled to the brim.

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