Only Curious Newbie: How are 13 and 15 inch Pros so fast if they have 5400 HDDs?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by akula57, Oct 30, 2011.

  1. akula57 macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2010
    I'm not an expert. I'm looking to buy SOON (tomorrow even?). 15 inch is first choice, 13 inch is cheaper. Some pro-Apple IT people I know love their MBP but mention that the 5400 HDD slows down the i7. Yet the 15 inch, in particular, is considered "a beast." I imagine the size of the HDD plays a role too (at least if it's more than half full). Finally, why hasn't Apple switched from 5400 to 7200 --- battery life, noise or ???. (Not complaining, this is my dream machine --- 6750 card, really nice screen, gorgeous, quality feel, nice to type on, slim, good battery, customer service exists, and so on. Plus, helpful people on boards like this.)

    Is it fast due to OS X being faster than Windows? Or ??? (And not that speed is everything.)

    (The MBA SSD is too small for me and I suspect it could heat up quickly; plus I want an optical drive.)


    Close to buying!
  2. Macman45 macrumors G5


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    For What It's Worth

    My new 17" MBP 16GB ram does bottleneck a little on boot up, even compared to my iMac (also i7 16gb but with 2TB drive)

    I noticed that my pro has a Hitachi drive (500GB) once up and running it IS a beast. Hope you find one that suits you.
  3. vitzr macrumors 68030


    Jul 28, 2011
    5400 rpm hard drives are still the standard for most laptops, with 7200 rpm available as an option. It gives the Mfg (in this case Apple) some additional profit just like any other option. Processor speed is independent of HD speed. With today's processors being so fast even an i5 system will have to wait for a 5400 rpm HD. As a result it's the Hard Drive, even at 7200 rpm that's the bottleneck.

    Moving up to an SSD provides a dramatic boost in speed yet SSD's have their own set of issues as well as being far more expensive.

    It all depends on what you are using your computer for, and how much you want to spend.
  4. Quinoky macrumors regular


    Sep 18, 2011
    Groningen, Netherlands
    Well, it depends on your use. If you need a lot of read/write operations with the kind of work you do, the HDD is going to slow you down. However, most people are likely going to need the incredible computing power of the 15" CPU and GPU (whether it is gaming, rendering, or anything else). This is where the HDD is mostly not the bottleneck.

    As for the 5400RPM vs 7200RPM discussion.. 7200RPM drives do not show that many speed advantages as opposed to 5400RPM. The speed gain is almost negligible. Therefore, the extra heat and noise it produces, and the extra battery life it requires, do not make up for this very slight advantage in my opinion.

    (In fact, I even found the 5400RPM too noisy for comfort and replaced it with an SSD on day 1. I really can't imagine how a 7200RPM would then be. :rolleyes:)
  5. dusk007 macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    The thing you need to understand is that HD speed is completely unimportant once data is loaded into RAM.

    Assuming you mostly run Applications like Browsers, Word, Excel, Skype and similar stuff that needs little to no I/O while running than you can put in an SSD and won't really feel that much difference.
    With todays RAM you startup the Notebook and lanuch the apps once a month and put it in Standby whenever you don't need it. You open it again everything is in RAM. An SSD won't get you a speed boost and a 7200rpm HDD is just a waste and more noisy.
    There is no reason to restart or shutdown your notebook unless a software update requires it. You can keep it running like an iPad for weeks. Use standby for quick shutdown or hibernation if it should suck 0 power.

    You can use a faster HDD or SSD if you need to frequently restart (switching to Windows in bootcamp), often startup different VM, Use applications that need many I/Os (Photoshop with big Raw files, Movie editing), or you do so much stuff that you need to run applications selectively and cannot keep most stuff in RAM.

    In short an SSD can be a huge gain but it can also be a waste of money (if you just learn that frequent restarting is not necessary). A 7200rpm drive can be a little bit better but it can also be an unnoticeable difference and just put out more heat and noise for nothing.

    IMO if you need speed get an SSD, if not(or for data drives) get 5400rpm. In no situation would I ever get a 7200rpm today.
  6. Wattser93 macrumors regular

    Sep 6, 2010
    I would like to disagree. They cut down on latency, and improve random read/write speeds, the very things that make a SSD seem so fast.

    I started with the standard Hitachi 250GB 5400RPM drive. It was terrible, opening Photoshop and Illustrator were painfully slow and unacceptable. I bought a 750GB 7200RPM WD Scorpio Black and it was a huge improvement. Photoshop and Illustrator opened in half of the time because of a combo of platter density and the higher RPM.

    Now I have a SSD and there's no comparison, but the 7200RPM made a huge difference for me while I was using it. It really brought the machine to life.

    They don't disclose what 5400RPM drive they're using, but that's quite a difference IMO. Especially opening many apps at once, that's where the 7200RPM shines. 22 seconds vs 42 seconds is quite a difference.
  7. Quinoky, Oct 30, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2011

    Quinoky macrumors regular


    Sep 18, 2011
    Groningen, Netherlands
    That's the thing, your platter density increased tremendously, together with HDD speed. Tripling your hard drive size, thus essentially tripling the platter density, is very substantial. I doubt you'd seriously notice the difference between two similarly sized 5400RPM and 7200RPM HDD's, but I suppose it may be different in real world use (I base my opinion on these benchmarks:,53.html).

    Edit: By the way, did you notice any difference in noise between your old 5400RPM and your current 7200RPM HDD?
  8. Wattser93 macrumors regular

    Sep 6, 2010
    I rarely use my laptop in silence and didn't notice much of a difference. I usually have iTunes running, a TV on, or something providing ambient noise. In dead silence I could hear it, but it didn't distract me. A lot of people are sensitive to the sound and vibration, it didn't affect me.

    If I listened for it I could hear it, but it wasn't distracting.

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