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Maximum PC Staff Jan 13, 2009

Western Digital Scorpio Blue 500GB

At A Glance

Miles Davis

Never run out of space on your notebook again!

Jefferson Davis

SSDs and 7,200rpm drives outrun it.

Sometimes it’s OK not to take the medal stand in the race to get a product out first. Take the case of Western Digital’s new 5,400rpm Scorpio Blue 500GB notebook drive. It’s the fourth 500GB mobile drive to hit the market, after Hitachi’s Travelstar 5K500, Fujitsu’s MHZ2 BT, and Samsung’s Spinpoint M6, but the Scorpio is, arguably, better than its competitors.

The Hitachi and Fujitsu products are 12.5mm-high drives, which makes them incompatible with all but the largest notebook computers. While Samsung’s 500GB drive is 9.5mm (like the Scorpio), it’s based on an older three-platter design. The 500GB Scorpio Blue features two 250GB platters to get to its 500GB capacity, which gives it the advantage in power and areal density.

The Scorpio did not disappoint—for what it is. While not capable of SSD speeds, it’s quite fast for a notebook hard drive. We didn’t have its contemporaries on hand, so we compared it to a 5,400rpm 320GB Samsung Spinpoint M6 and an older 7,200rpm 200GB Seagate Momentus 7200.2 (Seagate has since introduced a 7200.3). In our synthetic benchmarks, the Scorpio’s greater areal density gave it an edge against the Spinpoint M6, which we expected. We were a bit more surprised to see the Scorpio outstrip the Momentus 7200.2. The Scorpio reported 63MB/s reads and writes in H2W Bench and 69MB/s reads and writes in HD Tach. The Spinpoint M6 and the Momentus 7200.2 hovered in the low 50MB/s range for reads in both tests, with the Spinpoint M6 actually dipping down to 35MB/s in H2W Bench.

Switching over to 3DMark Vantage and Windows Vista Home Premium, the tables were turned. 3DMark Vantage more closely resembles real workloads by using trace patterns of common tasks for its test. In 3DMark, the Momentus 7200.2’s better random access times put it ahead of the Scorpio by about 25 percent. The Scorpio’s score, though, was about 15 percent higher than the Spinpoint M6’s.

The Scorpio’s idle power consumption is a bit lower than that of the other 500GB units—thanks to its two platter design—with idle power rated at 0.65 watts and reads/writes at 1.6 watts. Other 500GB drives have slightly higher idle power and reads/writes in the 2-watt range.

The Scorpio Blue 500GB isn’t just about performance though, since magnetic-based drives will likely always be slower than SSDs. It’s all about capacity. While a drive such as Intel’s 80GB X-25M will raise eyebrows with its 200MB/s-plus read speeds, fitting your life into 80GB is the difficult part. With the Scorpio Blue, even the most demanding data packrats will be satisfied.

THE VERDICT

Western Digital Scorpio Blue 500GB

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