diglloyd Mac Performance Guide

The Speed You Need

Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB

Last updated June 01, 2009 - Send Feedback

May 21, 2009

The Seagate 500GB Momentus 7200.4 laptop hard drive is the first of a new crop (May 2009) of 500GB 2.5" hard drives spinning at 7200 rpm. The previous speed champ was the 5400 rpm Hitachi 5K500.B (faster even than 320GB 7200rpm laptop drives).

The Momentus 7200.4 offers performance squarely into 3.5" desktop hard drive territory, for your MacBook Pro, MacBook or MacMini.

Even if you only have 100-200GB of data, a 500GB drive should be at the top of your performance-enhancement list, because you need more space than you need.

Note that there are two versions of the Momentus 7200.4; one of them has “G-force protection” (ST9500420ASG). Mac laptops already have this feature built-in, so it’s not necessary to get the “G” version, the regular one (ST9500420AS) is just fine.

Huge jump in performance

How does the new Seagate perform? Incredibly well.

Its performance is nearly 25% faster than the next fastest drive as of May 2009, and a good 30% or so faster than 320GB laptop drives. That’s huge!

Put simply, the Seagate 7200.4 offers unprecedented hard drive performance for laptop users, running about 25% faster than any previous 2.5" laptop hard drive!

The only way you’ll achieve higher performance is with a solid state drive (SSD).

Upgrade immediately?

You can’t go wrong upgrading your laptop with the Seagate Momentus 7200.4. However, by June 2009 there will likely be at least one other 500GB drive on the market (Hitachi). But it’s such a huge performance win that upgrading now is not something you’ll regret.

System transfer is fast and easy with the Voyager Q and Carbon Copy Cloner: clone your existing system to the Momentus 7200.4, swap the drive in your MacBook Pro/MacBook/MacMini, and reboot. Done.

Where to get it

Get the Momentus 7200.4 at site sponsor OWC Computing. OWC is one of the few vendors with a drive replacement guarantee, well worth the piece of mind and convenience. Please give OWC your business by clicking any of the ads or links in this Guide.

Photoshop scratch volume

See Optimizing Photoshop — MBP Results for background. A Photoshop scratch volume needs high sustained write performance.

With a time of 4:15 (255 seconds), performance of the Seagate Momentus 7200.4 is excellent.

Remember, the graph below shows a single laptop hard drive competing against dual enterprise-grade 1TB hard drives in a RAID-0 stripe. It seems probable that dual internal hard drives in the MBP could achieve speeds similar to the eSATA setup.

Seagate Momentus 7200.3
Seagate Momentus 7200.4 vs dual eSATA RAID 0 stripe

Test details

Test machine: 2.93GHz MacBook Pro with 8GB memory and Mac OS X 10.5.7,

The Momentus 7200.4 was partitioned into a 64GB scratch volume, and a boot volume with the remaining space. For the eSATA setup, dual Western Digital RE-3 drives were used to make a 64GB RAID 0 stripe partition, using a Sonnet Tempo SATA Pro ExpressCard/34 and a FirmTek Seritek/2EN2.

Photoshop CS4 was set to use the 64GB scratch volume for the diglloydMedium Photoshop benchmark, which generates a 15.6GB scratch file.

DiskTester

DiskTester fill-volume, MacBook Pro 2.93GHz

The graph below shows performance across the drive as it was filled to capacity with 1000 equal-sized files, written 32MB at a time. This is on the 2009 MacBook Pro 17" 2.93GHz (see review), using the internal SATA port (system was booted off an external drive to allow testing of the entire drive).

See Why you need more space than you need to understand this performance decline across the drive; this is how all hard drives behave.

Seagate Momentus 7200.3
Write and read speed, filling the entire volume
(click for larger image)

DiskTester results

Test mule: MacBook Pro 2009 17" 2.93GHz
SATA hardware: internal port
Driver: Apple standard
Get your own copy of DiskTester for testing your drives, RAID, network, etc.

These results are impressive: the average speed across the volume is faster than most previous-generation drives at their fastest. And at the 60% full mark (300GB), the speed still exceeds the speed of the fastest previous-generation 320GB laptop drive.

--- Averages for "sg500" (1GB/4MB, 3 iterations) ---
Area (463.4GB)    Write MB/sec    Read MB/sec
       0%             95.3            99.7   
      10%             95.5            94.0   
      20%             90.5            94.5   
      30%             89.7            90.4   
      40%             87.0            88.4   
      50%             83.7            84.4   
      60%             79.5            79.8   
      70%             74.8            73.9   
      80%             68.7            68.2   
      90%             61.3            60.9   
     100%             50.5            50.2   
Average write speed across the volume: 79.7MB/sec
Average read speed across the volume: 80.4MB/sec

Conclusions

If you’re looking for a big leap forward in hard drive performance, the Seagate Momentus 7200.4 offers a major leap forward over previous generation laptop hard drives.

Get one at OWC.


The Speed You Need

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