problem is that hard drives are often the slowest part of a computer.
While everything else is measured in nanoseconds, HDD access speeds
are measured in milliseconds. They are the weak link in the chain as
CPU and GPU
performance doubles every couple of years.
are slower than SSDs, there is a wide range of performance offered to
consumers. Most hard drives in the 2.5 inch mobile HDD market range
from 4200 RPM to 7200 RPM, with varying amounts of DRAM cache. The
slower drives are typically cheaper and sap less battery
However, the difference in power consumption and battery
life between 7200 RPM and 5400 RPM drives continues to decline on a
yearly basis. Larger versions of 7200 RPM HDDs come out every year,
close to or at the same time as their 5400 RPM counterparts.
problem is that OEMs like Dell, HP, and Lenovo often charge a large
premium when moving to faster and higher capacity hard drives. It is
often cheaper for consumers to purchase an upgrade and install it
themselves, rather than have it upgraded at the factory.
Price-sensitive or unknowledgeable consumers may instead stick with
what the OEM has selected for them,
Things are about to
change. Challenged by the near-instantaneous boot times of SSDs, many
OEMs are starting to offer more 7200 RPM HDD options at lower price
points. Some are even using 7200 RPM drives by default, especially in
desktop replacement and workstation notebooks.
difference can be quite large. 7200 RPM drives have a theoretical 33%
performance advantage over their 5400 RPM peers. However, the
performance delta can be even greater if the 7200 RPM drive has more
cache and higher areal density, which enables the spindle heads to
read more data.
Seagate is the leader in sales
of 7200 RPM HDDs, with a 44% market share. They expect notebooks
and netbooks to transition very quickly from 5400 RPM to 7200 RPM
drives, with 50% adoption in 2011. The majority of mobile PCs will
use 7200 RPM hard disk drives in 2012, according to their market
No doubt new mobile hard drives featuring larger
cache sizes, support
for 6Gbps SATA, and larger capacities are forthcoming, but when
we'll see them still depends on consumer demand. The first mobile
chipsets from Intel supporting 32nm
Sandy Bridge processors and 6Gbps SATA are expected to hit
the market in early 2011.
You might not be able to afford a
SSD right now, but a 7200 RPM HDD upgrade might be an option worth