Top Notebook Drive Battle: Seagate versus Western Digital at 750GB

In a world of ever increasing hard drive sizes on the desktop, most laptop consumers still find themselves being limited to laptop drives no bigger than 640GB. Vast majority of laptop vendors don’t include large capacity drives with their laptops unless they are customized that way online. As a result, many people end up finding themselves wanting to upgrade to a bigger and more importantly, faster drive.

Users with larger pocketbooks can take the SSD route and get a nice SSD to improve performance – while still taking a hit on capacity. If an increase of capacity and performance are what you?re looking for then you?d likely want to look to a 500GB or larger HDD. Right now, laptop drives go all the way up to 1TB but in many cases those drives are fairly slow – spinning at 5400rpm or less. This is where the 750GB drives come in, both Seagate and Western Digital have 750GB offerings spinning at 7200rpm, i.e. desktop speeds.

The combination of 750GB Capacity, 16MB of cache and 7200rpm properly fills the need for upgrading a laptop hard drive.  As a result, we will be looking at today which of these two manufacturers? drives is the fastest as well as which is the best value.

Specs and Background Data
Specifications wise, both drives seem very similar. Both are 2.5" laptop drives that utilize the SATA 3.0Gbps interface, and both drives are 7200RPMs with 16MB of cache. In that sense, both these drives appear to be the same on paper. This is why we chose to compare these two drives side by side to give them a fair comparison. Both the Western Digital Scorpio Black and the Seagate Momentus are very comparable and both companies sent us their drives at around the same time.

Here we have a few snapshots of both HDDs top and bottom, they really aren?t anything special to look at but they are thin and fast.

The duel of Three Quarter TeraByte chargers: Seagate Momentus versus Western Digital Scorpio Black Edition

The duel of Three Quarter TeraByte chargers: Seagate Momentus versus Western Digital Scorpio Black Edition

Nothing special on the back: On the left, Seagate Momentus. On the right: WD Scorpio Black

Nothing special on the back: On the left, Seagate Momentus. On the right: WD Scorpio Black. Do note that both laptop drives protect their electronics by putting the silicon chips on the inside

For these drives, we used our hard drive testing bench system:

  • Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD5 Rev2 Motherboard [Provided by Gigabyte]
  • Intel Core-i7 i975 Extreme Edition [Provided by Intel]
  • 6GB of Kingston HyperX T1 DDR3 RAM @ 1333MHz [Provided by Kingston]
  • Coolermaster UCP 1100W PSU [Provided by Coolermaster]
  • Kingston 128GB V Series SSD [Provided by Kingston]
  • 750GB Western Digital Scorpio Black [Provided by Western Digital]
  • 750GB Seagate Momentus [Provided by Seagate]


AIDA64 (Formerly Everest) ? Read Test Suite ? 64KB Blocks
AIDA64 Benchmark - As you can see, WD has the lead in every test but the buffered read

When we take a look at the read test suite?s data we can see that there are 5 different types of reads that are tested. The Western Digital Scorpio Black is faster than the Seagate Momentus in every single category except for in Buffered read. Based on our data, it looks like all other drives we tested, regardless of size and speed performed better in the buffered tests than the WD Scorpio Black. By the looks of it, Western Digital appears to sacrifice a little buffered read for overall better performance everywhere else. Furthermore, it appears that for the linear read and random read, the WD Scorpio is about 10MB/s faster than the Seagate Momentus. As we continue to test, we will see if this performance trend continues.

Cinebench CPU
Cinebench CPU test shows miniscule difference between the two drives (loading phase)

Cinebench itself is actually a CPU test bench program, but what we do is run Cinebench off of the tested HDD. As a result, the program?s performance will vary depending on how quickly it can draw from the 11,000 little files that it needs in order to render and therefore generate a score. When it came to the two drives, the performance difference was there but it was close to negligible. The difference was .03 out of 6.0 which is only half a percent of difference when it pertains to Cinebench. We ran the test multiple times and each time, the difference was 0.03 on the index.

Hyper Pi
Hyper Pi test shows no difference at all - but you'll see the difference between these and faster desktop drives in upcoming weeks

HyperPi follows a similar principle that Cinebench does, but it is a more memory intensive application and the speed in this application also does depend on the hard drive a bit. In the case of these two drives, though, there was no difference once we took the averages of all our tests. Of course not all the drives we tested the same, some of our faster and bigger drives did perform better, but they aren?t in this comparison so we won?t include them.

CrystalMark clearly shows that Western Digital's drive is in the lead

When it came to CrystalMark we ran the full suite of benchmarks on both drives and noticed that in sequential reads the Western Digital Scorpio Black
pulled away even further from the Seagate Momentus than it had in our AIDA64 test. In addition to that, the 134MB/s speed was better than many of our desktop drives that we had tested with the exception of the Barracuda XT 3TB and the Velociraptor; expectedly so.

When we look at the sequential writes, we see the gap significantly narrow to 2MB/s which is barely even worth noting. Once we got to the 512K reads, we got back to the 10MB/s gap. But once we took a look at the writes we noticed a huge gap, a gap of 25MB/s where the WD Scorpio Black was at the top with 80MB/s. Going over to 4K reads, we notice that the performance difference is definitely there again but both of these two drives still performed towards the bottom of our HDD lineup as far as 4K reads went. The story with 4K writes, though, is totally different. The Seagate Momentus simply continued the expected performance trend, while the Western Digital Scorpio Black seemed to buck the trend in a big way. It not only tripled(2.153 MB/s) the 4K writes of the Momentus, but it was the second best hard drive we had tested to date, second only to its faster 600GB Velociraptor brother(3.387MB/s). This was primarily thanks to the Advanced 4K Formatting feature which allows the Scorpio Black to have improved 4K performance compared to previous generations or other drives without it.
Seagate Momentus 750GB ATTO Benchmark Results: the drive did not reach 120MB/s in any of the tests   Western Digital Scorpio Black Edition 750GB ATTO Test Results
When it comes to ATTO, there really isn’t much to talk about beyond the bar graphs that are illustrated with red and green read and writes. The Seagate Momentus is on the left while the Western Digital Scorpio Black is on the right. As you can see, the Scorpio Black is mostly over 120MB/s while the Momentus stays just shy of 120MB/s.

Temperatures and Noise

We also decided that we were going to include temperatures into our reviews since temperature is becoming an ever important factor when installing a laptop drive. The average temperatures that we experienced with the two drives were that the Seagate Momentus ran much cooler than the Western Digital Scorpio Black and that the delta for the Momentus was basically 0. The Momentus consistently ran at 22C throughout our tests while the Scorpio Black ranged between 23C and 27C attaining a delta of 4C and a max temperature of 27C. 27C is still fairly cool, but it may be something to consider when thinking about how hot the rest of your laptop may already be and how much hotter it could run.

Our drives were tested in open air as opposed to inside of a laptop where they would definitely run hotter. The program we ran to monitor our temperatures was HDD temperature from BinarySense. Both drives were barely audible compared to our desktop drives and there was very little to no difference between the loudness of the drives.
When it comes to value, the Western Digital Scorpio Black has the highest price, but it also has the best performance and best warranty at 5 years. The Scorpio Black goes for $110 on Newegg right now while the Seagate Momentus goes for $99. Both are currently showing a price drop of $10. The Momentus, though, does not really sit much behind the Scorpio Black and considering that it’s about 10% less, the general 10% less performance isn?t necessarily much of a pitfall. The only thing is that the Momentus only comes with a 3 year warranty, which also means you lose some warranty as well as performance for a cheaper drive. So, in reality, neither of the drives is necessarily a bad value and to be honest, both drives are a pretty good deal. The only thing you need to weigh is whether or not the extra $10 is worth the extra warranty and performance; we would be inclined to agree.

In conclusion, we would like to state that both drives performed extremely well, but that the Western Digital Scorpio Black outshined the competition. If performance is your number one goal, then the Scorpio Black is our number one recommendation. If you?re on a little more of a budget then the Seagate Momentus is still a great drive as well, based on our performance and value assessments we would still have to crown the Western Digital Scorpio Black the winner.

Based on our findings, we chose to award the Western Digital Scorpio Black Editor?s Choice for Prosumer/Enthusiast:

Editor's Choice 2011 Award: Western Digital Scorpio Black Edition