The acoustic footprint of a hard drive has become one of its most important attributes—especially for PC enthusiasts who have built themselves near-silent systems. We're a little OCD here at TR, so we've constructed a Box 'o Silence to test the noise emitted by mechanical hard drives. This 18" x 20" anechoic chamber is lined with acoustic foam, and we suspend hard drives inside it, exactly 4" away from the tip of our TES-52 digital sound level meter. You can read more about the setup here.
To ensure the lowest possible ambient noise levels, we swapped the test system's graphics card for a passively cooled Gigabyte model and unplugged one of the Frio CPU cooler's dual fans. Noise levels were measured after one minute of idling at the Windows desktop and during an HD Tune seek test.
We've color-coded the results by manufacturer to make the graphs easier to read. Because they have no moving parts and are essentially silent, the SSDs are missing from the noise results. When they do appear in the graphs, the corresponding bars are greyed out to set apart what is really a different class of PC storage.
The Desktop SSHD is pretty quiet for a 7,200-RPM drive. It has lower noise levels than the Barracuda 3TB at idle and under load. Seagate's desktop hybrid is quieter than the Black 4TB, too, and by a pretty wide margin when we take seek chatter into account.
Of course, the 5,400-RPM WD Reds are quieter overall. Slower spindle speeds tend to produce less noise. So do smaller notebook drives, which is why the Momentus XT and Laptop Thin SSHD tend to have lower noise levels than the 3.5" drives.
Power consumption was tested under load with IOMeter's workstation access pattern chewing through 32 concurrent I/O requests. Idle power consumption was probed one minute after processing Windows 7's idle tasks on an empty desktop.
Power consumption isn't a huge concern for desktop systems that plug into wall sockets and have plenty of internal cooling. Differences of a few watts won't have a big impact on your monthly utilities bill. Still, it's nice to know that the Desktop SSHD is relatively power efficient. Despite adding cache memory, it consumes about a watt less than the Barracuda 3TB. Of course, drives with more platters tend to draw more power; the 'cuda has an additional terabyte to spin.
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