Our test results show very clear performance differences between the 2.5" mobile Serial ATA hard drives we assembled. At times, those performance differences were surprising, as we certainly didn't expect to see Seagate's Momentus 5400.2 beating Hitachi's Travelstar 7K100 in so many tests. We also didn't expect the 7K100 to falter so much in IOMeter, or for either Travelstar to perform so strongly in our iPEAK multitasking tests. Those iPEAK results in particular make it clear that the Travelstar drives are capable of spectacular performance. However, whatever caching and command queuing optimizations cause them to do so well in our multitasking tests appear to be hindering performance in other applications.
Although the Momentus drives didn't fare so well in iPEAK, they did offer better overall performance throughout the rest of our test suite. WorldBench performance was particularly strong, suggesting that the Momentus drives are better suited for the kinds of desktop applications that typically face laptop users. In fact, given the performance we've seen today, I'd actually recommend a 5,400-RPM Momentus 5400.2 over a 7,200-RPM Travelstar 7K100 for most users.
The Momentus recommendation is even easier to make given the fact that Seagate's five-year warranty gives users an extra two years of coverage compared to Hitachi. You don't pay much of a premium for the extra coverage, either, as there's little difference in price between comparable Momentus and Travelstar models. There's little difference between their noise levels and power consumption, as well, making the Momentus drives an even clearer choice.
Of course, just narrowing our recommendation to Seagate's Momentus family wouldn't answer the second question we posed at the start of this comparison: whether there was much of a performance difference between 5,400- and 7,200-RPM notebook drives. Our Momentus test results show that there can be a sizable and consistent gap in performance, and there really isn't much of a price premium associated with the faster spindle speed. In fact, the Momentus 7200.1 100GB we tested today is actually available for about $15 less than the 5400.2 120GB. Sure you lose out on 20GB of capacity, but the 7200.1 already weighs in at 100GB, and we'd rather have the faster performance.