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Toshiba 200GB 4200RPM 2.5" Hard Drive

Date: October 18, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams

It has been a while since we’ve seen a capture of the top spot in the mobile storage market, but Toshiba has come along and delivered a 200GB 2.5″ drive. What the drive adds in extra storage though, it takes away in speed.


One thing is for certain. The mobile storage market is one that’s constantly moving, but has yet to catch up to it’s desktop counterparts. Earlier this year, Seagate released their Momentus 160GB mobile drive, based on PMR technologies. Thanks to PMR, new heights can be reached. It’s responsible also for Seagates top desktop drive, the Barracuda 750GB.

While the top desktop drive is a staggering size though, the highest end mobile drive up to this point has been the 160GB. That’s quite a step down, but is still cream of the crop when it comes to your laptop storage. With the great density, performance is held back when comparing to a standard 7200RPM drive. However, most who use laptops would appreciate the extra storage space more than a few extra MB/s.

Nobody thought that anyone would touch Seagate for a while, but a few months ago Toshiba first announced their 200GB mobile drive… a full 40GB over Seagates best offering. As mentioned in the intro though, more does not always mean better.

Closer Look

The drive arrived in a very secure package… the drive really had no chance to move around during shipment. The antistatic bag of course contains the hard drive, and has a packet of silica salt for added “freshness”. The exact model number for this drive is MK2035GSS, and at first glance it’s difficult to make out what density it actually is. However, below the serial number you will find just that, in addition to it’s sector count.

The drive looks identical to most other 2.5″ drives you have seen, although one thing threw me for a loop. I had not realized until actually looking at the drive, that it is S-ATA II (ATA-7) based, so it could not be used in my two and a half year old laptop. Luckily enough, it’s connections are identical to the S-ATA drives you have in your rig, so testing on my desktop proved to be no problem.

You may immediately think that due to it’s S-ATA II status, it should prove to be a far smoother, and speedier ride over the Seagate 160GB. That’s not the case. This drive is 4200RPM, as opposed to Seagates 160GB which is 5400RPM. So before even testing, the speed differences are going to be clear. 4200RPM is slow, any way you look at it. It’s this slow due to the fact that they had to slam 200GB into it’s ultra-thin frame. This is also likely why we did not see a 7200RPM version of Seagates 160GB model. You win some, or lose some. Depending on how you look at this drive and what you plan to use it for, the speed may not be a huge concern.

Here are the official specs given to us by Toshiba:

This feature-list seems to be a tad dishonest, in the sense that 150MB/s is hardly expected from a 4200RPM. 150MB/s however, is the spec for S-ATA 2.

If those features were not enough information for you, perhaps you’d enjoy some specification action.

On to some testing to see how the drive compares to others we have recently tested.

Testing Methodology, HD Tach, HD Tune

Throughout all of our benchmarks regardless of what we are reviewing, testing is done in a clean and stand-alone version of Windows XP Professional with SP2. Prior to testing, these conditions are met:

If you are interested in using the same benchmarks as us, feel free to visit the developers website:

The testing rig used for today’s benchmarking is as follows:

Before we jump into results, there are a few things to make note of. First off, this is a mobile hard drive… being tested in a desktop system. I am confident, however, that these results will be in line with what you would receive in a new laptop, should it include this drive. The fact that it’s 4200RPM doesn’t really give it much room for improvement. The results we do see, may very well be the max speeds that a 4200RPM S-ATA II drive is capable of. Don’t quote me however, as I don’t have another 4200RPM SATA II drive on hand to test my theory.

Throughout all of the testing, you will notice I am comparing this drive to a Seagate 160GB and Hitachi 60GB… both of those drives were tested in a laptop. Both of those drives were standard ATA.

Laptop Specs: Dell Inspiron 5150, 2.8GHz P4, 256MB * 2 PC2700, GoForce 5200FX 64MB

HD Tune 2.52

First up is one of my favorite storage benchmarks… HD Tune. I am actually quite impressed with how the Toshiba drive kept up to the others. It had actually surpassed my Hitachi 7200 60GB drive. It’s minimum readings were quite a bit lower, though.

HD Tach RW 3

HD Tach is another favorite, due to it’s intensiveness. The Extended test… takes hours. Here we can see the Toshiba falls way behind the other two drives. Burst speed doesn’t mean that much to me, but compare the Toshiba to the other drives. It has a read speed that’s half of what the Seagate drive could muster. 33MB/s is not bad for a mobile drive per se.. theoretically it’s about 10MB/s faster than what most USB 2.0 thumb drives can do.

Sandra 2007

Sandra is not one to disagree… we are seeing similar results here. While Sandra claims the Toshiba could keep up to the other drives’ burst speeds, it still lacked seriously in the Read test… half of the others. The Access time is also lacking, proving to be 4ms slower than the Hitachi 7200.

PC Mark, Real World, Conclusion

In our PC Mark tests, we can really see how CPU intensive the HDD tests are. Don’t take these comparison scores too seriously, as the laptop is far slower than the dual core AM2 rig. However, you should expect similar results if you have a smokin’ new laptop, such as one with a Core chip.

Real World Testing

Nothing shows true performance of a hard drive than a real world test. To perform one, I have three groups of files that are copied from one portion of the drive to another. Here are the exact filesets I use:

All results are in seconds, and since speed is the factor, lower results are better. The first two sets of results are that of desktop drives, so it’s no surprise they obliterated the small 4200RPM drive. Five minutes to copy a 4GB file is hefty, but I had actually expected it to be worse.

Final Thoughts

I have to give kudos to Toshiba for being the first out the door with a 200GB 2.5″ hard drive. Seagate was on such a rampage that I was confident they would be first. However, while the drive delivers on it’s promises, it’s hard to recommend it to anyone.

In this day and age, large storage hard drives are not usually a bonus, but a requirement. Those who use laptops as their primary computer usually get shafted in that regard, and have to use an external hard drive when they are at home for normal storage. Of course, 160GB may prove plenty for some, but for those who have larger music or movie collections, it’s completely laughable. So… to see a new 2.5″ drive be released with a higher density is surely welcomed.

However, the sad thing is that each time we reach a high new density in the mobile storage market… the overall speed goes down. While raw RPM doesn’t mean everything in terms of speed, it certainly proved to make a difference in our testing. For a gaming notebook, 7200RPM drives are the norm, and 5400RPM are great for everyday users. Actually, 5400RPM proves fast enough for most regardless of what application you are using, including gaming. However, a quick look at our Read and latency results show that you will be lacking some speed if you choose a notebook with this drive over another.

Don’t get me wrong. This is a great drive for it’s density alone. In some tests, the speed actually impressed me, but not to the point of being able to consider this drive over a faster one. This particular drive proves that we are at a lull in the 2.5″ storage market. There is a reason that Seagate released their 160GB as a 5400RPM, and didn’t even release a 200GB at all. The higher we go, the slower the drive is. 2.5″ drives are so small in size, it doesn’t seem we will be seeing larger densities anytime soon, unless a new mobile standard is released that increases the drive size. I’m not talking about flash based drives either, since those are far too expensive at this point.

2.5″ drives are small as I mentioned, but even if they were twice as thick, they would -still- be rather small. I cannot see why such a drive would not fit easily in any laptop. The fact with a drive like that is though, that it could hold up to 200GB and retain 7200RPM if simple math is applied.

Another factor to weigh in here is the fact that you cannot purchase this drive as a standalone, as you can with Seagates 160GB offering. I am unaware of who all offers these drives in their laptops, but Toshiba obviously has them in a few of their own. One thing to note is that some of their higher end laptops currently are equipped with dual 120GB 5400 drives. Only a couple include the drive we have taken a look at today, so that may speak volumes right there. This drive is not ready for primetime.

Once we see a 200GB 2.5″ drive that’s 5400RPM with a ~14ms seek time… that’s when we should be excited. Until then, stick to faster drives with lower density, or pick up a laptop with dual 100GB drives if you want all that storage.

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