Although targeted at laptop usage, you could just as well use the Hitachi TravelStar 7K500 on a desktop or any other environment where you want a compact storage drive, since it uses a standard SATA-2 storage connector interface. The form factor is the same as an SSD, although this is a normal spinning magnetic drive - it spins at a speed of 7200rpm and has a 16MB buffer.
The Hitachi TravelStar 7K500 drive consists of two platters, storing 250GB on each platter thus resulting in a total of 500GB. This is the same platter density as seen with any 500GB drive on the market today. While testing at full load we saw it getting slightly warm to the touch, as expected.
The drive was inaudible in a silent room, though this may change once it is filled with data and the drive's 4 heads need to seek for the files you request. Despite spinning faster than the usual rotational speed of 5400 RPM (rotations per minute) seen in normal laptop drives, the Hitachi TravelStar 7K500's vibration levels were not very different. Hitachi claims power usage averages of 1W at idle and 1.8W during normal read/write operation.
The Hitachi TravelStar 7K500 drive has an advantage in its spin speed, which gets reflected in its performance. We ran synthetic benchmarks and real world tests on a high-end testbench to eliminate bottlenecks. We measured a read speed average of 88.2 MB/s, and a write speed average of 84.4 MB/s. Real world file read/write speeds conducted when the drive was empty, showed a speed of 98.5 MB/s for a single large file (6.42GB), but fell to 68.71 MB/s as expected when copying multiple smaller files (1287 files totaling up to 2.33GB).
Transferring these small files from the first partition to a second one on the same drive was at speed of 25.3 MB/s. Read and write access times averaged 16.1 ms and 8.97 ms (milli-seconds) respectively, with a CPU usage of 4.4 percent. On PC Mark 05, the Hitachi TravelStar 7K500 attained a HDD score of 6307 points. These performance numbers are on par with what we expected of it, but it is at least 20 percent better than normal (5400RPM) laptop hard drives.
This drive has a formatted capacity of 465.8GB and Hitachi offers a warranty of 3 years upon this drive. There is an optional BDE (bulk drive encryption) variant of this drive which you can buy if you want to keep your data safe while traveling. What we have reviewed here is the normal version, with HTS725050A9A364 being the model ID of the product.
The usual argument against 7200rpm drives for laptops was built around increased vibration, heat and power consumption as compared to normal drives. The Hitachi TravelStar 7K500 500GB drive manages to strengthen its case by providing improved speed, yet not exhibiting much of the potential negatives.