Western Digital Scorpio Black 750GB 2.5-inch Hard Drive Review

Desktop level performance for your notebook. You can add to that desktop capacity too. WD is onto something here.

Manufacturer: Western Digital
8 minutes & 53 seconds read time


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For years notebook users looking for desktop like performance were forced to purchase notebooks that used desktop components like processors and hard drives. The notebook main board and processor have evolved into components that rival their desktop counterparts, but the 2.5" platter based notebook hard drive has taken more time to reach the same speeds when compared to their desktop equivalent.

When Western Digital announced their new Scorpio Black 750GB and the marketing department advertised it as a notebook drive with desktop performance, I quickly took note. Last year we looked at the Scorpio Blue 750GB, the 5,400 RPM version of the Scorpio Black and came away impressed with the capacity offered, but the speed was only on par with many other 5,400 RPM drives.

That might make the Scorpio Blue sound like a mediocre drive, but at the time it was the only 750GB, 9mm (standard notebook height) drive on the market. Now that every HDD manufacturer has a 750GB notebook drive, Western Digital has moved to take the Scorpio Blue and give it a high performance increase. Thus, the Scorpio Black, a high performance model was born.

Today we will look at the Western Digital Scorpio Black and compare it to many of the leading notebook drives available on the market.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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Western Digital's Scorpio Black line has been around for several years and is the company's performance 2.5" product. Each year Western Digital adds to the series bringing more features, advanced technology and increased capacity size. The current flagship that we are looking at today has a maximum capacity size of 750GB, advanced 4K file system, 7,200 RPM platters, 16MB cache and an industry leading 5 year warranty.

The z height for the latest Scorpio Black is 9.5mm, what we would consider a standard notebook drive. We've seen other Western Digital 2.5" drives reach 1TB capacity size, but those use the 12mm height, a format used almost exclusively in enterprise applications.

Western Digital's specifications don't include any performance guarantees, but with the large cache, 7,200 RPM platters and SATA 3G interface we should see benchmark results on par with many 3.5" desktop drives. Western Digital does claim the new Scorpio Black delivers desktop like performance for a notebook.

After looking online we were able to find the Western Digital Scorpio Black 750GB drive at Newegg for only 109.99 USD. At this time there are not many 2.5" high capacity notebook drives using 7,200 RPM platters, but the Scorpio Black is far from the most expensive out there, even though it is the newest.

The Western Digital Scorpio Black

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Western Digital sends their HDD samples in OEM packaging, so we're not going to get to see the full retail package. Here we see our bare drive. On the top label we found the model number, serial number and capacity size right on the front. A note was also found about the Advanced Format Drive - we will cover this in the conclusion.

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On the back everything is tucked away on the other side of the PCB. This will keep the surface mount components safe. The four bottom mounting points are where they should be so you will not have an issue mounting the Scorpio Black in a notebook that uses the under mount screw system.

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The side mounts are also present if your notebook or desktop adapter bracket uses these to install the drive.

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On the back of the drive we found the SATA power and data connectors to be where they should. Also, there is a four pin area where a jumper gets placed when installing the advanced format drive in a system like Windows XP that is not designed for the new advanced format.

Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: AVADirect, GIGABYTE, Cooler Master, LSI, Corsair and Noctua.

You can read more about TweakTown's Storage Product Testing Workstation and the procedures followed to test products in this article.

ATTO Baseline Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34

ATTO is used by many disk manufacturers to determine the read and write speeds that will be presented to customers.

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Using ATTO to determine a baseline for performance, we see that the Western Digital Scorpio Black would get rated around 125MB/s read and 115MB/s write. It is hard to believe this level of performance is coming from a 2.5" platter drive. SSDs can hit higher speeds, but they can't be purchased for just over 100 USD or hold over 700GB of data.

Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro

HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00
Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:

Benchmark: measures the performance
Info: shows detailed information
Health: checks the health status by using SMART
Error Scan: scans the surface for errors
Temperature display

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

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There are some big hitters in the benchmark group today, most of which are 7,200 RPM drives. The Western Digital Scorpio Black is able to outperform all of them by over 10MB/s in the average test and nearly 20MB/s in the maximum performance category.

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The sustained write speeds across the platters is just as impressive as the read speeds. Here we see the Scorpio Black running a full 12MB/s faster in the average speed result.

Benchmarks - Everest Random Access Time

Everest Random Access Time

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.60
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com

Everest Ultimate and Corporate Edition offer several different benchmarks for testing and optimizing your system or network. The Random Access test is one of very few if not only that will measure hard drives random access times in hundredths of milliseconds as oppose to tens of milliseconds.

Drives with only one or two tests displayed in write the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cached fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron.

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Running the platters at 7,200 RPMs effects latency more than what it does sustained transfer speeds. A drive with low latency makes your applications, windows and browsing 'feel' faster. It is this perceived speed that makes our PCs feel quick. You can have the fastest processor on the market, but if the HDD has a high latency your PC will feel slow. The WD Scorpio Black has the lowest (lower is better) latency than any other 2.5" notebook platter drive we've ever tested.

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Even with the large 16MB cache the WD Scorpio Black lags behind many of the other drives in our chart when it comes to write latency. Write latency is not as important for desktop use as it is in audio / video production, but we always like to see less of it rather than more.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage/
Buy It Here

PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.

FutureMark has developed a good set of hard disk tests for their PCMark Vantage Suite. Windows users can count on Vantage to show them how a drive will perform in normal day to day usage scenarios. For most users these are the tests that matter since many of the old hat ways to measure performance have become ineffective to measure true Windows performance.

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HDD1 - Windows Defender
HDD2 - Gaming
HDD3 - Windows Photo Gallery
HDD4 - Vista Startup
HDD5 - Windows Movie Maker
HDD6 - Windows Media Center
HDD7 - Windows Media Player
HDD8 - Application Loading

When looking at real world performance the first thing to be mindful of is how much faster the Scorpio Black is compared to the same capacity size Scorpio Blue. We can see that the additional platter speed allows the Black to reach higher speeds in all tests. The Scorpio Black is actually faster than every other drive in our chart other than the Seagate Momentus XT.

The Seagate Momentus XT is a hybrid drive, a platter drive with a small, SSD like cache system. This drive is very difficult to test since it almost always returns a high benchmark result, but the same level of performance isn't always found in real world conditions.

Benchmarks - AS SSD

AS SSD Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.3577.40358
Developer Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software
Product Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software
Download here: http://www.alex-is.de/PHP/fusion/downloads.php?cat_id=4&download_id=9

AS determines the performance of Solid State Drives (SSD). The tool contains four synthetic as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests are to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. These tests are carried out without the use of the operating system caches.

In all synthetic tests the test file size is 1GB. AS can also determine the access time of the SSD, the access of which the drive is determined to read through the entire capacity of the SSD (Full Stroke). The write access test is only to be met with a 1 GB big test file. At the end of the tests three values for the read and write as well as the overall performance will be issued. In addition to the calculated values which are shown in MB/s, they are also represented in IO per seconds (IOPS).

Note: AS SSD is a great benchmark for many tests, but since Crystal Disk Mark covers a broader range of 4K tests and HD Tune Pro covering sequential speeds, we will only use the Copy Benchmark from AS SSD.

- Copy Benchmark

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When it comes to transferring data from one area of the drive to another the WD Scorpio Black leads our performance charts. The Momentus XT gave the Scorpio Black a challenge, but the Black just outperformed the XT.

Benchmarks - Passmark

Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.passmark.com
Test Homepage: http://www.passmark.com

Many users complain that I/O Meter is too complicated of a benchmark to replicate results so my quest to find an alternative was started. Passmark has added several multi-user tests that measure a hard drives ability to operate in a multi-user environment.

The tests use different settings to mimic basic multi-user operations as they would play out on your server. Variances is read / write percentage as well as random / sequential reads are common in certain applications, Web Servers read nearly 100% of the time while Database Servers write a small amount of data.

The Workstation test is the only single user environment and will be similar to how you use your system at home.

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None of the drives in this group are marketed for enterprise workloads, but it's always fun to run these tests. The low write access time of the Scorpio Black allowed it to outperform nearly every other drive in the chart in nearly all tests.

Final Thoughts

Western Digital's claims of desktop like performance in a notebook drive might not be the most accurate statement, but we would agree that the Scorpio Black gives the highest performance available from a platter based notebook HDD. The Scorpio Black 750GB drive that we looked at today delivers the same level of performance that we saw in desktop drives two years ago. This is something we can't say about the competition at this time. The Scorpio Black is the fastest notebook drive you can use today.

When it comes to pricing you might expect the fastest platter based notebook drive to also have the highest price, but that isn't the case. With an e-tail price at Newegg of just 109.99 USD the Scorpio Black is far from the highest priced 750GB drive on the market. When it really comes down to it, the Scorpio Black 750GB is quite a bargain.

With 750GB of capacity users will be able to keep more data on their notebook than ever before. With more users ditching their desktop in favor of portable computers the need for more storage is on the rise. As we move our lives deeper into the digital realm the need for even more storage capacity will increase. The Western Digital Scorpio Black is a step in the right direction and will allow you to store more data than any notebook SSD, no matter the cost, can offer.

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