Serial ATA may have all but taken over on the desktop, but plain old ATA is still going strong in the mobile space. Only recently did Serial ATA support make its way into mobile core logic chipsets, and not all laptop manufacturers took advantage of that capability when it first became available. Many waited until second-generation Serial ATA chipsets, such as those in Intel's latest "Napa" Centrino platform, to transition laptop designs to SATA.
The slow pace of mobile SATA hard drive adoption has created a massive installed base of ATA-equipped laptops, many of which are ripe for a hard drive upgrade. Laptops generally come equipped with painfully slow drives with as little as 2 MB of cache and spindle speeds as slow as 4,200 RPM. These drives generally don't offer much in the way of capacity, either, with many topping out at only 30 or 40 GB. Fortunately, numerous alternatives exist, including drives with 8 MB of cache and spindle speeds as fast as 7,200 RPM. Greater capacities are available, as well, with most new mobile drives offering between 100 and 120 GB, and at least one leveraging perpendicular recording technology to crack the 160 GB mark.
To gain a better understanding of how the performance of today's latest and greatest 2.5" mobile ATA drives looks, the folks at Tech Report have gathered seven drives from the likes of Fujitsu, Hitachi, Seagate, and Western Digital. This mix of drives includes a little of everything, including a 160 GB perpendicular monster and a couple of 7,200-RPM speed demons. We've also thrown in a lowly 4,200 RPM drive that will serve as a handy reference point for anyone considering upgrading their laptop's hard drive.