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During real, everyday use, that is? I'm looking to upgrade a drive in a MacBook Pro, and am looking at either a 750GB/7200RPM or a 1TH/5400RPM drive. Would I care about the speed difference? Is it worth giving up the additional space on the larger drive?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

Yes, you would feel the difference. Applications will start faster, and the OS will boot faster as well.

Whether you care, is something you have to ask yourself.

How long will you take to come even close to filling up 750GB?

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It's also worth noting that along with the performance increases, there will (likely) be an increase in noise, vibrations, and power consumption. –  th3dude Dec 29 '10 at 20:55
    
Good point on the space. I use a Macbook with 250 GB and I still have room. –  Zan Lynx Dec 29 '10 at 21:03
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For many uses boot and program load time is a small fraction of the time they spend using the machine. It helps to know if much of your time is spent IO bound or not. Best case a faster drive is much better (I built a machine once when I new my killer app was IO bound; poured money into a fast drive and loved the result.). Worst case, you barely notice. Still, good answer. –  dmckee Dec 29 '10 at 23:02
    
I have used Scorpio Black drives when upgrading my laptops and there is definitely a increase in performance and in 3 of 4 that I upgraded a reduction in noise. Cache size and general drive build quality are big factors. In general the lower cost consumer targeted laptops use the base quality drives. SSDs are definitely better if performance is sole concern. –  jtreser Dec 30 '10 at 13:22
    
[...much time passes...] For what it's worth, I did the 7200rpm upgrade, and was very happy with it. I believe the performance difference was indeed noticeable. Thanks to all for the advice. –  Jim Miller Mar 1 '12 at 22:01
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If you really care about speed and aren't tight on money, then get an SSD.

Look for the models that are advertised for use in Macbooks, because they need to fit the space in the laptop and the drive firmware needs to do garbage collection and not rely on TRIM.

The price is something like $200 for 250 GB though.

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You will notice the difference. Yet though there are much more features in a disk to care about. (cache, single plate or not, access, seek times, etc) The rpm is only one more factor.

About the noise, power consuming, etc, you can check in storage section of silentpcreview.com. Of course check more details on tomshardware.com , anandtech, etc (those often speak about power usage and noise). Consider the noise in a laptop can be a bit more evident, but often depends on how it's all built. I have seen laptops with 7200rpm disk, not real noise, in my personal perception.

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