Is 5400 RPM better than 7200 RPM for video editing?

Hard disk drive (HDD) speed, measured in revolutions per minute (RPM), is an important factor to consider when choosing a drive for video editing. HDDs with higher RPMs can improve performance by reading and writing data faster. However, RPM speed alone does not tell the whole story.

For video editing, a faster HDD can help with loading project files, scrubbing through footage, rendering previews, and exporting final videos. This is because video editing software needs to access and process large, high-bitrate video files. Thus, having an HDD with sufficient performance is important.

This article compares 5400 RPM versus 7200 RPM HDDs for the purposes of video editing. We’ll examine the strengths and weaknesses of each RPM speed and provide recommendations on which may be better suited depending on budget, workload requirements, and other factors.

What is RPM?

RPM stands for “rotations per minute” and refers to how fast the platters spin inside a hard disk drive (HDD). The RPM determines how fast data can be read from or written to the drive. Higher RPM generally means faster performance.

For example, a 5400 RPM drive spins at 5,400 revolutions per minute while a 7200 RPM drive spins at 7,200 revolutions per minute. Drives with higher RPM can access data faster because the read/write heads don’t have to move as much to find the data.

According to this video, most laptop hard drives today are 5400 RPM or 7200 RPM. Desktop hard drives tend to use higher RPM like 10,000 or 15,000 RPM for even faster performance.

5400 RPM Drives

5400 RPM hard drives are common in laptops and external storage devices where power efficiency and low heat production are priorities. Some key specs for 5400 RPM drives include:

  • Capacities typically range from 250GB to 8TB for internal drives and up to 10TB for external portable drives. Common capacities are 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB (Maxtor 5400 RPM drives, Seagate).
  • Cache sizes are usually 8MB for smaller drives under 1TB and up to 256MB for larger drives over 4TB (Seagate).
  • 5400 RPM drives are designed for quieter operation, lower power draw, and reduced heat output compared to 7200 RPM drives. They work well for basic computing tasks, media storage, backups, and external drives where top speed is not essential (Amazon).

Overall, 5400 RPM drives offer a good balance of performance, low power usage, quiet operation, and affordability for general consumer use cases. But they are not recommended for tasks that demand faster access times like video editing, gaming, or running applications from the drive.

7200 RPM Drives

7200 RPM drives are commonly used for desktop computers and performance-oriented applications like gaming and video editing. Some key features of 7200 RPM drives include:

Common capacities range from 500GB to 10TB. Larger capacities like 8TB and 10TB are more common in enterprise/data center drives like the Western Digital Ultrastar series ( Consumer models tend to max out around 6TB.

Cache sizes are typically 64MB for most consumer and prosumer models. Some drives may have 128MB or 256MB caches for better performance.

7200 RPM drives are a good choice for desktop PCs, especially if running demanding applications or games. The faster spindle speed reduces latency and improves transfer speeds compared to 5400 RPM models. They are commonly used as primary drives for gaming PCs and workstations.

Overall, 7200 RPM hard drives offer better performance than 5400 RPM drives in exchange for higher power consumption, noise, heat, and price. They are ideal for performance-focused desktop use cases.

Performance Comparison

Benchmark data shows that 7200 RPM drives generally have faster read and write speeds compared to 5400 RPM drives. However, the performance difference is not as significant as one might expect based on the higher RPM speed.

According to tests by MacRumors, a 7200 RPM USB 3.0 drive had maximum read and write speeds around 120 MB/s, while a 5400 RPM USB 3.0 drive reached about 90 MB/s. So the 7200 RPM drive was about 25-30% faster. The gap is smaller for USB 2.0 drives, with the 7200 RPM drive achieving 70 MB/s versus 60 MB/s on the 5400 RPM.

Tom’s Hardware also found a 20-30% increase in throughput with 7200 RPM drives compared to 5400 RPM. But they note that higher capacity drives can offset some of the RPM advantage. For example, a 4TB 5400 RPM drive performed similarly to a 2TB 7200 RPM drive in their tests.

Overall, benchmarks demonstrate a moderate performance advantage with 7200 RPM drives over 5400 RPM. But the real-world difference may not be noticeable in many use cases.

Factors that Affect Performance

In addition to RPM, there are other factors that can impact hard drive performance:

Interface – Drives with interfaces like SAS and PCIe tend to have higher performance than SATA, as they allow for greater bandwidth. However, SATA drives are more affordable for most home users. According to this source, SAS can provide around “30% better performance” compared to SATA in some multi-drive setups.

Cache Size – Larger cache sizes can boost performance by allowing frequently accessed data to be stored for faster retrieval. However, the impact is usually minor in typical usage. Doubling the cache from 8MB to 16MB may only provide a few percent speed boost.

Platter Density – Higher density platters allow more data to be stored per platter. This can improve performance as the read/write heads don’t need to physically move as far to access data. However, increased density can also lead to slower seeks if the data is more densely packed.

Recommendations for Video Editing

When choosing a hard drive RPM for video editing, it depends on the type of editing you’ll be doing. For basic HD video editing, a 5400 RPM drive may be sufficient to handle the data transfer speeds needed. However, for editing 4K, 8K, or 360 degree VR footage, a faster 7200 RPM or even an SSD is recommended for the best performance.

If you are editing lots of large video files and need to access them quickly, a 7200 RPM drive is the better choice over a 5400 RPM. The faster rotational speed allows for faster read and write times, which is important for smooth video playback and reducing lag when scrubbing through footage. This higher speed comes in handy especially when editing and previewing unrendered effects in real time (Source).

On the other hand, if you are doing basic editing of smaller HD or SD footage, then a 5400 RPM drive may provide enough performance. The slower RPM may generate more heat and vibration, but for light tasks it can get the job done. When working with lower resolutions, the slightly slower data transfer rates of a 5400 RPM drive are less likely to cause bottlenecks in the editing workflow.

Overall, 7200 RPM is better for professional or high-resolution video editing with large file sizes, while 5400 RPM may suffice for casual home video projects. It’s a good idea to test drive speeds yourself to see if a 5400 RPM HDD provides enough speed for your specific video editing needs before choosing it over a faster 7200 RPM option.

Budget Considerations

The rpm speed of a hard drive can significantly affect the cost. In general, 7200 rpm drives are more expensive than 5400 rpm drives for the same storage capacity. According to this Quora thread, a 4TB 7200 rpm drive often costs around $100 more than a 5400 rpm drive of the same capacity. The faster rotational speed requires higher precision manufacturing and better materials to handle the additional stresses. This leads to a higher price for 7200 rpm drives.

When shopping for a new hard drive, it’s important to weigh the performance benefits of a 7200 rpm drive versus the cost savings of a 5400 rpm model. For budget-conscious buyers who don’t require maximum speed, a 5400 rpm drive provides decent performance at a lower price point. However, for tasks like video editing that benefit from faster data access, investing in a 7200 rpm drive can provide a worthwhile boost in productivity to justify the added expense.

Alternatives to HDDs

While HDDs have traditionally been the standard storage choice for video editing, newer alternatives like SSDs and RAID arrays can offer advantages.

SSDs, or solid state drives, have become increasingly popular for video editing. They have no moving parts and can achieve much faster read/write speeds compared to traditional HDDs. This helps improve performance when working with high resolution footage (source). Popular SSD options like the Samsung Portable SSD T7 and SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD offer fast speeds in a durable, portable form factor.

RAID or Redundant Array of Independent Disks involves using multiple HDDs together to improve performance or reliability. A RAID 0 configuration stripes data across multiple disks for faster read/write speeds, while RAID 1 mirrors data across disks for redundancy. A RAID array requires a special controller but can offer improved speeds compared to a single HDD (source). However, RAID arrays tend to be more complex and expensive to set up.

For many video editors, SSDs offer the best combination of speed, affordability, and ease of use compared to HDDs or RAID arrays. SSD capacities and cost effectiveness continue to improve, making them a popular choice. However, HDDs and RAID can still be viable options depending on budget and workflow needs.


While 7200 RPM hard drives offer faster performance compared to 5400 RPM drives, the difference may not be significant for many video editing workflows. For most home and hobbyist video editors, a 5400 RPM drive should provide adequate speeds at a lower cost.

For professional video editors working with high resolution footage such as 4K or 8K video, the extra speed of a 7200 RPM drive is recommended to ensure smooth editing and rendering. However, factors like drive interface, cache memory, and CPU performance also impact overall speed.

When choosing a hard drive for video editing, prioritize getting a drive with enough capacity for your storage needs. Benchmark tests can help determine if a 7200 RPM drive provides enough of a speed boost for your specific workflow to justify the higher cost over a 5400 RPM drive.

Beyond HDDs, SSDs offer much faster performance but lower capacities per dollar. A combination HDD+SSD setup with video files stored on the HDD and software on the SSD provides a good balance of speed and capacity for video editing.

In conclusion, consider your budget, editing software, timeline resolution, and workflow complexity when choosing between 5400 vs 7200 RPM drives. Test different drive speeds to determine the best option for your needs.