Before the Raptor, before 8MB buffers and before its reliability issues, the IBM Deskstar 75GXP was the king of desktop hard disk performance. Unfortunately for IBM's storage division, the drive was plagued with reliability issues. Even more unfortunate was that given its high performance, seemingly everyone had one, and thus, a lot of people had to deal with dead drives, and even dead RMA replacement 75GXPs as well.

After the 75GXP fiasco, IBM did have a handful of other drives that were released, but it wasn't long before the storage division was handed over to Hitachi. On January 1, 2003, Hitachi and IBM entered into a joint venture whereby IBM owns a share of the Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (GST) division and Hitachi handles manufacturing of the hard drives.

In a somewhat odd move, considering the recent history of the Deskstar drives, Hitachi and IBM elected to continue to use the Deskstar name. But with much stronger competition, the Deskstar name is still not as popular among performance enthusiasts as it once was.

Recently, Hitachi announced the latest in their Deskstar line of hard drives, the 7K400 - a 400GB desktop hard drive that was designed to offer high capacity as well as the highest performance levels of any desktop Hitachi drive. We started covering desktop hard drives around the time of Hitachi's announcement, and thus, they were one of the first on our list to pursue for review samples. Not too much later and we were sitting on over a terabyte of storage in the form of Deskstar 7K400 drives.

There's not much revolutionary about the 7K400 that enables it to reach such high capacities. There are two basic methods employed to increase disk capacities: either increase the amount of data that you store on each platter, or increase the number of platters in your drive. In the case of the 7K400, Hitachi continues to use their 80GB platters and simply tacks on another two platters to their older 7K250 drives - resulting in a total of 5 platters.

The use of 80GB platters is a bit disappointing as the 300GB MaXLine III from Maxtor employs three 100GB platters. The benefit of higher density platters is that with more data stored in the same amount of space, higher sequential transfer rates (which matter greatly for desktop performance) are made possible. Generally speaking though, higher density platters and larger buffers should go hand in hand in order to deliver the best overall performance.

Hitach continues to employ an 8MB buffer with the 7K400, once again making this drive more of an evolution of the 7K250 rather than an updated drive designed to compete with the MaXLine III and upcoming offerings from Seagate.

While the 7K400 is available in both Parallel and Serial ATA versions, the drive is a native PATA solution with the SATA version featuring a bridge chip. We have yet to see any performance data suggesting that a bridged solution actually limits performance with current generation drives; that being said, a native SATA drive is still more desirable from a manufacturing, cost and heat standpoint.

The 7K400 uses fluid dynamic bearing motors to enable quiet operation, but we'll touch on just how quiet in our noise test section.

What to do with 400GB?
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  • Falloutboy - Saturday, July 10, 2004 - link

    This is great but unless it geting into the 50cents per gig range it won't really make sence. I could just get 4 200gbs for the same price and raid them Reply
  • gimpsoft - Saturday, July 10, 2004 - link

    if you have space for 4 drives on your case
    i say go with mulitple 160GB hard drive or 149GB true GB
    149 * 4 = 596GB almost 600GB
    $93 * 4 = $372
    for $93each why pay $450 for 320GB
    samsung Hard Drives on newegg

    mulitple drives is much better then one
    C/windows E:/storage X:/storage D:/storage

    so you uncompress a file from C to C will take longer & won't be able to open anythign else until uncompress is done

    from E to X or from C to X you could surf the web have an dixv open with small slow down & have it finish faster then having to be done in one drive
    Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Saturday, July 10, 2004 - link

    Nice to see capacities increasing. Seems like for a while there hasn't been much in the way of capacity increases... just some speed increases with the Raptor and SATA.

    A friend of mine heard about the drive too and asked why anyone would need 400 GB of storage space if they weren't doing anything illegal like pirating software or media. My answer to him was, programs (especially games) will only get larger. And with no worries about storage limits, you could rip your entire CD collection in a lossless format and keep it on your hard drive for listening and making MP3's to put on a portable device, etc. Then there's video... with more people building HTPC's, a 400 GB drive would be a nice addition to a HTPC for recording TV shows in HD... copying your DVD's to the drive for quicker viewing and not having to mess with the discs all the time.

    I think storage space is lagging behind a little bit... I have a 36 GB Raptor and an 80 GB drive and I don't find myself running out of storage space, however, I do find myself deleting things thinking "I don't really need this, I'll just get rid of it and free up some space." I remember back in the mid 90's I think, I bought a 12 GB Quantum drive, when high capacity mainstream drives were 6-8 GB... the Quantum was a HUGE drive at the time, but pretty slow. Where are the HUGE but slow drives today? I think it would be acceptable to use a 5400 RPM drive in a HTPC if it could offer 50-100% more storage space thana 7200 RPM drive, AND be more quiet and cooler. Or just for people who archive home movies or something... an 800 GB drive would be great for them... speed wouldn't matter all that much because a 5400 RPM drive is perfectly capable of streaming DVD quality video and audio.

    Anyway... as I said... it's nice to see storage capacity increasing, not just speed.
    Reply
  • mkruer - Saturday, July 10, 2004 - link

    "If you can wait on that hard drive upgrade, however, much newer technology is coming next quarter. With platter densities finally surpassing the 100GB mark, 16MB buffers to accent and with NCQ becoming mainstream, the 400GB offerings that should hit the streets later this year will hopefully offer more than just massive storage capacities, but maybe even a new level of performance."

    Anand, do you have any specific information on future roadmaps by the manufactures. I would be interested to see how Western Digital will respond.
    Reply
  • kjellrni - Saturday, July 10, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • kjellrni - Saturday, July 10, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • pookie69 - Saturday, July 10, 2004 - link

    Nice article. I can appreciate the difficulties in trying to bench and review HDDs, but so far i feel you have done a good job, and i am very much enjoying reading these HDD reviews.

    Only thing, it may have been a good idea to talk a bit about some of the technical features of the Hitachi 7k400 - such as those 2 sensors on the underside of the HDD that help ensure much greater spindle head accuracy through system vibrations than currently seen in other HDDs. The name of the technology evades me now, but it sounds really cool.

    In any case, great review - the Seagate Barracuda 7200.8 looks like being an awesome HDD, so i do hope that there'll be a rview on that sometime soon :)
    Reply
  • ROcHE - Saturday, July 10, 2004 - link

    Nice review. The recorded hard disk sound is a very good addition. You guys just need to edit the first 1-2 and last 1-2 seconds to remove those weird sounds and it will be perfect.

    You can actually hear how silent is a barracuda and how loud is a Maxtor or a WD SE.

    It's good to see my one year old Western Digital SE near the top of the performance charts. It shows how hard it is to improve hard disk performances. Kudos to Hitachi for a great hard drive.

    Thanks ;)
    Reply

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