Introduction

Though the technology seems fairly new to many of us end users, command queuing has been around for years. The idea of reordering the list of requests given to the hard disk drive was first introduced in the SCSI-2 standard and implemented in SCSI drives in the mid-90's. So, why has the technology only just now been given any sort of exposure to the mainstream computer market? Well, most importantly because it has been only recently implemented in consumer class desktop drives.

For the last few years, we have been hearing about more and more multithreading technologies like Intel's HyperThreading CPUs and even more recently, Intel and AMD's dual-core architecture. We've been multitasking since the release of Windows 95 and with Moore's Law comes a need for faster technology, and the bottleneck always seems to be the hard disk storage device.

Seagate Technologies has been a major player in the storage device game for quite some time and have also just entered the command queuing game as Maxtor did last year with its MaXLine III series hard drives with Native Command Queuing. Like Maxtor, Seagate has been able to design a native SATA drive with Native Command Queuing, while also increasing the drive's capacity to 400GB with its 7200.8 line, which is 33% larger than Maxtor's largest drives (300GB).

The Barracuda 7200.8 line builds on the 7200.7 line with the NCQ feature as well as 4 capacities including 200GB, 250GB, 300GB, and a 400GB, which we will be reviewing. The 400GB unit utilizes a three-133GB platter design, while the 250GB drive uses two 133GB platters. The 200GB and 300GB drives both use the older 100GB platter design. The 7200.8 line still has an 8MB cache, though, which may keep it from competing directly with Maxtor's DiamondMax 10 NCQ drive that holds a 16MB buffer.

When we first received our test units from Seagate, we noticed that the two drives had different controller chip/memory combinations on them (Agere/Samsung, STMicroelectronics/EtronTech). Seagate explained to us that they used various suppliers for their controller chips and that even though the chips are from different manufacturers, the drives are designed from the same specifications.

Inside the Barracuda 7200.8, Seagate has implemented their own version of a fluid dynamic bearing motor called SoftSonic. Their quiet motor technology is said to produce very little sound, but Seagate's specifications for the 7200.8 line says different as the drive specs list a higher bel rating than the 7200.7 line. We'll take a look at these numbers more later in our acoustic tests.

Let's dig a little deeper into Native Command Queuing...

Special thanks to NewEgg.com for providing us with the products for this review.

Seagate on NCQ
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  • AtaStrumf - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    #29 - I found a similar test that includes a WD Caviar drive and from what I can tell it is not exactly lagging.

    http://www.storagereview.com/articles/200504/20050...
    Reply
  • Calin - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    In "WinBench99" page, you said "The Disk Transfer Rate test reads from the media in a linear fashion from the beginning (inner tracks) to the end (outer tracks)". It's false, the hard drives have the beginning tracks on the outside (well, exterior) of the platters, and the inner drives in the interior part. The reason is that while stationary, the read heads stay outside of the media, and they will reach the outer tracks sooner. Also, on the outer tracks the data density is increased, so the data read and write speed is increased also. Reply
  • emboss - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    I'd say you need to ditch Winbench 99 for transfer tests. It's physically impossible for drives to have the same transfer rate on the inside and outside of the platters. Not to mention that the ONLY drives that showed this behaviour were NCQ drives. I suspect what is happening is that the NCQ reordering is stuffing things up by reading the data out-of-order, and that the reordering process delivers the data in one (or several) burst blocks that do not correspond to the real transfer rate off the platters. Maybe HDTach might return more sensible numbers. Reply
  • Lonyo - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Are you going to do some more HDD/NCQ testing when we get more dual core CPU's to test in multi-taking situations?
    The recent article on the Pentium D shows the benefits of NCQ combined with a dual core CPU (the single core CPU's didn't really show any improvement), so are you going to go more in depth hopefully soon (after you can publish results of AMD X2 CPU's)?

    http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...
    http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...
    Reply
  • jm20 - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    How is the 7200.7 120Gb drive louder then a Raptor? My 7200.7 120Gb drive is near SILENT, no where loud as a Raptor. I think your measuring device is off forthe Acoustics test. Reply
  • segagenesis - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    #20 - Thats easy. Ignoring the Raptor they are lagging behind on the consumer front compared to others. Last I checked they still charge a fair amount extra for a drive with a FDB motor. The performance just hasnt been up to par either. The days when the "Special Edition" drives were great are gone.

    Reply
  • Palek - Wednesday, April 20, 2005 - link

    Purav, you did not explain why you chose to test with an nForce chipset over a chipset from intel.

    For one thing, nVidia's ATA controllers/drivers have a fairly poor track record. I still remember the multitude of problems that cropped up when people installed nVidia ATA drivers on their nForce2 motherboards. I run my nForce2-based computer with MS ATA drivers because I am too afraid that the nVidia drivers will wreck my system (that, and ExactAudioCopy does not recognize any optical drives with the nVidia drivers installed). Admittedly, these issues were driver-related, but then nVidia's checkered past does not boost my confidence in their ability to provide an nForce4 driver that actually works according to spec. Maybe we're seeing no boost with NCQ because of poor implementation, who knows. Testing with just one platform will not reveal such issues.

    Also, among other things intel is known for their rock-solid and impressively fast ATA controllers, so an intel chipset would be the obvious platform of choice for testing such new technologies as NCQ.
    Reply
  • erwos - Wednesday, April 20, 2005 - link

    "It's mentioned in the article that all of the 7200.8 drives use a 3x133gb platter configuration."

    This actually isn't true, from what I've read elsewhere. Read the following at StorageReview:
    http://www.storagereview.com/articles/200504/20050...

    It makes a lot more sense than the "leftover space" theorem.

    -Erwos
    Reply
  • quorm - Wednesday, April 20, 2005 - link

    xsilver, the drive is not "guaranteed reliable." The only warranty is that if it breaks within five years, they will repair/replace it. There is a possibility that data can be lost from any portion of the drive. You have no way of knowing whether this additional space, if accessible, would be any less reliable than the rest of the drive. Yes, modifying the drive would probably void the warranty, but I'm wondering if Seagate is selling software-limited, yet physically identical drives at different prices, much like with ATI's 9500/9700. Reply
  • Zar0n - Wednesday, April 20, 2005 - link

    With NCQ on u get worst results than with it off.
    This may be good at servers, but no good at desktop.
    I’ll say its bad implemented but, all drivers seem to suffer.
    So no NCQ for me...
    Reply

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