Introduction

When Hitachi first introduced their 500GB hard disk drives, we thought that it would take forever for them to actually begin manufacturing the units, which was not the case. We gave Hitachi the credit for being the first manufacturer to put out the largest hard disk drive ever, but we couldn’t really gauge its performance, since there were really no other drives to which to compare it.

Last month, Seagate officially announced their 7200.9 line of desktop hard disk drives and we had a chance to look at their largest unit in the line, the 500GB Barracuda. During our tech briefing with the 7200.9 product manager, we learned that the line was the end result of combining the two previous lines, the 7200.7 and the 7200.8. The joining of forces led to the 7200.9 name and included all of the capacities from the previous two.

Again, we could not really compare Seagate’s 500GB unit with any of the other drives that we had benchmarked and so, we were determined to get our hands on the largest units on the market today. Hitachi and Seagate were held to have the largest capacities at 500GB and we threw in Western Digital’s 400GB unit for kicks.

Here’s how the drives weigh in…

Capacity Platter Density # of Platters / Heads Spindle speed (RPM) Average Seek Time Average Latency Interface Buffer Sizes
Hitachi 7K500 500GB 100GB 5 / 10 7200 8.5ms 4.17ms PATA / SATA 3.0Gb/sec 16MB
Seagate 7200.9 500GB 500GB 125GB 4 / 8 7200 8.5ms 4.16ms PATA / SATA 3.0Gb/sec 16MB
Western Digital WD4000YR 400GB 100GB 4 / 8 7200 8.7ms 4.2ms PATA / SATA 1.5Gb/sec 16MB

The WD4000YR is only a 1.5 Gb/sec drive, but we’re including it to compare performance between it and the newer 3.0 Gb/sec units. And since it is Western Digital’s new high capacity model, we thought, why not take a peek at its performance as well and to see which drive gives us more bang for the buck.

The Test
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  • mostlyprudent - Friday, December 02, 2005 - link

    AT, your multitasking conclusion is interesting. You give the nod to the WD drive because it has the smallest percentage performance drop when running the multitasking scenario. However, the Seagate drive was faster in both the Zip only test and the multitasking test. Theoretically, it slowed down more when moving to the multitasking scenario, but in reality was still faster than the WD. I understand conceptually that you're looking at the effect that multitasking has on drive performance, but I wonder if this is a relevant test when comparing drives. Reply
  • Anton74 - Friday, December 02, 2005 - link

    This may be slightly off topic, but for me personally (and I think a lot of folks), it'd be much more interesting to see reviews of drives that I might actually buy, which are at the moment 300GB or less - these larger drives are just too expensive per GB.

    I'd be particularly interested in the 160GB 7200.9, which to my knowledge still hasn't been tested by anyone - and it's the drive with the highest platter density at the moment, by far! But there are at least a handful reviews of the 500GB version already (which was praised with "mouthwatering benchmarks" a good month ago, but now "is just not up to par to recommend"...).

    While I'm at it, how are the (mostly) slower 3Gb/s SATA drives more "future-proof"? If they're slower than the WD today despite their faster interface, they'll be slower than the WD 2 years from now, me thinks. Or are they expected to improve with age? :-P

    Don't get me wrong here though, I'm glad you guys are spreading all this review goodness around (you were the first to review the Asus A8N-VM CSM for example, two thumbs up).
    Reply
  • bob661 - Friday, December 02, 2005 - link

    quote:

    these larger drives are just too expensive per GB.
    Too expensive?! LOL! How cheap do you want them to be? Hard drives are DAMN cheap now. One of the cheapest components of the computer.
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, December 02, 2005 - link

    quote:

    Too expensive?! LOL! How cheap do you want them to be? Hard drives are DAMN cheap now. One of the cheapest components of the computer.

    What he means is, that buying a 250GB drive is FAR cheaper on a cost-per-gigabyte basis. As drive size increases past a certain point in the current market, vendors charge more per GB. When you think about the fact that a Hitachi 250GB SATA2 hard disk is currently around $110, and a 500GB model is $395, why in the world would you buy the larger drive when two 250GB models cost so much less? Most of us enthusiasts have the case space, and if you really want a single large partition that badly, you can use Win2k/XP's Dynamic Drive capabilities or the JBOD feature of your RAID controller (note: I wouldn't do this personally due to data integrity issues if one drive fails, I'd just have two partitions).

    He's not whinging that hard disks are expensive; just that there's no point in buying a pricey large HDD, when two medium HDD's that amount to the same size can be had for a lot less.
    Reply
  • yacoub - Friday, December 02, 2005 - link

    Expect few here to understand your point. Many people here just want dick measurements of the largest, fastest pieces of hardware with as few real world constraints as possible. It makes no sense for the consumer but it makes more entertaining reading and they're here for entertainment not research purposes. :[ Reply
  • bob661 - Friday, December 02, 2005 - link

    quote:

    It makes no sense for the consumer
    Makes perfect sense to me and, apparently, a lot of other folks here. I don't think it's out of line at all to test these drives. We ARE enthusiasts here and quite a number of us can afford enthusiast budget systems. If you want J6P reviews go over to PCWorld or something. Granted I'm not in the 7800GTX 512MB crowd (I'm a bang for the buck guy), but I DO like to see these things get reviewed. "I" like to know what's out there.
    Reply
  • Cygni - Friday, December 02, 2005 - link

    Anandtech can only test what the companies send them... which is why you only see reviews of high end parts or parts with special features. Makes things difficult because they could obviously make much more comprehensive and equal comparisons if they got to pick and choose... but thats life. Reply
  • Questar - Friday, December 02, 2005 - link

    No.

    Anandtech *chooses* to only test what companies send them. There is nothing preventing them from ording drives for testing.
    Reply
  • PuravSanghani - Friday, December 02, 2005 - link

    We actually purchased the 500GB 7200.9 the week it was released so that we could benchmark these drives as quickly as possible to let our readers know how it performed before they went ahead and bought it for themselves. We thought that since it was Seagate's highest capacity drive to date and targeted towards servers it would be very informative to those who were looking for high capacity drives.

    This 3-way comparison was written up to show the differences between the highest capacity drives from 3 of the top hard drive manufacturers in the world to help our readers looking for high capacity models to choose the product that best fits their needs.


    Regards,

    Purav
    Reply
  • Visual - Friday, December 02, 2005 - link

    Nah, for products that are already available retail, it was never a problem for AT to buy their own samples. In fact, it's the preferred way, as the companies can't hand-pick better oc-ers or such. This always was one of the pluses of this site. Reply

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