Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1833
Seagate 7200.9 500GB: Mouthwatering Benchmarksby Purav Sanghani on October 24, 2005 12:05 AM EST
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Last week, Seagate officially announced their 7200.9 desktop hard disk drive line, which brought 3.0Gbps transfer rates, a barrage of SATA features, and a new capacity to bring Seagate to share the top of the mountain with Hitachi. We promised benchmarks and we like to keep our promises.
As soon as we ended our call with Seagate, we went ahead and placed the order for the 500GB version of the 7200.9 with 16MB of cache. Being the newest and highest capacity in Seagate's line of hard drives, we chose to look at it exclusively. For now, we will compare the 500GB drive's performance to some of its older predecessors, like the 7200.7 120GB model, and the 7200.8 400GB model that we looked at a few months back, both with 8MB cache and the first generation 1.5Gbps transfer rates.
We've expanded a few of our original benchmarks and have added a few new tests to make this the most extensive review of a hard drive yet. Take a look at how Seagate's 500GB 7200.9 desktop drive performs.
Our test bed specs have been laid out below. Since our test bed has remained untouched from our look at Seagate's 400GB Barracuda article, we will include our results of the drives that we looked at then.
Our test bed:
AMD Athlon 64 3500+ (2.2Ghz)
Western Digital WD1600JS
NVIDIA 6600GT SLI Edition (single 128MB card)
1GB (512MBx2) Corsair XMS4400
Our motherboard is an nForce4 based board that features support for the SATA II standard, up to 3Gbps/sec SATA transfer rates, and NCQ and TCQ.
We used the following nForce platform drivers in conjunction with our testbed:
nForce4 Chipset Driver 6.66
Nvidia graphics driver 71.89
Windows XP SP2 w/out further updates
|AnandTech Storage Tests|
|Business Winstone IPEAK||a playback test of all of the IO operations that occur within Business Winstone 2004|
|Content Creation IPEAK||a playback test of all of the IO operations that occur within Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004|
|SYSMark 2004||the official SYSMark 2004 test suite|
|Business Winstone 2004||the official Business Winstone 2004 test suite|
|Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004||the official Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004 test suite|
|Half-Life 2 Level Load Test||Half-Life 2 level load time test|
|Doom 3 Level Load Test||Doom 3 level load time test|
|Command & Conquer: Generals Level Load Test||Command & Conquer: Generals level load time test|
|Real World File System Task Tests||timed tests of basic file system tasks including zipping/unzipping and copying files|
|HDTach||Synthetic test for transfer rate of hard disk during a full disk read|
|Service Time and Transfer Rate Tests||Synthetic tests for average service time and transfer rate of hard disk during a full disk read|
|Business Winstone 2004 Multitasking Test||Synthetic tests for overall system multitasking performance|
|Real World Multitasking Test||timed tests of basic multitasking processes, timing a file zip operation while importing Outlook data|
More details about each individual test will appear in the section of the review dedicated to that particular test.
The 7200.9 Series
|Capacity||Platter Density||# of Platters/ Heads||Spindle speed (RPM)||Average Seek Time||Average Latency||Interface||Buffer Sizes|
|40GB||80GB||1 / 1||7200||8.9ms||4.16ms||PATA / SATA||2MB|
|80GB||160 GB||1 / 1||7200||8.9 ms||4.16ms||PATA / SATA||2, 8MB|
|120GB||120GB||1 / 2||7200||8.5ms||4.16ms||PATA / SATA||2, 8MB|
|160GB||160GB||1 / 2||7200||8.5ms||4.16ms||PATA / SATA||2, 8MB|
|200GB||100GB||2 / 4||7200||8.5ms||4.16ms||PATA / SATA||8MB|
|250GB||125GB||2 / 4||7200||8.5ms||4.16ms||PATA / SATA||8MB|
|300GB||100GB||3 / 6||7200||8.5ms||4.16ms||PATA / SATA||16MB|
|400GB||133GB||3 / 6||7200||8.5ms||4.16ms||PATA / SATA||16MB|
|500GB||125GB||4 / 8||7200||8.5ms||4.16ms||PATA / SATA||16MB|
Pure Hard Disk Performance - IPEAK
We begin our usual hard disk drive test session with Intel's IPEAK benchmarking utility. We first run a trace capture on Winstone 2004's Business and Multimedia Content Creation benchmark runs to catch all of the IO operations that take place during each test. We then play back each capture using RankDisk, which reports back to us a mean service time, or average time that the drive takes to complete an IO operation.
The first batch of 3.0Gbps hard drives that we tested gave us results, which were scattered all over the charts for the IPEAK tests with Western Digital's WD1600JS, taking the majority of the wins over the other two 3.0GBps drives. This time around, Seagate's 500GB 7200.9 takes place half way down the list at 541 IO operations per second.
Let's take a look at Content Creation performance.
The Seagate drive jumps to the 3rd spot on the list for the Content Creation Winstone IPEAK run at 389 IO operations per second.
As far as Read Service times go, Seagate's drive reports 13.9ms on average, which is just a fraction of a millisecond slower than the WD1600JS, but more than 2ms quicker than the HD160JJ.
Overall System Performance - Winstone 2004
Business Winstone 2004
Business Winstone 2004 tests the following applications in various usage scenarios:
- Microsoft Access 2002
- Microsoft Excel 2002
- Microsoft FrontPage 2002
- Microsoft Outlook 2002
- Microsoft PowerPoint 2002
- Microsoft Project 2002
- Microsoft Word 2002
- Norton AntiVirus Professional Edition 2003
- WinZip 8.1
There is not much excitement here as the Business Winstone 2004 results show a score of 24.5-24.7 (NCQ off/on).
MCC Winstone 2004
Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004 tests the following applications in various usage scenarios:
- Adobe® Photoshop® 7.0.1
- Adobe® Premiere® 6.50
- Macromedia® Director MX 9.0
- Macromedia® Dreamweaver MX 6.1
- Microsoft® Windows MediaTM Encoder 9 Version 9.00.00.2980
- NewTek's LightWave® 3D 7.5b
- SteinbergTM WaveLabTM 4.0f
We are a bit disappointed that the 500GB 7200.9 does not perform up to par with the older 3.0Gbps drivers here. All of them reported scores between 36.1-36.6 while the Seagate set up camp in the 32.6/.7 range of the score board.
Overall System Performance - SYSMark 2004
SYSMark 2004 is divided into two separate suites: Internet Content Creation and Office Productivity. What makes SYSMark an ideal hard disk benchmark is that its scores are totals of response times, meaning that the benchmark measures how long the system takes to respond to a task (e.g. how long before a search and replace is completed after it is initiated) and sums up all such response times to generate a score. This score is generated for six total subcategories: three under Internet Content Creation and three under Office Productivity.
For the most part, SYSMark is CPU/platform bound, but we will see some variations in performance according to disk speed; at the same time, there are a couple of benchmarks within SYSMark that are heavily disk dependent.
Internet Content Creation Performance
Our results showed very little difference in the performance of the competitors; not enough to rule out margin of error in the Content Creation part of SYSMark 2004. The scores for the majority of drives landed between 180-183, which does not show too well the drive that performs better than the others.
Office Productivity Performance
SYSMark's Office Productivity suite consists of three tests, the first of which is the Communication test. The Communication test consists of the following:
"The user receives an email in Outlook 2002 that contains a collection of documents in a zip file. The user reviews his email and updates his calendar while VirusScan 7.0 scans the system. The corporate web site is viewed in Internet Explorer 6.0. Finally, Internet Explorer is used to look at samples of the web pages and documents created during the scenario."
Seagate's 500GB drive showed no performance increase over the older 400GB drive with 8MB cache. We are starting to wonder where we will see an improvement in performance over any of the older drives not only in the Seagate family, but any of the other drives on the list as well.
SYSMark 2004 Performance Summary
These scores represent the overall performance of each component of SYSMark 2004.
Seagate comes in behind the other three 3.0Gbps drives in overall Internet Content Creation performance at 205-206 ticks on the graph. We are not putting much emphasis on this test anymore because of its CPU intensive nature. Instead, we are focusing more on the Office Productivity test suite.
To recap, here's what happens in the entire Office Productivity suite:
"In this scenario, the office productivity user creates a marketing presentation and supporting documents for a new product. The user receives email containing a collection of documents in a compressed file. The user reviews his email and updates his calendar while a virus checking software scans the system. The corporate web site is viewed and the user begins creating the collateral documents. The user also accesses a database and runs some queries. A collection of documents are compressed. The queries' results are imported into a spreadsheet and used to generate graphical charts. The user then transcribes a document. Once the document has all the necessary pieces in place, the user changes it into a portable format for easy and secure distribution. The user edits and adds elements to a slide show template. Finally, the user looks at the results of his work (both the slide show and the portable document) in an Internet browser."
Seagate's performance here is not the best. Overall, SYSMark 2004 rates it at 186-187 marks, which brings it half way down the list and far from the other 3.0Gbps drives and just barely shows improvement over the 400GB 7200.8 unit.
WinBench 99 - Transfer Rate Test
We ran WinBench 99's Disk Transfer Rate Test to get a better measure of just how well the transfer rates are over the course of the entire disk. The Disk Transfer Rate test reads from the media in a linear fashion from the beginning (1st track) to the end (last track). The numbers below represent the ceiling and floor of the transfer rates throughout the test.
HDTach - Sequential Read Speed/Burst Speed
Being our newest test in our desktop hard drive storage suite, the HDTach benchmark gives us a great deal of detail on the performance of a hard drive. Like the WinBench 99 Transfer Rate test, HDTach graphs the sequential read speed of the drive as the drive reads continuously from beginning to end.
Real World Tests - File System Tasks Within Drive
Synthetic benchmarks are not always the best gauge in measuring the "real" performance of hardware, which is why we have incorporated a few real world tests in our storage reviews. One of our tests, the file system performance test, measures the drive's ability to handle file zip, unzip, and copy operations. This is a great measure of how one drive compares to another and we have put together a group of tasks that most of us typically use.
- File Zip Test - We take a 300MB file and measure the time that it takes for our test bed to compress it to ZIP format. We then run the test again with 300 1MB files to see how the drive performs when working with multiple files.
- File Unzip Test - Using the same methodology as the File Zip Test, we take a ZIP file of a single 300MB file as well as a ZIP file of 300 1MB files and measure the time that it takes to uncompress each ZIP successfully.
- File Copy Test - We measure how long it takes for the system with our test drive to copy a single 300MB file as well as 300 1MB files.
Below are the results for these file system operations to the 500GB 7200.9 from our test bed hard drive.
|File System Tasks (from test bed drive to 500GB 7200.9)|
|NCQ Off||NCQ On|
|300MB File||300 1MB Files||300MB File||300 1MB Files|
Real World Tests - Application Load Times
In our Application Load Time tests, we measure the time that it takes for each application to startup. For example, our benchmarking tool begins the stopwatch as soon as PhotoShopCS.exe is run and stops after the application has finished loading all of the plug-ins and filters and shuts down. We take the average of 3 runs with system reboots and hard disk defragmentations before each test run.
|Application Load Times (average, seconds)|
|NCQ/TCQ Status||PhotoShop CS||Word 2003||Excel 2003||Access 2003||PowerPoint 2003|
|Seagate 7200.9 500GB, 16MB, SATA||w/out NCQ||8.516||2.103||2.433||2.605||2.343|
|Hitachi T7K250||w/out NCQ||8.953||2.422||1.953||2.203||2.203|
|Samsung HD160JJ||w/out NCQ||8.703||2.609||2.984||3.031||2.116|
|Western Digital WD1600JS||N/A||8.938||2.469||2.562||2.484||2.438|
Real World Tests - Game Level Load Times
We have changed our Game Level Loading Time test to include two of the latest games: Doom 3 and Half-Life 2. Because of their high resolution textures and the large levels, the loading time for the levels of each game are long enough to help show a difference between each drive.
We have also included an older strategy game, Command & Conquer: Generals, because of its longer level load times. Though the game is a couple of years old, it still proves to be a good measure of data loading performance.
The 500GB drive performs well while loading the Doom 3 Caverns1 level and the Command & Conquer: Generals GLA C3S1 (Campaign 3 [GLA], Scene 1) at 23.8 seconds and around 33.1 seconds, respectively.
Multitasking Performance - Business Winstone 2004
So far, NCQ proves to be a feature that could easily be non-existent when running single tasks at a time. Because NCQ is a technology that is designed to handle random requests for data, the only way to test it efficiently is to throw a few applications at it and run a few tasks at the same time. This will definitely give a hard drive a workout.
Business Winstone 2004 includes a multitasking test as a part of its suite, which does the following:
"This test uses the same applications as the Business Winstone test, but runs some of them in the background. The test has three segments: in the first, files copy in the background while the script runs Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer in the foreground. The script waits for both foreground and background tasks to complete before starting the second segment. In that segment, Excel and Word operations run in the foreground while WinZip archives in the background. The script waits for both foreground and background tasks to complete before starting the third segment. In that segment, Norton AntiVirus runs a virus check in the background while Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Project, Microsoft Access, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft FrontPage, and WinZip operations run in the foreground."
Real World Tests - Multitasking Performance
To provide a real world example of multitasking, we run Outlook and import 450MB of emails into an account. We then time how long it takes our benchmarking utility to zip a single 300MB file. To compare our results, we calculate the difference between the multitasked process and the single task file zip process.
|Outlook + Zip a 300MB File Within Drive|
|NCQ/TCQ Status||Multitasked||File Zip Only||% Difference|
|Seagate 7200.9 500GB, 16MB, SATA||w/out NCQ||69.215||59.707||15.9%|
|Hitachi T7K250||w/out NCQ||76.543||67.057||12.39%|
|Samsung HD160JJ||w/out NCQ||71.484||58.805||21.6%|
|Western Digital WD1600JS||N/A||74.371||61.182||21.6%|
Seagate's 7200.9 did not disappoint here as its 3.0Gb/sec transfer rates helped speed things along. The difference between a stand-alone file zip operation versus a multitasked process was only about 16% compared to a +20% difference using the other drives.
Thermal and Acoustics
Heat and sound are also two very important factors in drive performance especially when considering where they will be used. A loud hard drive that becomes warm very quickly may not be the best choice for home theater PCs or any PC without adequate cooling, and the noise alone could be a bit annoying. Take a look at how each drive performed as far as heat and noise output goes.
To measure the sound output of each drive, we have taken decibel readings of each drive at their startup phase as well as the sound output while there is disk activity.
When idle, the drive's sound output is barely audible. More specifically, we can't even tell that the drive is on. When actively reading and writing, however, the drive puts out about 55.1 dBA, which is just as loud as the Barracuda 400GB 7200.8.
With 3.0Gb/sec peak transfer rates and a 16MB cache, we expected the 500GB 7200.9 to blow away all of the other drives that we have reviewed. HDTach reported an extremely high, 248MB/sec burst speed, which was surprising after seeing the Windows Read Speed Test report a burst speed of 143MB/sec.
Seagate's 500GB 7200.9 performed exceptionally well in the game level loading tests, especially with Doom 3 and C&C: Generals. Half-Life 2 wasn't so forgiving, but two out of three games isn't bad. It also performed well in the File Zip operations as well as the Multitasking scenario where we zip a file within the drive while we import 400MB worth of emails in an Outlook account.
The 500GB 7200.9 does not perform better than some of the older 3.0Gb/sec drives that we had looked at a few months back, but its capacity may be enough to give Hitachi's 500GB offering some competition. We actually do have Hitachi's 500GB unit on hand and will be following up this review with a look at that drive as well as Western Digital's new 400GB Caviar. Right now, the 500GB Barracuda is a bit on the pricey side for the performance that it gives in our test suite, but it is a known fact that the higher transfer rates are attained more with multi-drive RAID.
If you're looking for capacity, the 500GB 7200.9 might be right for you, but with current prices, it may be more cost-effective to get your hands on a couple of 400GB units. For those who are speed hungry and don't mind giving up the disk space for it, you're better off working with a 10K RPM Raptor for now.