Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/2026

Welcome back to another edition of our famous weekly price guides. We're here this weekend to bring you the latest information regarding many storage options that are available, covering everything from SATA drives to SCSI to DVDRs. If this is your first time joining us in our price guides, we'll quickly introduce you to what they are all about.

Our RTPE lists many computer components, such as LCD monitors, hard drives, memory, CPUs, motherboards, sound cards, etc. So what we do is take four categories: storage (hard drives and optical drives), CPUs, motherboards and video cards; then we cover each topic about once a month. We not only like to make product recommendations based on prices and performance, but we also like to keep an eye out on the latest happenings in the marketplace and make informed suggestions for your next upgrade.

As per many requests from our loyal readers, we are still working on getting laptop hard drives into our RTPE. However, that task is not yet complete; rest assured that once it's ready, we will be sure to include that market segment in our storage price guides. We know many users also have a laptop or two, and some of them could use a hard drive upgrade/replacement.

We realize that the pricing tables on the following pages do not allow better sorting options like the RTPE does, as all of the tables are listed in alphabetical order. The main thing that you will find in the RTPE is the cost per GB breakdown, as well as the ability to sort by price. This makes finding the best storage deals extremely easy. Hopefully, we can get that functionality for our tables in the future, but for now, let's head on over to the 3.0Gbps SATA hard drives.

SATA 3.0Gbps

We will begin this weekend's guide with the 3.0Gbps hard drives, which is arguably the most popular area. You will find many outstanding deals in the chart below, but if you're debating whether to go with a 3.0Gbps or 1.5Gbps hard drive, we can help make your decision easier. We suggest you go with the drive that offers you more storage space for your dollar rather than comparing the 3.0 vs. 1.5Gbps transfer rates.

At this stage in time, the difference between the 1.5 and 3.0Gbps interface really is a moot point as transfer rates have yet to exceed 150 MB/s. The newer 3.0Gbps drives are sometimes better, but that is due to other advancements such as increased platter densities and not the SATA interface. Also note that if your motherboard only supports the 1.5Gbps interface and not the newer 3.0Gbps standard, this should not pose a problem. The 3.0Gbps drives are backwards compatible with motherboards supporting the 1.5Gbps interface, so choose whichever drive will give you more bang for your buck. (Some drives also have a jumper block that can be used to force 1.5Gbps mode if necessary.)

We'll take a look at the various size groupings, but we'll also list all of the drives in a single table at the bottom of the page, just so we don't miss any offerings. Generally speaking, the larger the drive you purchase, the better the cost per GB. Unfortunately, this rule of thumb isn't consistent throughout all available drives sizes, as the 400GB and larger drives begin to increase in relative price. Most users will want to balance size vs. cost, which is what the price per GB represents. Of course, some people really need a lot of storage, so they'll want to look at the 750GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 [RTPE: ST3750640AS] priced at $430 shipped ($0.57/GB).

The cheapest 400GB hard drive this time around is the Seagate 3.0Gbps 400GB 7200RPM 16MB Barracuda 7200.9 [RTPE: ST3400633AS]. Although at its lowest price point yet, this 400GB Barracuda is selling for $176 ($0.44/GB).

The best priced 500GB drive we're pulling up is from Western Digital -- the 3.0Gbps 500GB 7200RPM 16MB Caviar SE16 [RTPE: WD5000KS] which is on sale for about $230 ($0.46/GB). We can't really suggest that you go with these larger drives unless you really need the additional storage, as you can gain more for your money by going with two 250GB drives - we'll take a look at those next.

Here you can see why we suggest two 250GB drives rather than a single 500GB or 400GB drive. You can get your hands on the Samsung 3.0Gbps 250GB 7200RPM 8MB SpinPoint P [RTPE: SP2504C] for $80 shipped ($0.32/GB). For an even better deal, you can go with the Western Digital 3.0Gbps 250GB 7200RPM 16MB Caviar SE16 [RTPE: WD2500KS] for $80 after a $10 mail-in rebate. The Western Digital drive has a 16MB buffer rather than an 8MB buffer found in the Samsung drive we pointed out first, and offers generally better performance. Of course, if you're mostly interested in getting a quiet hard drive, the Samsungs can't be beat.

Although they're some of the noisiest drives around in the marketplace, Maxtor drives can generally perform just as well as any other brand available today. They may not be our favorite brand, but the Maxtor 3.0Gbps 300GB 7200RPM 16MB DiamondMax 10 [RTPE: 6V300F0] in particular performs very well, and it's going for about $100 ($0.36/GB). Below, you can find a complete list of the SATA 3.0Gbps drives.

SATA - 1.5Gbps

Moving on to the 1.5Gbps drives, here we can also see a large array of hard drive sizes available, all the way from 40GB drives to upwards of 500GBs. Although we did not mention this on the previous page, but just as with the 3.0Gbps drives, there are so many excellent choices that can be made here that it's nearly impossible for us to list all the good deals or even those from your favorite brand/model.

As you can see from our table below, there have been some moderate changes in pricing, with the majority decreasing somewhat which is what everyone likes to see. Also, you will see that the price difference between the two SATA specifications is generally negligible, though overall the advantage now appears to rest with the newer 3.0Gbps drives, with a few going at the low rate of about $0.32/GB. We want to emphasize that unless you can find a 1.5Gbps model at a lower price than the 3.0Gbps drives, you should probably go back a page and check out those deals.

Starting off our recommendations in this section, we have the Maxtor 1.5Gbps 250GB 7200RPM 16MB DiamondMax 10 [RTPE: 6L250S0] going for about $80 shipped ($0.32/GB). Coming in close behind is the Western Digital 1.5Gbps 320GB 7200RPM 8MB Caviar SE [RTPE: WD3200JD] which is on sale for approximately $115 shipped ($0.35/GB). You can also opt for the 250GB Western Digital [RTPE: WD2500JD], which is also priced at $0.35/GB or $87 shipped.

For users looking for a single large drive which would be ideal for a SFF setup, the Western Digital 1.5Gbps 400GB 7200RPM 16MB Caviar RE2 [RTPE: WD4000YR] would be a great choice, going for about $170 (($0.43/GB). You also have two other decent options for a 400GB drive: both the Western Digital 1.5Gbps 400GB 7200RPM 16MB Caviar SE16 [RTPE: WD4000KD] and the Hitachi 1.5Gbps 400GB 7200RPM 8MB Deskstar 7K250 [RTPE: HDS724040KLSA80] are available for about $180 each (~$0.45/GB).

You'll notice that the 400GB Hitachi drive we recommended has seen quite a significant price decrease over the course of the past month or so. You can see when the drive first launched; it started at over $270 and slowly but steadily decreased to where it is at today, roughly $180.

Of course, there's everyone's favorite (and only) 10000 RPM SATA drive series, the Western Digital Raptor. Performance is better in some tasks, but of course you sacrifice capacity for the higher spindle speed. The cheapest price/GB on the Raptor line on the 150GB is still about 4X as much as the most popular SATA offerings ($1.73/GB), so you'll really want to give careful thought to whether or not a Raptor (or two) is truly your best upgrade option. For the highest end PCs, it's a reasonable choice, but we'd recommend spending more money elsewhere if you're looking to keep prices in check.

Again, here's the complete list of SATA 1.5Gbps drives. You're much better off searching in the RTPE directly, however.


Carrying on, we'll now take a look at the older PATA drives. As this is one of the oldest interfaces around today, you will notice that many drives still being sold today have 2MB of cache. We suggest you go with a drive that has at least an 8MB cache if not 16MB. There really isn't much of a price difference between the 8 and 16MB cache drives, so we highly suggest going with a drive which has a 16MB cache as there is no harm.

While many of the pricing fluctuations are trivial in the smaller sized drives, you will see the most significant price adjustments within the 400 and 500GB drives. The largest decrease we're seeing within the 400GB category is about $25, while in the 500GB category, the largest decrease is about $70. Within the 400GB category, the best priced drive we're seeing is the Seagate ATA100 400GB 7200RPM 8MB Barracuda 7200.8 [RTPE: ST3400832A] going for about $180 shipped ($0.44/GB). While we're seeing the most reasonably priced 400GB drive from Seagate, known for their generally quiet operation, within the 500GB category, the best price we can find is for the Hitachi ATA100 500GB 7200RPM 8MB Deskstar 7K500 [RTPE: HDS725050KLAT80] which is going for approximately $245 shipped ($0.49/GB).

There are so many PATA drives in the market of all sizes and flavors, so we've taken the time right now to divide up the drives by sizes. We have omitted the 40 and 80GB drives from our charts, and have listed from the 120GB, through the 250 and the 320GB drives. We'll skip the exhaustive list here, as it really becomes too large to be reasonably digested.

We're only pulling up on a single drive featuring a mail-in rebate, but we're able to find many other drives at much better price points. For example, we're seeing the Western Digital ATA100 250GB 7200RPM 8MB Caviar SE [RTPE: WD2500JB] on sale for about $82 shipped ($0.33/GB). Another excellent deal can be had on the Seagate ATA100 250GB 7200RPM 8MB Barracuda 7200.9 [RTPE: ST3250824A] which is going for approximately $90 ($0.36/GB).


Moving right along, we'll quickly take a look at the SCSI drives we have available floating around the marketplace. There are so many drives being offered in this line-up, so we must admit that looking through the chart may seem a little overwhelming. Make sure you get a drive that meets your requirements. What do we mean here? Well, our main concern is you pick up a drive(s) that will work with your setup because as you will notice, there are drives with a 68-pin interface along with drives using an 80-pin interface. You also have the option of going with a 10,000 or 15,000RPM hard drive. Speaking of RPMs, the 15K RPM drives are rather loud, not to mention expensive, so most people would much rather stick with slower SATA drives in desktop systems. You will also find quite a few manufacturers here, but the majority of the market is composed of drives from Maxtor and Seagate.

Taking a very quick look, the most reasonable price/capacity Ultra 320 drive we are able to locate this weekend is the Hitachi Ultra320 300GB 10000RPM 8MB Ultrastar 10K300 [RTPE: HUS103030FL3800] which is on sale for about $540 shipped (that's $1.80/GB). The best price/capacity 15,000RPM drive we're able to find this time around is the Maxtor Ultra320 36.7GB 15000RPM 8MB Atlas 15K II 80-pin [RTPE: 8E036J0] going for $175 shipped ($4.71/GB). 15K SCSI drives are used almost exclusively in the enterprise sector, which of course accounts for the extremely high prices. If you're looking for the highest capacity 15K drive possible, there are quite a few 146/147GB models available, starting at about $800 and going up to over $1000. However, unlike the 10K market, there are no 300GB 15K SCSI drives available yet.

There are also SAS drives available for the enterprise market, but do expect to pay a slightly higher premium than you would for the Ultra 320 drives. While previously only Maxtor and Seagate were producing SAS drives, Hitachi has recently joined them with three offerings. Both the Maxtor and Hitachi drives have 16MB of cache, while Seagate's offerings only have an 8MB cache. This isn't a huge concern, but it still warrants mention.

The drive with the most bang for the buck within the 10,000RPM category is the Maxtor SAS 73.5GB 10000RPM 16MB Atlas 10K V SAS [RTPE: 8J073S0] going for $200 ($2.76/GB). Within the 15,000RPM drives, the best price/capacity we're able to find is the Maxtor SAS 147GB 15000RPM 16MB Atlas 15K II SAS [RTPE: 8E147S0] on sale for about $890 ($5.80/GB). For raw capacity, only Maxtor is currently selling 300GB SAS drives, with the Maxtor SAS 300GB 10000RPM 16MB Atlas 10K V SAS [RTPE: 8J300S0] going for about $850 ($2.84/GB).


Finishing things up, we'll take a look at the available DVDR offerings. These days we're showing many DVDRs in our RTPE and it's difficult to say which is better than another as there are many which perform very well.

We can see the BenQ 16X DW1655 [RTPE: DW1655] is going for $37 shipped, which features the newer LightScribe technology. You can see this drive is currently at its lowest price point to date.

The NEC 16X ND-3550A [RTPE: ND-3550A] is also a great drive, currently on sale for $37 shipped. Pioneer's new 16X DVR-111D [RTPE: DVR-111D] is another writer worth considering. You can currently find this drive on sale for $39 shipped, which is less than the DVR-110D it replaced. If you're looking for a slot loading drive, look no further than the Plextor 16X PX-716AL [RTPE: PX-716AL]. Generally retailing for about $160, this Plextor DVD writer is going for $135 shipped. That's unfortunate, as some people prefer slot loaders over the tray load models, but at 4X the price we'll take the cheaper drives.

This wraps up this weekend's storage price guide. Come back again next weekend when we take a look at the latest happenings within the motherboard marketplace.

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