Price Guides May 2004: Optical and Magnetic Storageby Kristopher Kubicki on May 2, 2004 7:18 PM EST
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Welcome to this week's edition of our Price Guides. This guide will be covering storage in the form of hard drives and DVDR's and point out some recent advances in these technologies. As usual, be sure to check out our RealTime Pricing Engine for the latest prices and deltas.
SATA Hard Drives
As memory prices continue their journey upward, storage prices have been moving very slowly and in some cases actually dropping. In the past months we have seen everything from slashed prices to huge manufacturer rebates on virtually any size and type of hard drive imaginable, save for the occasional hike. This is great news since not only has the cost per gigabyte of storage gone down overall, but performance has gone up as well with the introduction of greater platter densities and larger disk buffers.
Serial ATA drives have also become more obvious in the marketplace with models appear on shelves right next to their PATA brethren and usually at very similar prices. With drives such as the Western Digital Raptors showing the world what SATA can do and how much room it has to get even better, we expect to see more SATA drives being chosen over classic PATA as consumers build new systems and upgrade old ones as long as prices continue to stay competitive.
While the cost of stashing that massive music or home video collection have been more enticing lately, the price of performance continues to be within reach of the average prosumer thanks to Western Digital. When it comes down to it, the Raptor series drives are the best you can get short of making the dive into SCSI devices. These drives sport a 10,000 RPM spindle speed along with an 8 MB buffer compared to other drives which are usually either 7200 RPM or 5400 RPM. At around $110 for the 36.7GB version and $220 for the 74GB version, the Raptor certainly isn't the cheapest of drive weighing in at almost $3 per gigabyte, but what they lack in price they make up for in raw performance. You also gain the luxury of extremely simple setup thanks to the SATA design and very simple cabling to keep your machine looking clean inside.
If you simply can't resist SATA there are some options in this category which are well worth consideration especially since motherboards have started to more frequently show up with SATA built right in even with RAID controllers. Western Digital makes a solid 200GB SATA drive at 7200RPMs and an 8MB cache for just under 70 cents per gigabyte. For the price of $140 200GB of space is certainly a good offer for a technology as new as SATA.
Concerning RAID: often we are asked if it is worth it to buy two 36.7GB drives and RAID them together for performance. Our answer is no; the performance increases are minute, but your stability issues are horrible. Suppose your drives have a 5% failure rate after 1 year. If you RAID two of your drives together the failure rate of your stripe jumps to 9.75% (compare this to just buying one big drive with a failure rate of 5%). Do you mind playing a 1 in 10 chance of loosing your data for single digit percentage performance increases? Granted, there are plenty of uses for RAID (DB servers, fileservers, etc), but workstation performance is not one of them.