Hitachi Brings 400GB to Desktops with the Deskstar 7K400by Anand Lal Shimpi on July 10, 2004 12:00 AM EST
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Before the Raptor, before 8MB buffers and before its reliability issues, the IBM Deskstar 75GXP was the king of desktop hard disk performance. Unfortunately for IBM's storage division, the drive was plagued with reliability issues. Even more unfortunate was that given its high performance, seemingly everyone had one, and thus, a lot of people had to deal with dead drives, and even dead RMA replacement 75GXPs as well.
After the 75GXP fiasco, IBM did have a handful of other drives that were released, but it wasn't long before the storage division was handed over to Hitachi. On January 1, 2003, Hitachi and IBM entered into a joint venture whereby IBM owns a share of the Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (GST) division and Hitachi handles manufacturing of the hard drives.
In a somewhat odd move, considering the recent history of the Deskstar drives, Hitachi and IBM elected to continue to use the Deskstar name. But with much stronger competition, the Deskstar name is still not as popular among performance enthusiasts as it once was.
Recently, Hitachi announced the latest in their Deskstar line of hard drives, the 7K400 - a 400GB desktop hard drive that was designed to offer high capacity as well as the highest performance levels of any desktop Hitachi drive. We started covering desktop hard drives around the time of Hitachi's announcement, and thus, they were one of the first on our list to pursue for review samples. Not too much later and we were sitting on over a terabyte of storage in the form of Deskstar 7K400 drives.
There's not much revolutionary about the 7K400 that enables it to reach such high capacities. There are two basic methods employed to increase disk capacities: either increase the amount of data that you store on each platter, or increase the number of platters in your drive. In the case of the 7K400, Hitachi continues to use their 80GB platters and simply tacks on another two platters to their older 7K250 drives - resulting in a total of 5 platters.
The use of 80GB platters is a bit disappointing as the 300GB MaXLine III from Maxtor employs three 100GB platters. The benefit of higher density platters is that with more data stored in the same amount of space, higher sequential transfer rates (which matter greatly for desktop performance) are made possible. Generally speaking though, higher density platters and larger buffers should go hand in hand in order to deliver the best overall performance.
Hitach continues to employ an 8MB buffer with the 7K400, once again making this drive more of an evolution of the 7K250 rather than an updated drive designed to compete with the MaXLine III and upcoming offerings from Seagate.
While the 7K400 is available in both Parallel and Serial ATA versions, the drive is a native PATA solution with the SATA version featuring a bridge chip. We have yet to see any performance data suggesting that a bridged solution actually limits performance with current generation drives; that being said, a native SATA drive is still more desirable from a manufacturing, cost and heat standpoint.
The 7K400 uses fluid dynamic bearing motors to enable quiet operation, but we'll touch on just how quiet in our noise test section.