Introduction

Though the technology seems fairly new to many of us end users, command queuing has been around for years. The idea of reordering the list of requests given to the hard disk drive was first introduced in the SCSI-2 standard and implemented in SCSI drives in the mid-90's. So, why has the technology only just now been given any sort of exposure to the mainstream computer market? Well, most importantly because it has been only recently implemented in consumer class desktop drives.

For the last few years, we have been hearing about more and more multithreading technologies like Intel's HyperThreading CPUs and even more recently, Intel and AMD's dual-core architecture. We've been multitasking since the release of Windows 95 and with Moore's Law comes a need for faster technology, and the bottleneck always seems to be the hard disk storage device.

Seagate Technologies has been a major player in the storage device game for quite some time and have also just entered the command queuing game as Maxtor did last year with its MaXLine III series hard drives with Native Command Queuing. Like Maxtor, Seagate has been able to design a native SATA drive with Native Command Queuing, while also increasing the drive's capacity to 400GB with its 7200.8 line, which is 33% larger than Maxtor's largest drives (300GB).

The Barracuda 7200.8 line builds on the 7200.7 line with the NCQ feature as well as 4 capacities including 200GB, 250GB, 300GB, and a 400GB, which we will be reviewing. The 400GB unit utilizes a three-133GB platter design, while the 250GB drive uses two 133GB platters. The 200GB and 300GB drives both use the older 100GB platter design. The 7200.8 line still has an 8MB cache, though, which may keep it from competing directly with Maxtor's DiamondMax 10 NCQ drive that holds a 16MB buffer.

When we first received our test units from Seagate, we noticed that the two drives had different controller chip/memory combinations on them (Agere/Samsung, STMicroelectronics/EtronTech). Seagate explained to us that they used various suppliers for their controller chips and that even though the chips are from different manufacturers, the drives are designed from the same specifications.

Inside the Barracuda 7200.8, Seagate has implemented their own version of a fluid dynamic bearing motor called SoftSonic. Their quiet motor technology is said to produce very little sound, but Seagate's specifications for the 7200.8 line says different as the drive specs list a higher bel rating than the 7200.7 line. We'll take a look at these numbers more later in our acoustic tests.

Let's dig a little deeper into Native Command Queuing...

Special thanks to NewEgg.com for providing us with the products for this review.

Seagate on NCQ
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  • zforgetaboutit - Thursday, May 26, 2005 - link

    The review has a table showing the drives' spec sheets. Among the stats are "average seek times (AST)". But I don't see average seek times benchmarked, as such.

    So, on the one hand, the Seagate's spec shows an AST of 8.x seconds, but other reviews have shown it to be 11+ seconds.

    I propose that if the review goes as far as to publish the purported AST, then it has an obligation to test it as well, with a discrete benchmark, such as HDTach or some other explicit AST benchmark.

    Otherwise companies will start to claim 2 ms AST, and Anandtech won't be able to refute it, if it's a blatantly bogus claim.

    Reply
  • OrSin - Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - link

    I see you explain how you take your sound measurements, but you really need to do it differently. The raptors are load as hell and seagate are queit and accourding to measure they are equal? Serious I undestand your reasoning for it, but it's just flawed. If a test seems right but produces obviously (and I mean obviously) wrong results then you need a new method.

    I had to send a raptor back it was so loud. I had to look at my computer (SFF) evertime i booted up to make sure it was going to rock off the table. Now my computer was a not actually moving but it sounding like it vibrating enough to move.
    Reply
  • Zak - Monday, April 25, 2005 - link

    Your articles are often difficult to read due to your use of some weird convoluted sentence structure. Why can't you guys use simpler, more accessible language??? Exampple:

    "RPM, or revolutions per minute, is the measure of instances that the motor of the hard drive can rotate the platters by a full 360 degrees."

    How about:

    "RPM, or revolutions per minute, the speed of platter rotation: how many times the platters rotate every minute." or something like that.

    Zak
    Reply
  • JPSJPS - Monday, April 25, 2005 - link

    Purav Sanghani - Poster 32 and especially poster 33 pointed out an obvious mistake that only a complete newbie would make. This makes all of your data questionable!!! Have you considered having someone with a little technical knowledge review your stuff before you publish it? Reply
  • PuravSanghani - Friday, April 22, 2005 - link

    TrogdorJW: The recordings as well as decibel readings were taken 1" away from the side of each drive. Obviously the sound emitted from the drives would not be as loud when inside a sealed case, but to get an accurate reading of the sound emissions from each drive and comparing them to each other requires that we take readings close to each unit.

    smn198: You are right, the frequency of the sound produced by each drive does make a world of difference. In the past when looking at case fans, we observed that larger 120mm fans are quieter than smaller 80mm fans because they produce a lower frequency which is less noticeable to humans. This is definitely the case with anything that produces any sound, including hard drives.
    Reply
  • ohnnyj - Friday, April 22, 2005 - link

    I want to know how you get Photoshop to open in under seven seconds on a Raptor. My RAID0 array opens in about 14-15. It opens faster if you open, close, then reopen again so I wonder if this is how the test was performed. Reply
  • Phantronius - Friday, April 22, 2005 - link

    Just bought 2 160gig Barracuda's to replace my noisey as hell Western Digitals. I freaking love them, soooooo much quieter.

    Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    A few things to note on noise (from my perspective):

    1) The hard drive noise levels were probably taken very close to the drives in order to capture them. Just FYI. 52 to 54 dBA is rather loud. Purav, what was the distance of your SPL meter from the drives?

    2) Seek noise can be very noticeable. My own experience reflects what's in the charts, with the Samsung being the quietest. Seagate and Hitachi are moderately loud, and the Maxtor and Western Digital Raptor are the loudest. (Raptor seek noise sounds louder to me than what's in the recordings.) I don't know about the decibel ratings, but it seems like if you started the charts at 50 that it would reflect more what I hear. (i.e. Samsung would be 1.2 to 2.4 and Hitachi would be 1.6 to 4.4)

    3) Bearing noise is generally either near-silent (Samsung, Seagate, and just about any other FDB implementation, including the Raptors) or else it's noticeable. The WDxxxxBB/JB models are notorious for having a lot of bearing noise, as are older Maxtor drives. I've got four WD's at my place, and I hate them all! :-p (They're a bit faster in a lot of tests, but they're too noisy.)

    4) Ignoring the echo in the recordings (MP3 compression can cause some funky artifacts), listen to the Maxtor 10 - Ouch! That thing is killer loud.
    Reply
  • JonB - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Since my motherboard SATA controllers don't support NCQ, I have three choices. Leave it disabled (which doesn't seem so bad in some respects), get a new motherboard, or add a Promise or Adaptec PCI controller card.

    Anybody got experience with an add-in Promise RAID with NCQ support???
    Reply
  • smn198 - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    #28 - "Maybe we're seeing no boost with NCQ because of poor implementation, who knows. Testing with just one platform will not reveal such issues."

    I seem to remember Anand saying the opposite
    http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...
    "What's truly impressive, however, is the reduction in average response time - up to a 90ms decrease in response time, thanks to NVIDIA's superior NCQ implementation. "

    However, Anand did mention that NVIDIA took the decision not to 'turn on' NCQ until the queue depth had exceeded a certain amount. (Cannot remember which article that was in.) It may be that in some of these tests, this queue depth was not exceeded.

    #30 - "How is the 7200.7 120Gb drive louder then a Raptor? My 7200.7 120Gb drive is near SILENT, no where loud as a Raptor. I think your measuring device is off forthe Acoustics test."

    This may be due to the fact that the noise the Raptor emits is at a different, more audible frequency.
    Reply

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