Price Guides, July 2005: Storageby Anand Lal Shimpi & Manveer Wasson on July 10, 2005 7:27 PM EST
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As always, we have more developments for those of you who have tried our RTPE beta. Just this last week we added some changes to the search engine that should allow for better searching (i.e. if you type DDR500 it will match PC-4000). Also, we added a feature that allows you to view the cost per GB on memory and hard drives. Just search for any memory or storage component and the engine will calculate the details for you! Feel free to talk about this new feature in our forums here. We also began moving the WML/WAP search on RTPE from closed beta to open beta, so all of those with data plans on your cell phone can now give the WAP search a try! Feel free to check out more details and leave your comments in our forums. Finally, we apologize for the outage of the RSS feed late last week; we had to upgrade FreeBSD on the RTPE master node.
Is the storage market over saturated? Optical storage drives cost $40 for top of the line, PATA cost per GB is below $0.40 and SATA cost per GB is below $0.50. Compare this to just a year ago where a decent DVD burner cost $150 (and didn't even support dual layer), SATA drives were a steal at $1.20 per GB and PATA drives were the cost per GB champions at $0.80 per GB. For now, this benefits us the consumers. In the long run, however, having five or six large competitors might lead to resurgence in low quality components in order to keep margins the same while reducing cost; similar to what happened several years ago. Does anyone remember when hard drives went from 5 year warranties to 1 year warranties? Let's hope DeathStar days aren't ahead of us.
Two weeks ago we had the opportunity to look at some "SATA II" drives from Samsung. Although this was supposed to be a big deal for hard drives, confusion in the SATA IO organization has convoluted the significance of SATA II. In fact, you may wish to read up on our previous article detailing the fact that "SATA IO" hard drives (SATA II is the old name, SATA IO is the new one) do not have to support NCQ, 3Gbps transfers or Hot Plug. The argument still rages as to whether or not 3Gbps is even useful on the desktop since the IO bottleneck is on the drive itself rather than the SATA bus, which almost makes everything about "SATA II" pointless anyway without NCQ. Purav's tests seem to favor NCQ for certain manufacturers and not others, so even the previous statement might be slightly misleading. While we were anxious about SATA IO in the past, the only real reason we see to get excited about it is if the cost per GB ratio gets below other SATA NCQ offerings.
The newest edition to the SATA IO lineup is Western Digital. Western Digital quietly unveiled their newest drive, the WD2500KS [RTPE: WD2500KS] without much fan fare. The WD2500KS is one of those prime instances where the "SATA II" market has really failed to inform its customers; the WD2500KS supports 3.0Gbps transfers, but does not incorporate NCQ. At least the cost is coming down fast:
Western Digital SATA II 250GB 7200RPM 16MB Caviar SE16
Our best advice is to really investigate which drives do better with NCQ and base your purchasing decision on that. As some of our benchmarks demonstrate, three of the new SATA IO drives occasionally did better without NCQ. Western Digital's hedge on NCQ-disabled drives might actually prove a wise decision in the long run. Until then, don't spend the premium on SATA IO.