When Hitachi first introduced their 500GB hard disk drives, we thought that it would take forever for them to actually begin manufacturing the units, which was not the case. We gave Hitachi the credit for being the first manufacturer to put out the largest hard disk drive ever, but we couldn’t really gauge its performance, since there were really no other drives to which to compare it.

Last month, Seagate officially announced their 7200.9 line of desktop hard disk drives and we had a chance to look at their largest unit in the line, the 500GB Barracuda. During our tech briefing with the 7200.9 product manager, we learned that the line was the end result of combining the two previous lines, the 7200.7 and the 7200.8. The joining of forces led to the 7200.9 name and included all of the capacities from the previous two.

Again, we could not really compare Seagate’s 500GB unit with any of the other drives that we had benchmarked and so, we were determined to get our hands on the largest units on the market today. Hitachi and Seagate were held to have the largest capacities at 500GB and we threw in Western Digital’s 400GB unit for kicks.

Here’s how the drives weigh in…

Capacity Platter Density # of Platters / Heads Spindle speed (RPM) Average Seek Time Average Latency Interface Buffer Sizes
Hitachi 7K500 500GB 100GB 5 / 10 7200 8.5ms 4.17ms PATA / SATA 3.0Gb/sec 16MB
Seagate 7200.9 500GB 500GB 125GB 4 / 8 7200 8.5ms 4.16ms PATA / SATA 3.0Gb/sec 16MB
Western Digital WD4000YR 400GB 100GB 4 / 8 7200 8.7ms 4.2ms PATA / SATA 1.5Gb/sec 16MB

The WD4000YR is only a 1.5 Gb/sec drive, but we’re including it to compare performance between it and the newer 3.0 Gb/sec units. And since it is Western Digital’s new high capacity model, we thought, why not take a peek at its performance as well and to see which drive gives us more bang for the buck.

The Test
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  • artifex - Friday, December 9, 2005 - link

    Heat? MTBF? Warranty?
  • grnmyeyes - Monday, December 5, 2005 - link

    1. Why use the WD4000YR (RE2) instead of the WD4000KD (SE16)? From what I gather, the RE2 is optimized for RAID configurations while the SE 16 is intended for general single-drive use.

    2. While the review states that the nForce4 motherboard used for testing supports TCQ and NCQ, it neglects to mention whether these features are enabled on all the drives tested. If other sites ( are to be believed, turning off TCQ/NCQ can result in a substantial performance increase for single-user applications.

    3. This last one isn't really a flaw, but it would be nice to see the Maxtor DiamondMax 11 put through this same test suite when it becomes available in the near future, since it is designed to compete with these three drives.
  • NightCrawler - Sunday, December 4, 2005 - link">

    1. First, the WD4000YR (that is, the “Raid Edition 2”) enjoys a 24-hour factory burn-in period versus the WD4000KD (the “Special Edition 16”)’s 8-hour test. The longer validation cycle increases the chances that a drive destined to suffer an “infant mortality” of sorts is caught at the factory before it enters distribution.

    2. Next, the YR features a longer 5-year warranty more typical of enterprise-oriented drives such as WD’s own Raptor or Seagate’s Cheetah series rather than the shorter 3-year coverage that backs the KD.

    3. Finally, the RE2, living up to its moniker, ships with the firm’s “Time Limited Error Recovery” (TLER) feature enabled while the SE16 does not. This oft-confusing feature permits a drive to gracefully surrender error recovery features after an 8-second window of attempts rather than stubbornly continuing onwards with the assumption that an array’s redundancy features will cover the error and avoid data corruption. For drives that find themselves in a setup that features redundancy (anything other than RAID 0), this is a plus. For disks that don’t, it’s not.

    This leveraged technology between the RE2/SE16 and the Raptor leads WD to boldly proclaim that the WD4000YR can sustain use in a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week environment with its actuator seeking 100% of the time… the only such claim for any 7200 RPM drive on the market. Competing drives such the Seagate NL35 and Maxtor MaXLine Pro, while offering 24x7 power up, are more cautious in duty cycle (that is, seek) claims- “nearline duty loads” for the Seagate and “40%-50%” for the Maxtor.

    Worth the $20 extra to get the YR version and the 5 year warranty.

  • bluefmc - Friday, December 2, 2005 - link


    The WD hard drive you tested is not recommended by WD to be used attached to a non-RAID controller. To quote the article:

    "In fact, WD touts the drive's "Time Limited Error Recovery" (TLER) ability, a feature that enables better drive-controller coordination in mutually handling drive errors. The drawback, however, is that the RE2 expects to operate off of a RAID controller and is as a result not recommended for use in a standard desktop system."

    You can read about this in a WD PDF at [L=]
    ary/sata/2579-001098.pdf[/L} Basically it says that if this drive is used attached to a non-RAID controller data corruption may result.
  • irev210 - Friday, December 2, 2005 - link

    Big woopty deal.

    Go buy a WD4000KD

    Besides, the SE16 is cheaper than the RE anyway.">

    199 at zipzzomfly with free 2nd day air. An absolute bargain!

  • bluefmc - Friday, December 2, 2005 - link

    It's is actually a big "woopty deal." If someone buys this drive to use as a desktop drive connected to a non-RAID controller it can result in data corrution and/or data loss. This drive is intended solely for use in a RAID array connected to a RAID controller. The article made no mention of this fact, so I thought I'd point it out.
  • phanna - Saturday, December 3, 2005 - link

    From the PDF you posted: "A drive under a continuous I/O load and performing its own error recovery can easily exceed 8 seconds of timeout, during which the normal desktop hard drive does not respond".

    These drives are fine to use as desktop drives. The only thing this sheet is saying is if you do have this connected to a RAID controller, and you are using it in a high load environment, you don't have to worry about it being dropped by the controller if the drive has to perform lengthy error recovery, due to its TLER technology.
  • irev210 - Saturday, December 3, 2005 - link


    From the PDF you posted: "A drive under a continuous I/O load and performing its own error recovery can easily exceed 8 seconds of timeout, during which the normal desktop hard drive does not respond".

  • bluefmc - Saturday, December 3, 2005 - link

    Let me explain a problem that has been popping up recently with the growing popularity of SATA RAID. Most SATA drives are not made for use in RAID arrays and are made for desktop use. What this means is that they will take as long as they need to recover from an error. Normally this is a good thing. This becomes a problem when such a drive is hooked up to a RAID controller, since while fixing an error a drive is non-responsive. If a drive is non-responsive for more than approximately 8 seconds, the RAID controller assumes that the drive is dead and fails it out of the array. As a result a perfectly good drive is kicked out of the array for no reason and you now have a lengthy rebuild process to go through.

    This new drive from WD solves this problem by only trying to fix an error for 8 seconds, then giving up and passing the error along to the RAID controller. With any level of RAID with the exception of 0 you will have no data loss or corruption, and you won't needlessly fail a perfectly good drive out of the array.

    Now if this drive is not hooked up to a RAID controller and it gives up on an error in 8 seconds that may have been repairable by the drive in 10, 20, 30 seconds or more, data corruption will result. And yes these longer errors do happen with some frequency. Hence if you do not use this drive in a RAID array that has redundancy, you run a risk of losing data.

    Now I want to be clear that I'm not putting down WD or their drives. I'm running 2 WDs in my desktop now myself. I just want people to understand that this drive in not suitable for typical desktop use. This drive must be used in a RAID array of level 1 or higher.
  • irev210 - Saturday, December 3, 2005 - link

    Yup, so i guess we can say that anandtech should have mentioned - BUY the SE16 which is CHEAPER anyway if you dont plan to run a raid, otherwise you could have unneeded problems down the line.

    Makes sense to me.

    Good info bluefmc

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