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Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB SATA 6G HD Review
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Date: Mar 18, 2010
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

Although Solid State Drives are all the rage lately, they comprise only a fraction of the overall desktop PC storage market. While SSDs are undeniably fast and enhance the overall user experience, they are also prohibitively expensive for many users and offer relatively low capacities. As such, traditional, spinning hard drives, with their huge capacities and low cost per gigabyte, still make up the lion's share of the market.

One of the more interesting hard drives to hit the scene recently is the Seagate Barracuda XT. Its 2TB capacity, 64MB of cache, and 7200 RPM spindle speed will automatically piqué the interest of many enthusiasts. But couple those features with the drive's support for SATA 6G and the story gets all the more interesting.

We've tested the Seagate Barracuda XT while connected to SATA 6G and SATA 3G controllers, and compared its performance to a 2TB drive from WD, and Seagate's own 7200.11 offering. Take a look at the XT's full specs below, then check out the rest of the piece to see just how this drive performs and whether or not it's worth springing for a SATA 6G capable mobo or controller...


The Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB SATA 6G HD

Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB
Specifications and Features


Our SATA 6G Test Bed

The test the Seagate Barracuda XT, we enlisted the help of Asus and their P7P55D Premium motherboard. Among many other things, the P7P55D Premium sports a Marvell SATA 6G controller, which allowed us to test the Barracuda XT in both SATA 3G and SATA 6G modes on the exact same platform. As its name suggests, the P7P55D Premium is built around Intel's P55 Express chipset for socket 1156 Lynnfield-cased Core i5 / i7 processors. For more information on the P55, please take a look at this article.

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Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB

From the outside, there's really not much to see with the Seagate Barracuda XT. If you've seen one 3.5" hard drive, you've seen them all...

 

 
Seagate Barracuda XT, 2TB, 7200 RPM Hard Drive

The Seagate Barracuda XT looks just like every other standard 3.5" hard drive. It's got a heavy-dute metal shell with a sticker on the top side and small PCB un the underside. The decal on the top of the drive is adorned with the typical branding, specifications, and serial number info. The PCB on the underside is pretty much devoid of anything interesting--the chips and other components that let the drive do its thing are mounted on the opposite side of the PCB, out of view.

The connectors on the Seagate Barracuda XT, despite the drive's support for SATA 6G, also look identical to other SATA hard drives. We wish there was something exciting to point out from an aesthetic standpoint, but there's not, unfortunately. Regardless, this puppy is going to be stuffed in a case anyway, so who's going to see it, right?

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Test System and IOMeter

Our Test MethodologiesUnder each test condition, the drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with a different hard disk used for the OS and benchmark installations.  The drives were left blank without partitions wherever possible, unless a test required them to be partitioned and formatted, as was the case with our ATTO and Vantage benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle before invoking a test.

HotHardware Test System
Intel Core i7 Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -


Audio -

Hard Drives -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7 870


Asus P7P55D-Premium
(P55 Express Chipset)


GeForce GTX 280

6144MB Corsair DDR3-1333
CAS 7


Integrated on board

Seagate Barracuda XT
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11
WD RE4

Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows Vista Ultimate
Intel 9.1.0.1012
DirectX 10

NVIDIA ForceWare v182.50

Benchmarks Used:
HD Tach 3.0.1.0
ATTO ver 2.02
CrystalDiskMark
PCMark Vantage
SiSoftware Sandra 2009 SP4a

 IOMeter
 I/O Subsystem Measurement Tool

In the following tables, we're showing two sets of access patterns; one with an 8K transfer size, 80% reads (20% writes) and 80% random (20% sequential) access and one with IOMeter's default access pattern of 2K transfers, 67% reads and 100% random access.

The Western Digital RE4 drive finished well ahead of the Seagate Barracuda XT in our IOMeter tests, regardless of whether or not it was connected to a SATA 6G controller. In fact, the Barracuda 7200.11 was also a bit faster than the XT overall in this test.

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SiSoft SANDRA Read & Write

Testing began with SiSoftware's SANDRA XII, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provided the results from our comparison drives. The benchmarks were run without formatting and read performance metrics are detailed below. We also included SANDRA's graph so you are able to see how the drive performs over time along with the average rated result.

 SiSoft SANDRA 2009
 Synthetic Benchmarks


 
Seagate Barracuda XT 6G
 


Seagate Barracuda XT 3G
 


Western Digital RE4


Seagate Barracuda 7200.11

The Seagate Barracuda XT put up the best read performance scores according to SiSoft SANDRA, by a new megabytes per second, at least. The move from SATA 3G to SATA 6G, however, had little affect on performance. 

 
Seagate Barracuda XT 6G

 


Seagate Barracuda XT 3G

 


Western Digital RE4


Seagate Barracuda 7200.11

Write performance was a whole different story. Here, with the  Barracuda XT was connected to a SATA 6G controller, it actually performed slightly lower than when connected to SATA 3G. And the WD RE4 drive put up the best write score.

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ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO is a more straight-forward type of disk benchmark that measures transfers across a specific volume length.  It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart.  We chose .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes over a total max volume length of 256MB.  This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with NTFS partitions.

ATTO Disk Benchmark - Read/Write Performance
Version 2.41


 
Seagate Barracuda XT 6G

 

Seagate Barracuda XT 3G

 

Western Digital RE4

Seagate Barracuda 7200.11


Whether connected to a SATA 3G or SATA 6G controller, the  Barracuda XT was the best overall performer according to the ATTO benchmark. All of the drives are tightly grouped, but the XT was a few MB/s faster then the rest of the pack overall.

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CrystalDiskMark Testing

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic test that evaluates both sequential as well as random small and large file transfers.  It does a nice job of providing a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to hard drive performance, best case being large sequential transfers and worse case being small, random 4K transfers. 

CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
Synthetic File Transfer Tests


 
Seagate Barracuda XT 6G

 

Seagate Barracuda XT 3G

 

Western Digital RE4

Seagate Barracuda 7200.11


The  Barracuda XT offers measurably better performance than the 7200.11 edition drive, but the WD RE4 takes the top spot here. The WD RE4 is a bit slower then the XT in the sequential write test, but in every other the WD drive leads.

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HD Tach Testing

Simpli Software's HD Tach is described on the company's web site as such: "HD Tach is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices such as hard drives, removable drives, flash devices, and RAID arrays. HD Tach uses custom device drivers and other low level Windows interfaces to bypass as many layers of software as possible and get as close to the physical performance of the device being tested."

HD Tach v3
http://www.simplisoftware.com/


 
Seagate Barracuda XT 6G

 

Seagate Barracuda XT 3G

 

Western Digital RE4

Seagate Barracuda 7200.11


The Seagate Barracuda XT pulls into the lead in the HDTech tests, regardless of what type of SATA controller it is connected to. It manages to pull ahead of the WD RE4 drive and 7200.11 by a few MB/s in each test, with the exception of the burst test where its numbers are off the chart. That burst score, however, is being affected by the Marvell SATA 6G controller's drivers, which use a portion of system memory for cache purposes.

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PCMark Vantage

Next we ran the four drives through a battery of tests in PCMark Vantage from Futuremark Corp. We specifically used only the HDD Test module of this benchmark suite to evaluate all of the drives we tested. Feel free to consult Futuremark's white paper on PCMark Vantage for an understanding of what each test component entails and how it calculates its measurements. For specific information on how the HDD Test module arrives at its performance measurements, we'd encourage you to read pages 35 and 36 of the white paper.

Futuremark's PCMark Vantage
http://www.futuremark.com

We really like PCMark Vantage's HDD Performance for its real-world application measurement approach to testing.  From simple Windows Vista start-up performance to data streaming from a disk drive in a game engine and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel confident that these tests best illustrate the real performance profile of our SSDs in an end user/consumer PC usage model.

The Barracuda XT manages to outpace the 7200.11 drive, but once again the Western Digital RE4 is slightly faster overall. In each of these PCMark Vantage tests, with the exception of the Vista Startup test which is evenly matched, the WD RE4 finished just slightly ahead of the XT.

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PCMark Vantage (cont.)

Our next series of Vantage tests will stress the write performance. Applications like video editing, streaming and recording are not what we would call a strong suit for the average SSD, due to their high mix of random write transactions.  We should also note that it's not so much a weakness of the memory itself, but rather the interface and control algorithms that deal with inherent erase block latency of MLC NAND flash.  SSD manufacturers are getting better at this, as is evidenced by our results below...

Futuremark's PCMark Vantage
http://www.futuremark.com

The remaining four tests in the PCMark Vantage suite told essentially the same story as those from the previous page. Here, the Western Digital drive manages to outpace the Barracuda XT by a small margin in every test.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: There are two aspects of the Barracuda XT's performance that need summarizing, its performance when connected to a SATA 6G controller versus a SATA 3G controller, and its performance versus competing, high-capacity drives. First, let's tackle the SATA controller question. As our testing has shown, connecting the Barracuda XT to a SATA 6G controller offered some slight increases in read performance, but in a handful of tests the drive actually wrote data slightly slower when connected to a SATA 6G controller. Spinning hard drives are unable to fully tax the bandwidth offered by a SATA 3G controller, so the benefits of connecting a standard hard drive to an even higher bandwidth interface will be minimal at best.

Overall, in light of some competing offerings, the Segate Barracuda XT is an excellent performer. The Barracuda XT was somewhat faster than Seagate's previous desktop flagship 7200.11 series drive in the majority of our tests. The Western Digital RE4 series drive, however, was somewhat faster then the Barracuda XT. The two drives traded victories in a few tests, but the WD drive pulled ahead more often than not and its margins of victory were typically larger in general.

Users in the market for a fast, high-capacity hard drive should definitely take the Seagate Barracuda XT into consideration. For a traditional, spinning hard drive, the Barracuda XT is quite fast, and its price is right in-line with competing, high performance drives from Western Digital (as of the today, the WD Caviar Black and Barracuda XT are the exact same price on Newegg, $279). With that said, slower 5400 - 5900 RPM 2TB hard drives are available for significantly less money, some more than $100 less. If it's going to be your primary hard drive, we'd definitely recommend the faster 7200 RPM models for their inherent performance benefits, but if you're pairing a high-capacity hard disk with an SSD that's used for the boot volume, it becomes much harder to justify the additional cost. Keep that in mind when shopping for your next build / upgrade. If you don't absolutely need the additional performance, there's a lot of money to be saved by going with a slower drive.

In terms of technology, the Seagate Barracuda XT is about as advanced as hard drives come these days. Support for SATA 6G is a nice bullet point, but our testing has shown it does little for performance, at least with a spinning hard drive; Micron's C300 SSD showed huge performance gains when connected to a SATA 6G interface. 64MB of cache and 7200 RPM spindle speed, along with the drive's high areal density, however, help push the Seagate Barracuda XT's performance to, or at least near, the top of the charts. If you need the capacity and crave the performance, the Seagate Barracuda XT is a solid choice.

 

  • High Capacity
  • Good Performance
  • 64MB Cache
  • 7200 RPM
  • SATA 6G Didn't Help Performance
  • Much More Expensive than somewhat slower, similar capacity drives



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