|Introduction, Specifications & Features|
Seagate recently released its new Barracuda 7200.10 storage line, and with that, the company introduced the largest hard drive on the market at 750GB. While that is impressive in itself, there is more to the story. Along with bringing a new line and the highest capacity drive to the market, Seagate is also the first company to bring 3.5" desktop drives that use perpendicular recording to the market.
You may be thinking that you've heard of perpendicular recording before, and that is probably because Seagate introduced mobile hard drives (2.5") using the technology almost a year ago. The technology isn't brand new. Technologists have been researching and perfecting the technology for over ten years.
So, what is perpendicular recording, and why do we care? The main concept behind perpendicular recording is rather simple: data bits are switched from being parallel to the plane of the disc to being perpendicular. Here is how Seagate explains it in several of its articles at Seagate.com:
In perpendicular recording, the magnetization of the disc, instead of lying in the disc's plane as it does in longitudinal recording, stands on end, perpendicular to the plane of the disc. The bits are then represented as regions of upward or downward directed magnetization. (In longitudinal recording, the bit magnetization lies in the plane of the disc and flips between pointing in the same and opposite directions of the head movement.) The media is deposited on a soft magnetic under-layer that functions as part of the write field return path and effectively produces an image of the recording head that doubles the recording field, enabling higher recording density than with longitudinal recording.
Traditionally, hard drive manufacturers have been shrinking data bits more and more and packing them closer and closer together in order increase areal density in longitudinal recording. However, there are disadvantages and limits to shrinking bits and crowding them closer. Currently, the answer to reaching the next levels of areal density is perpendicular recording because more bits can be packed in each square inch. Perpendicular recording will enable a five-fold increase in capacity over today's drives that use longitudinal recording. That means 2TB 3.5" drives for desktops, 500GB 2.5" drives for laptops and 50GB 1" drives for MP3 players.
While the capacity is exciting, the drive itself looks just like any ordinary Seagate Barracuda for the most part. You can see that it only has a SATA power connector and doesn't include the legacy 4-pin (Molex) connector. To the right of the data and power connectors, you may have noticed a jumper block. The image below should make its purpose a little clearer.
The jumper placement determines whether the drive operates at 1.5 Gb/s or 3.0 Gb/s. If you have an older motherboard that does not include support for SATA 3.0 Gb/s (often mistakenly referred to as SATA II), then you should go ahead and keep the jumper in to ensure compatibility. Otherwise, you will want to remove the jumper to maximize performance.
|Test System & Sandra 2005|
For testing the Barracuda 7200.10 SATA HDD, we used an Athlon 64 3800+ processor on a DFI LANParty NF4 SLI-DR motherboard. We also used 1GB of low latency Corsair DDR (TWINX1024-3200XL) and a 120GB Maxtor SATA hard drive. The 750GB Barracuda 7200.10 was compared to a 500GB Barracuda 7200.9 and a 500GB Hitach Deskstar 7K500.
We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA File System benchmark module. This test's method of hard disk performance analysis it what we would consider a "light duty" consumer-level evaluation tool. The folks in IT would have your head for recommending a drive based solely on SANDRA File System test results. However, the benchmark is a popular utility within the performance PC enthusiast community, and it does provide a decent quick glance at high-level throughput characteristics of the total storage subsystem, which of course includes HDD controllers and other associated system components.
While the 750GB Barracuda 7200.10 didn't quite pull out the victory in the Buffered Read test, it did manage a convincing win over both of the other drives in the Sequential and Random Read tests. This is what we like to see because we tend to place more stock in the Sequential and Random Read tests since standard desktop and gaming application file access places moderate to high loads in these areas.
Once again, the 7200.10 flexes its 750GB perpendicular muscles, but this time it wins in all three tests. Again, we feel that the Sequential and Random scores are more meaningful, so it's nice to see such great performance from the new Barracuda.
Most of you are probably familiar with Sandra's Drive Index rating, and this graph basically does a nice job of summarizing what we saw above in the read and write tests. The 750GB 7200.10 drive leads the pack by a respectable margin.
Next up is PCMark05 from FutureMark Corp. We specifically used only the HDD Test module of this benchmark suite to evaluate all the drives we tested versus the new 750GB Barracuda 7200.10. We consulted Futuremark's white paper on PCMark05 for an understanding of what this test component entails and how it calculates its measurements.
Courtesy, Futuremark Corp. -
General Hard Disk Drive Usage: This trace contains disk activities from using several common applications.
Virus Scanning: Virus scanning is a critical task in today's PC usage. As the major bottleneck of scanning viruses is in hard disk activity, it is reasonable to include virus scanning as a HDD test. The test consists of HDD activity of scanning 600MB of files for viruses. The Virus Scanning test is mostly disk reading (99.5%).
Our detailed PCMark05 tests don't show the same type of dominance for the 7200.10. We're unsure why the 7200.10 fell behind in PCMark05, but it's worth noting that both Sandra and HD Tach (next page) paint a different picture.
PCMark05's overall Hard Disk Drive test score is representative of a weighting of two other tests in addition to the tests we've given detail for above, specifically File Write and Application Loading. PCMark05 shows the 750GB Barracuda 7200.10 to be slightly faster than the 500GB 7200.9 and slower than the Hitachi 7K500.
|HD Tach 3.0.1|
The four HD Tach metrics that we sampled for each drive are Random Access, which is largely dependent on spindle speed of the drive, Read Average, Write Average and Burst Read throughput. Again, Read and Write Average scores are what we would consider the most meaningful to the end user. On the other hand, Burst Read is typically tied to a drive's on-board cache and SATA interface speed.
This is more along the line of what we expected after seeing the Sandra results, at least when looking at the transfer speeds. Here we are most interested in the Average Write and Average Read marks as well as the Random Access time. The 7200.10's Average Write and Read scores are pretty good, especially Average Read. The drive's Burst Read is quite impressive, but this doesn't mean as much to the end-user in the real world. Unfortunately, the Random Access time posted by the 7200.10 was the slowest of all three drives.
Performance Summary: With its dense platters and big cache, the 750GB Barracuda 7200.10 performed as we had expected it to for the most part. With the 750GB Barracuda 7200.10 you don't have to sacrifice speed and performance in order to gain the biggest capacity currently on the market for a single drive. If you are looking for size and performance, then this drive will not disappoint.
The biggest and most obvious "wow factor" from the Barracuda 7200.10 family launch was definitely the birth of this 750GB behemoth. Just a couple weeks ago, 500GB was the king of the hill, and Seagate surprisingly skipped right to 750GB. 1TB (or 1,000GB) drives should be just around the corner, which seems amazing every time we think about it.
Although the 750GB capacity will catch everyone's eye at first, a little shopping reveals an equally significant aspect of this launch. Historically, the biggest drive in a new family of HDDs hits the street with a price of around $1/GB (so, 500GB drives were around $500 when they first came out). Seagate ditched this trend this time around as the 750GB 7200.10 is nowhere near $750. Rather, you can find this mammoth for a reasonable $430, relatively speaking. Once you look at the price, it kind of becomes a no-brainer if maximizing capacity while minimizing the number of drives is your priority.
We love to see new technology hit the market, and perpendicular recording is a rather exciting one because of what it means for the future of hard drive capacity in the next couple of years. We look forward to seeing how Seagate's competitors will respond. They will have to follow suit, but will they try to trump Seagate and beat the company to 1TB or bigger? The race is on!
The Barracuda 7200.10 appears to be another great line of storage devices from Seagate, and the 750GB version proved to be a great performer. Plus, it doesn't come with as big of a price tag as you might expect. And don't forget Seagate's industry-leading 5-year warranty. We're awarding Seagate's 750GB Barracuda 7200.10 SATA HDD a 9 on the Heat Meter.