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Seagate 750GB Barracuda ES
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Date: Oct 27, 2006
Section:Storage
Author: Sean Pelletier
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Introduction

Several months ago, Seagate got the PC industry's attention with the introduction of the company's first 750GB consumer hard drive. As shown within our review of the drive, the Barracuda 7200.10 combined excellent performance with unparalleled capacity and a stellar 5-yr warranty. Fast forward to today and we find ourselves looking at Seagate's latest entry into the enterprise market with the arrival of the 750GB Barracuda ES.

As was the case with its brethren, the Barracuda ES owes its monstrous capacity to perpendicular recording technology. As illustrated in the image above, we see that the bits from the data stream are now oriented perpendicular to the plane of the drive platter instead of being parallel as with a conventional hard drive. As a result, the recording field is nearly doubled allowing for the significant increase in capacity versus traditional hard drives. Beyond the obvious immediate benefit of higher capacities, the use of Perpendicular Recording Technology provides hard drive vendors with another path with which to increase areal density. Without this technology, hard drive vendors would be hard pressed to cram more bits into the available real estate and would be hitting a brick wall in terms of capacity.

Unlike the standard desktop drive, enterprise-class drives are designed to withstand a significantly harsher and more demanding environments. Here, the highest level of performance is demanded along with the highest possible reliability. Referencing the image provided by Seagate above, we see the dramatic difference in failure rate versus IOPS (Input Output Per Second). The Seagate Barracuda ES represents the highest-capacity SATA enterprise hard drive available on the market today. Along with the exceptional capacity, the Barracuda ES also boasts the industry's highest reliability ratings. 

Seagate Barracuda ES 750GB SATA HDD (Model # ST3750640NS)
Specifications & Features
PHYSICAL SPECS
Capacity: 750 GB
Interface: SATA 3Gb/s
Spindle Speed: 7200 RPM
Cache Buffer: 16MB
Number Of Platters: 4 (188 GB each)
Number Of Heads: 8
Bytes Per Sector: 512
Height: 26.1 mm
Length: 146.99 mm
Width: 101.6 mm
Weight: 720 g

PERFORMANCE SPECS
Seek Times
Average Latency: 4.16 ms
Seek Time: 11.0 ms

Transfer Rate
Transfer Rate, Max Ext: 300 MB/s

Acoustics
Idle Mode: 2.7 bels
Seek Mode: 3.0 bels

Power Requirements
Seek: 12.6 watts
Idle: 9.3 watts
Standby: 0.8 watts

FEATURES
Perpendicular Recording
      Perpendicular Recording increases data density
      while decreasing moving parts for a more
      dependable drive.

Serial ATA 3Gb/s (300MB/s)
      This product is configurable from SATA 1.5Gb/s
      to SATA 3Gb/s for easy interoperability.

Adaptive Fly Height
      Adaptive Fly Height offers consistent read/write
      performance from the beginning to end of your
      computing workloads.

Clean Sweep
      Clean Sweep automatically calibrates your drive
      each time you power up.

Directed Offline Scan
      Directed Offline Scan runs diagnostics when
      storage access is not required.

Seagate SoftSonic
      Seagate SoftSonic motor enables whisper-quiet
      operation.

Enhanced G-Force Protection
      Enhanced G-Force Protection defends against
      handling damage.

5 Year Warranty


 

At first glance, it would be nearly impossible to distinguish the Barracuda ES drive from the Barracuda 7200.10 drive we've previously reviewed. Looking at the front and back of the drive, we find the same casing used with the only point of differentiation being the label itself. It should be noted that the drive we received was labeled as an "OEM" drive, though mechanically it would be the same identical drive to those which can be purchased through retail.

 

Although the drive ships without a jumper and thus operates at full speed regardless, users should also note the SATA jumper setting. Here, the drive can be run either at SATA 150 or SATA 300 levels by placing a jumper on pins directly to the right of the SATA data cable. When the jumper is present, the drive is limited to 1.5GB/s whereas having no jumper allows for a full 3GB/s.

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Test System & Sandra 2005

 

For testing the Barracuda ES SATA HDD, we used an Athlon 64 3800+ processor on an MSI K8N Platinum nForce 4 SLI motherboard. We also used 1GB of low latency Corsair DDR (TWINX1024-3200XL) RAM and a 120GB Maxtor SATA hard drive. The 750GB Barracuda ES was compared to a 750GB Barracuda 7200.10, 500GB Barracuda 7200.9, and a 500GB Hitach Deskstar 7K500.

HotHardware Test System
AMD Athlon 64 3800+ Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -


Audio -

Hard Drives -

 

Hardware Used:
AMD Athlon 64 3800+

MSI K8N Platinum
nForce4 SLI chipset

Radeon X1800 XL

1024MB Corsair XMS PC3200 RAM
CAS 2

Integrated on board

Seagate Barracuda 7200.10

750GB - 7,200RPM - SATA 3Gb/s

Seagate Barracuda 7200.9
500GB - 7,200RPM - SATA 3Gb/s
Hitach Deskstar 7K500
500GB - 7,200RPM - SATA 3Gb/s
Western Digital WD5000KS
500GB - 7,200RPM - SATA 3Gb/s
Seagate Barracuda ES
750GB - 7,200RPM - SATA 3Gb/s

Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows XP Professional SP2
nForce Drivers v6.82
DirectX 9.0c

ATI Catalyst v6.8



Benchmarks Used:
SiSoftware Sandra 2005
Futuremark PCMark05
HD Tach 3.0.1


We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA File System benchmark module. This test's method of hard disk performance analysis is 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.

Preliminary Benchmarks With SiSoft SANDRA 2005 SR3
http://www.sisoftware.net


Looking at the results from SiSoft Sandra's read tests, we find Seagate walking away with the top three performing drives. Here, the Barracuda line of drives offer the highest random, sequential, and buffered read performance of the crop of drives being tested. The enterprise Barracuda ES is neck and neck with the nearly identical Barracuda 7200.10 consumer drive with any variance easily falling within the test's margin of error.

Despite a strong effort by the Hitachi 7K500, the two latest Seagate Barracuda drives again reign supreme in SiSoft Sandra. It is somewhat interesting to see the enterprise Barracuda ES trail the Barracuda 7200.10 by the slightest of margins. Regardless, both drives are showcasing stellar random, sequential, and buffered read performance.

Based upon the exceptional performance witnessed within the discrete read and write tests above, it is no surprise to see that the two latest Barracuda drives obtained the highest overall drive ranking by SiSoft Sandra for this group. Again, albeit by the slimmest of margins the consumer-based Barracuda 7200.10 scored higher than the enterprise-class Barracuda ES.

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PCMark05

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 ES. We consulted Futuremark's white paper on PCMark05 for an understanding of what this test component entails and how it calculates its measurements.

Futuremark's PCMark05
http://www.futuremark.com

Courtesy, Futuremark Corp. -
For these tests, we use RankDisk, an application developed and copyrighted by Intel. In our testing, we found RankDisk to be suitable for a neutral benchmark. RankDisk is used to record a trace of disk activity during usage of typical applications. These traces can then be replayed to measure the performance of disk operations for that usage. RankDisk records disk access events using the device drivers and bypasses the file system and the operating system's cache. This makes the measurement independent of the file system overhead or the current state of the operating system. In replaying traces, RankDisk always creates and operates on a new "dummy" file. This file is created in the same (or closest possible) physical location of the target hard disk. This allows the replaying of traces to be safe (does not destroy any existing files) and comparable across different systems. The traces contain different amount of writing and reading on the disk; total ratio in the HDD test suite disk operations is 53% reads and 47% of writes.  The following input traces are used:

Windows XP Startup:  This is the Windows XP start trace, which contains disk activities occurring at operating system start-up. The test is 90% reading and 10% writes. This trace contains no user activity.

General Hard Disk Drive Usage:  This trace contains disk activities from using several common applications.
These are:
- Opening a Microsoft Word document, performing grammar check, saving and closing
- Compression and decompression using Winzip
- Encrypting and decrypting a file using PowerCrypt
- Scanning files for viruses using F-Secure Antivirus.
- Playing an MP3 file with Winamp
- Playing a WAV file with Winamp
- Playing a DivX video using DivX codec and Windows Media Player
- Playing a WMV video file using Windows Media Player
- Viewing pictures using Windows Picture Viewer
- Browsing the internet using Microsoft Internet Explorer
- Loading, playing and exiting a game using UbisoftTM Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon
The General Usage trace is 60% reads and 40% writes.

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%).


Despite being beaten by the Western Digital WD5000KS in terms of XP startup and General Usage scores, the Barracuda ES is able to dominate the intensive Virus Scan test. Overall, the crop of tests here illustrates that the enterprise Barracuda ES is simply average in terms of XP Startup scores. With regards to General Usage scores the Seagate drive managed to turn in one of the best scores of the group. Overall, it is hard to find fault in the total performance offered by the Barracuda ES.

As illustrated above, the two drives which dominated PCMark05's tests were easily the Western Digital WD5000KS and Seagate Barracuda ES. Given the enormous advantage in the Virus Scan test, it would have been interesting to see what kind of total score the Seagate drive could have earned with better results in XP Startup and General Usage. In either case, the drive's performance cannot be faulted in any respect.

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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.

Performance With HD Tach
http://www.simplisoftware.com

 

Looking at the results we've obtained from HD Tach's tests, we find a scenario which is very similar to what we initially saw with SiSoft Sandra. Here, the Barracuda ES slightly trails the Barracuda 7200.10 though they are both at the top of the group in terms of performance. The only drive which comes close to giving the two latest drives from Seagate a serious run for their money is the Western Digital WD5000KS, though the drive's less than stellar Burst Read performance was clearly its Achille's heel.

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Conclusion

Performance Summary:You can't help but be impressed with the performance of the Seagate Barracuda ES. Historically, hard drive vendors have created a product which focuses either on performance or on capacity. Those which opted for the higher capacity drives often found themselves with less than stellar performance compared with the smaller drives which were tweaked for the highest possible performance. Thankfully, those days appear to be gone as the Seagate Barracuda ES and its non-enterprise Barracuda 7200.10 counterpart offer excellent performance along with their monstrous 750GB capacities.

 

  Barracuda ES Barracuda 7200.10
Rotational Vibration 12.5rad/sec^2 5.5rad/sec^2
Rotational Vibration Profile 20-800Hz 10-300Hz
Read/Write Power Consumption 13.0W 12.6W

 

Each of the latest Barracuda drives from Seagate offer a wealth features which contribute to their excellent performance, such as a hefty 16MB of cache and support for 3GB/s SATA II. In fact, the Barracuda ES is the same physical drive as the Barracuda 7200.10 except it has rotational vibration sensors to compensate for motion and firmware specifically optimized for the enterprise environment. As a result, the Barracuda ES can offer best-in-class tolerance to rotational vibration and can offer such features as Error Recovery Control to preserve RAID arrays in the event of a major issue. 

 

Taking a look at our Pricegrabber engine, we see that the Barracuda ES can be found online as cheap as $450. In somewhat stark contrast, the 750GB Barracuda 7200.10 is $334. Looking back at the negligible performance variance between the two drives in nearly all benchmarks, it is tough if not impossible for the average consumer to justify the more than $100 premium the Barracuda ES commands over the Barracuda 7200.10 (previously reviewed here). However, those who are in the IT field could very easily justify the cost of some of the advanced enterprise features of the Barracuda ES. Here, the extremely high MTBF and robust rotational vibration tolerance of the drive are exactly what the doctor ordered for those entrenched in a mission-critical server or workstation environment. Therefore, the attractiveness of this drive will vary greatly depending on the given application and the thickness of one's wallet. For the standard user who is looking to give their system a healthy boost in both performance and capacity, the 750GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 is an excellent choice with a reasonable price. However, for those who are toying in the enterprise market and place a high premium on drive reliability and stability, the Barracuda ES is an exceptional choice. In either event, Seagate's latest efforts in the realm of perpendicular recording have produced an excellent update to the Barracuda family of hard drives. As a result, we're awarding the Barracuda ES an 8.5 on the Hot Hardware Heat Meter. 

  • Highest capacity on the market
  • Great performance
  • Extremely high MTBF and vibration tolerance
  • 5-year warranty
  • Relatively expensive
  • 750GB Barrcuda 7200.10 significantly cheaper with same performance

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