Definitive 2TB HD Roundup: WD, Seagate, Samsung

Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The undisputed, overall performance winner of all 10 HDDs tested is the WD RE4 2TB, which--not coincidentally--also happens to be the most expensive drive in the roundup. The WD Caviar Black 2TB, Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB, Seagate Constellation ES 2TB, and WD Caviar Black 1TB aren't far behind the WD RE4 2TB in terms of speedy performance. By default, this also makes the WD RE4 2TB the speediest enterprise drive, and the WD Caviar Black 2TB the fastest performance-class drive. The Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB is easily the hands-down performance winner for the general-purpose drives.

Above is a chart we put together that represents an (unweighted) geometric mean of the overall performance of each drive, based on all the tests we performed. Use this chart as a rough guide only, as we used an admittedly simplistic methodology to create these comparison numbers: All the test scores were calculated with equal weighting; we factored read and write speeds equally; for the ATTO test numbers we used only the 8,192KB transfer size numbers; for the CrystalDiskMark numbers we used only the sequential transfer numbers; and for the PCMark Vantage results, we used the average of the eight tests in the HDD suite.

Using the street price as of April 2010, we also calculated a cost-per-GB for each of the ten HDDs. The cost-per-GB for the drives ranges from $0.07-per-GB for the WD Caviar Green 2TB and Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB general-purpose drives, up to $0.16-per-GB for the WD RE4 2TB and Seagate Constellation ES 2TB enterprise drives. You'll notice that the more-expensive drives also tend to be the faster drives. As a point of comparison, the cost-per-GB for the 120GB OCZ Vertex Turbo 2.5-inch SSD works out to $2.91-per-GB.

We also put together a bang-for-the-buck chart to help show the value of the drives, relative to each other. Keep in mind that the only two variables we used to create this bang-for-the-buck chart are the overall performance (geometric mean) numbers we generated for the chart at the top of this page and each product's street price as of April 2010. Factors such as load/unload cycles, MTBF, reliability ratings, power consumption, and warranty were not part of the calculations. Depending on how you plan on using these drives, the variables we left out might be important to you. So we'll note the same caveat that we offered with the overall performance chart: Use this is as a guide only and remember to factor in those attributes that are important to you--for instance, if you plan on using a HDD in the enterprise, the overall reliability of a drive is going to be an important factor.

The less-expensive drives tends be better values--in part because the performance difference between the drives is smaller than the price difference between them. Of all nine 2TB drives, the Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB offers the best overall value. This, of course, means that the Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB is also the best value of the general-purpose drives as well. For the 2TB performance-class drives, the Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB has the best value. For the enterprise drives, the WD RE4 2TB offers the best value; but the two other enterprise drives are close behind it.

Note: When we first posted this roundup, we initially included the WD Caviar Black 1TB in the bang-for-the-buck chart, and it occupied the top spot. However, a reader reminded us that by not also factoring in the smaller capacity of the drive, it became an unfair comparison. We agreed with this assessment and subsequently chose to  remove the WD Caviar 1TB from this chart, making it purely a comparison of the value of the 2TB drives. The chart you now see above is a revised version of the bang-for-the-buck chart.

Ultimately, our picks for each class of drive are as follows. For general-purpose drives, you'd think it would be a no-brainer and we'd pick the Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB for its relative high performance and great value. The problem is, it has a much lower load/unload rating of 50,000 cycles, versus 300,000 cycles for the other general-purpose drives--the Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB uses the older Contact Start-Stop (CSS) technology to park its heads, while the other drives use the more updated and more reliable Ramp Loading technology. Once we took the Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB out of the running, it was a very close call between the Samsung EcoGreen F3 2TB and WD Caviar Green 2TB, but we ultimately chose the Samsung EcoGreen F3 2TB because of its speedier overall performance. For the performance drives it was a much tougher call; but with almost identical overall performance, the Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB edged out the WD Caviar Black 2TB, due to the Barracuda XT's lower price tag and lower power consumption (see the specs tables on page three of this roundup). For the enterprise-class drives, it's a runaway, with the WD RE4 2TB as the undisputed performance leader that also has high reliability ratings.

Finally, we didn't discuss the WD AV-GP 2TB much in this roundup--due primarily to it's back-of-the-pack performance. It's overall value pits it squarely in the middle of the group; but don't dismiss it outright--especially if you are building a home-theater PC that will primarily be serving videos. The WD AV-GP is engineered specifically for A/V applications, and does so quietly and in environments that get a bit toasty.

  • WD RE4 2TB

  • Samsung EcoGreen F3 2TB
  • Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB
  • Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB
  • Seagate Constellation ES 2TB
  • WD Caviar Black 1TB
  • WD Caviar Black 2TB
  • WD Caviar Green 2TB
  • WD AV-GP 2TB
  • WD RE4-GP 2TB

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