HotHardware Holiday Gift Guide

Storage For The Masses: Hard Drives And Optical Drives

For your storage needs we recommend a few different products to chose from:

Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD - $169
Special Holiday Deal At NewEgg!

Alright, it's trivia time.  What's the single fastest desktop SATA hard drive on the market today and has been for three generation of the product line?  You guessed it, the 10,000 RPM Western Raptor WD1500.  This hard drive may not sport a 3GB SATA interface (SATA 150 only) but its specifications beyond that more than compensate for its lower theoretical interface transfer rate.  The Raptor WD1500 comes with a 16MB cache buffer and its 10K RPM rotational speed offers a snappy 5.2ms average access time.  Touted as the world's most reliable hard drive, the Raptor WD1500 also offers a 5 year warranty and 1.2 million hour MTBF (mean-time between failure).  Though its capacity is a bit on the smallish side, you'll not find a faster SATA hard drive currently.  Set two of these bad boys up in RAID 0 and watch the bits fly.  Just make sure you have good backup in place for your important data, as you should for any non-redundant RAID mode.

Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1 TB - $280

If you're looking for a LOT of storage and great performance in a drive, then there is no need to look further than the brand new 1 TB 11th generation Barracuda drive from Seagate.  This drive's performance is top notch, with speed and size in one package.

This drive features 32 MB of cache, rotates at 7200 RPM, and supports the latest in SATA technology including NCQ.  One of the most impressive numbers is its incredibly fast transfer rate.  In our tests this massive drive managed to transfer 81.8 MB/sec on average. That's a good number; for reference 80+ MB/sec beats the 74 GB Raptors which once stood at the very top of the SATA HD food chain.

Western Digital Caviar SE16 500 GB - $140

If speed and size are important but you don't have bottomless pockets, you might want to take a good look at Western Digital's 500GB Caviar SE16 drive.  It performed very well in our battery of tests, and is a bargain considering the size and performance you get for your buying dollar.

Despite being available at a great price, this drive is no slouch.  We really liked it in our review, and the drive might possibly have earned one of our coveted Editor's Choice Awards if it had come with a 5 year warranty.

Still, we were thoroughly impressed that WD packed so much performance and size into such an affordable package.  Given that some time has passed since the initial review, the price has only gone down and made this a 'must have' for anyone who likes lots of storage but isn't willing to pay the premium price for TB of 750 GB drives just yet.

Seagate 7200.10 250 GB - $70

If you're a starving artist or college student but still need enough space for your, 'ahem', media collection, then you should be interested in the 250 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10.  While 250 GB might seem small compared to the other drives listed here, it's actually a lot of space for most people.

This was the first series of Seagate drives to feature perpendicular recording technology, but that is far from its only claim to fame.  Like all Seagate drives, the 250 GB 7200.10 come with an industry-leading 5-year warranty. It also has a large 16 MB cache, and the latest in SATA technology including NCQ.

What kind of storage conversation would be complete without the obligatory nod to optical drives?

The good news is that for 99.9% of you there are only 2 kinds of drives to consider: a DVD burner or just a normal DVD player.  There isn't much of a price difference in these devices anymore, so we only recommend skimping if you're sure that you're NEVER going to want to burn a DVD.  Either way we suggest going with a drive that uses the SATA interface.

Lite-On DVD - $20

If you want a decent DVD player, we suggest the Lite-On models.  It's hard to beat their price and reputation for reliability.  It reads DVDs at 16x and comes with a couple of faceplates.  If that's all you need in a drive, then this is about the best you're going to find without sacrificing quality.

By using the SATA connection that we're recommending for all of our optical drive suggestions, the price might be a little bit higher than its PATA equipped equivalents, but we think it SATA is the way to go if the drive is going to be with you for any length of time.  PATA is on its way out.

Asus DRW-1814BLT w/LightScribe - $40

If you're the kind of person who spends a lot of time burning DVDs, your tastes might be a little more discerning.  If you're looking for a fast drive that will get the job done without scorching discs or breaking the bank, our suggestion would be the ASUS 20x DVD +/- DVD Burner with LightScribe.

If you haven't heard of LightScribe, it's a technology that will allow you to not only burn a disc, but to 'scribe' a customized picture onto the disc's surface.  It's not without its flaws, but it is a great way to personalize discs without using paper labels.

If you're still scratching your head about LightScribe, consider this: if you took some video footage of a special event (Wedding/birthday, etc.) you could edit the video to your liking then burn it on to a normal DVD.  The contents might be impressive, but the disc itself isn't likely to be that impressive.  Now, on the other hand, you edit the movie and burn it plus scribe a custom image on the disc surface (maybe the first kiss, or the birthday girl blowing out her candles) and your disc is likely to make a much better impression.

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