Articles: Storage

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Recently we have taken a look at our HDD section and found that our previous roundup of 1-terabyte models is almost 1 year old. It is an eternity by the standards of the IT industry. Of course, we have been busy writing reviews of 750GB drives and 640GB drives but the pause is rather too long anyway.

In fact, we could have written a review (or even several reviews) of 1-terabyte drives a long time ago. But being perfectionists, we wanted to accumulate a full collection of drives with 333GB platters. It is Hitachi’s drives that made us wait the most. Announced in July 2008, the Deskstar 7K1000.B series reached us in January 2009 only.

This wait is over now and we can exhaustively cover the topic of hard disk drives with 333GB platters. It’s high time we did this since 500GB-platter models are already coming up (e.g. Seagate ST31000528AS).

Before we describe the drives we are going to test, we’ll remind you of the events that have happened in the 1-terabyte sector recently.

First of all, the increased activity of Western Digital must be noted. This company perplexed us in our earlier test session with its HDD that claimed to have a variable spindle rotation speed. When they introduced Caviar Blue and Caviar Black, the brand’s product line-up seemed to get logical and complete. But then Western Digital began to improve its products… First, the Green Power series transitioned to 333GB platters (to get cheaper to make), the older and newer drives getting mixed in storehouses and shops as the consequence. Fortunately, there was a way to tell them apart: the newer drives had two magical letters in their name (WD10EACS-00D6B0) that guaranteed the 3-platter design.

Then, the Green Power series was modernized once again (this may remind you of CPUs with their core steppings). Their cache was increased in double, obviously to improve performance, and the marking was changed into WD10EADS.

Thus, there are three HDD models in the Green Power series only. But Western Digital also released enterprise HDDs based on the GP series products…

Realizing the importance of 3-platter design, Seagate too made the life more complex for the user by adding a new drive into the aging Barracuda 7200.11 series. Now it includes two models with a capacity of 1 terabyte.

There is also the SV35.3 series which is a modification of the Barracuda 7200.11 for video-oriented systems (digital recorders, video surveillance systems, etc). Interestingly, SV35.3 drives came out at the same prices as the Barracuda 7200.11 drives. Specialized HDDs are usually more expensive than their desktop counterparts (you have to pay more for the exclusiveness of the product) or cheaper (if an OEM throws a batch of such drives to the secondary market). But here, the prices were incomprehensibly identical.

Getting hold of the much desired 333GB platters, Hitachi thought that releasing only one 1-terabyte drive with such platters would be too trivial. And they introduced two drives at once: Deskstar 7K1000.B (an allusion to the 7K1000 model) and Deskstar E7K1000.

Hitachi was not at all ashamed that the only difference between those models was the amount of cache memory. Their targeting differed, too. The 7K1000.B was meant for desktop PCs while the E7K1000 was to work in data storage systems (not in corporate data storage systems because the word corporate is so far reserved for 1.5 and 2GB models).

Yet another piece of news from the last year is the total lack of any news from Samsung, the main sensation-maker of one year ago. Samsung shocked everyone then, being the first to show hard disk drives with a recording density of 333 gigabytes per platter. Its opponents have just been catching up with it over this year.

However, it is now clear that Samsung has not been active enough. The company has not prepared for a new breakthrough. The announcement of HDDs with a recording density of 500GB per platter is no breakthrough because Samsung has to reduce the spindle rotation speed to achieve this density (go Western Digital’s way, so to say). Moreover, Western Digital has already started to ship its 2-terabyte drive based on 500GB platters. Hopefully, Samsung has just been preparing some surprise for us. J

So, there are three interesting questions this review may answer.

First, we can find out what HDD is the fastest today. Second, we are interested to see the influence of higher recording density and larger cache on the performance of hard disk drives because the complicated line-up of Western Digital’s drives and a couple of Hitachi’s models allows us doing that. And third, we will solve the mystery of the SV35.3 drive and see its difference from the Barracuda 7200.11.

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