We seem to have established a tradition of writing an article about 1-terabyte hard disk drives each ten months or so. In the first roundup, written almost two years ago, we just acquainted you with such products because that was the peak storage capacity available then and only few makers had reached it with three platters. Other manufacturers needed four or even five platters for that. About one year ago, we published another roundup in which most of the HDDs were based on three platters only, and this factor had a positive effect on their sequential speeds. And now we are ready to give you one more snapshot of the 1-terabyte sector of the HDD market.
Over the last year 1-terabyte HDDs have almost ceased to be viewed as large because all the makers have introduced HDDs two times that capacity at both 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM. These giants have grown a larger cache which is now as big as 64 megabytes. Some of them have even transitioned to the new SATA 6 Gbps interface even though it does not offer any tangible benefits as yet.
1-terabyte HDDs have also lost their superiority in terms of cost of storage to 1.5-terabyte products but still remain highly popular as representing an optimal combination of price, capacity and performance. What have they acquired over this time? Well, most of them are already based on only two 500GB platters. Balancing a pack of two platters proved to be easier, so 1-terabyte HDDs were actually the first among 7200RPM products to adopt such platters, being a nice addition to the higher-capacity 5400RPM drives. Seagate’s Barracuda 7200.12 was the very first. Hitachi’s Deskstar 7K1000.C and Samsung’s SpinPoint F3 joined in later on. Western Digital seems to be the only company to ignore this combination although we may have just not yet seen such a model (alas, the marking of this company’s products does not tell definitely what differentiates models within the same series; the main part of the product name is often left the same for multiple models that have the same storage capacity at a different number of platters).
The combination of two platters and new electronics should be most beneficial for 5400RPM HDDs which are usually selected for passive data storage or low-noise computers. Such products are going to combine good performance with low power consumption (and, consequently, low heat dissipation).
And finally, the most exciting thing was the release of Western Digital’s WD10EARS drives which have a larger sector size (4096 instead of 512 bytes). We’ll dwell upon this issue later on. Right now, let’s have a look at the products we are about to test.