Articles: Storage

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Last year we tested 500GB hard disk drives which can be an optimal choice for users who don’t need a lot of disk storage. Today, we want to take a look at products which are twice as large. They are generally as fast as their higher-capacity counterparts but have only 2 platters, which makes them quieter, colder and more reliable (however optimized an HDD's mechanics can be, the fewer platters and heads you have, the less likely they are to fail). On the other hand, they are not entry-level products with all the consequences, like their single-platter cousins. 1-terabyte HDDs are also attractive in terms of price/capacity ratio.

Besides other things, we will see if SATA600 brings any tangible benefits and makes a difference compared to the other interface.

We’ve got HDDs from Seagate and Western Digital for this review, so it reflects the market situation we can see today. Hitachi has been bought up by WD whereas Seagate has acquired Samsung’s HDD manufacturing facilities. There are in fact only two competitors left in the desktop 3.5-inch HDD market.

Testing Participants

Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST31000528AS


We’re already familiar with this HDD. One of the first HDDs with 500GB platters, it opened Seagate's 12 series along with its 1.5-terabyte cousin. Its spindle rotation speed is 7200 RPM and its buffer is 32 megabytes large. This model hasn't changed much over the year, so we can use it as a baseline for our comparisons.

Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST31000524AS


According to the specs, this HDD is the same as the previous model except for the interface. Their labels are the only external difference, so we expect them to deliver similar performance although the different firmware may change something.

Seagate Barracuda LP ST31000520AS


This energy-efficient model has been around for over a year. Like the two previous HDDs, it has two platters, four heads and 32 megabytes of cache, but its spindle rotation speed is set at 5900 RPM.

Seagate Barracuda LP ST1000DL002


This model looks much different from the three above because it features denser platters (422 as opposed to 329 gigabits per square inch). It has 4KB sectors whereas all the other HDDs in this review have conventional 512-byte sectors. The manufacturer's website doesn't reveal how many heads this HDD has but we can suppose it’s got three because there's also a 2-terabyte model with six heads in this series. On the other hand, the 1.5-terabyte model from the same series has six heads as well, so the 1-terabyte one may have as many as four.

The cache is 32 megabytes large; the spindle rotation speed is 5900 RPM. By the way, this HDD is categorized as Green rather than LP at the official website. The change of name must be meant to make it more comprehensible (although we guess that Low Power was quite comprehensible, too).

We should also mention the Smart Align technology which, quoting Seagate's info sheet, “resolves Advanced Format misalignment conditions while preserving hard drive performance”. It seems to use read/write buffers to minimize the overhead when writing data blocks smaller than 4 kilobytes.

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