Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000: HDS723030ALA640, 3 TB
We begin with the acme of Hitachi’s new 7K3000 series. Unlike in the past years when Hitachi used to be lagging behind its opponents in bringing new products to market, this time around there have been almost no delay at all. Hitachi have done everything to deliver a cutting-edge product just in time. Besides the record-breaking capacity, this 7K3000 model is the company’s first to feature a 64MB buffer and SATA 6 Gbps interface. Of course, the spindle rotation speed of this top-of-the-line HDD is 7200 RPM. It looks like Hitachi have finally woken up from the slumbers they have been in for the last few years.
Seagate Barracuda XT: ST33000651AS, 3 TB
This HDD is not yet presented on the Seagate website. It is the single product of the three that has not yet made it into retail. We mean, not as a standalone product. It comes in the new external FreeAgent GoFlex Desk drive we actually extracted it from. As far as we know, it has five 600GB platters, like the above-described Hitachi. It is suspected to use SmartAlign technology, similar to Advanced Format. That is, it may have 4-kilobyte sectors. We will check this out shortly. Like the rest of this product series, it has a spindle rotation speed of 7200 RPM.
By the way, it is the problems with using 3TB HDDs in computers that must have induced Seagate into releasing this HDD as an external one without offering an internal counterpart. They have also found an elegant way to solve the MBR-related problem. The external HDD emulates the use of 4-kilobyte sectors (it does the emulation even if the disk inside really has 4KB physical sectors because hard disks with 4KB sectors appear to have 512-byte sectors to the outside world). Thus, the number of sectors being the same, the maximum addressable space is increased from 2 to 16 terabytes.
Western Digital Caviar Green: WD30EZRS-11J99B0, 3 TB
Western Digital have already established a tradition of releasing their next highest-capacity model in the energy-efficient series first, i.e. with a spindle rotation speed of 5400 RPM. Thus, this 3TB drive is just another step in the evolution of the Green series. It has 64 megabytes of cache and 4KB sectors.
Western Digital took the problem of high-capacity HDDs seriously. Like Seagate, they first released external products of this kind in the My Book Essential series. But unlike Seagate, Western Digital also offered such HDDs as individual products to be installed into desktop computers. It is in fact a kit including an HDD and an RR620 controller from HighPoint. This simple dual-port SATA controller is necessary to avoid the problem with drivers not supporting 3TB HDDs. We shall see what it is capable of. As we’ve seen a number of times in our tests, a disk controller can have a big effect on performance.
The WD Green doesn’t look as fast as its opponents in its specs, yet it has one advantage. Advanced Format helped the manufacturer increase the recording density to 750 gigabytes per platter, which means that this HDD has only four rather than five platters. Coupled with the reduced rotation speed, this should make it more economical and, consequently, cooler.
The following table lists the firmware versions of the tested HDDs:
You should keep it in mind that the performance of an HDD may vary depending on its firmware version.