Seems like the conclusion based on the results of this test session won’t be too bright. To all appearances, the era of a rapid growth of hard disk drive performance when each new generation easily left the older behind in any applications, has come to its end. HDDs owed their speed boost to the constant improvement of their firmware, but there’s a limit to the inventiveness of the programmers, and all the manufacturers have reached the same level of performance for their products. Further improvements are achieved through purely quantitative methods: higher data densities, larger buffers, faster spindle rotation speeds. A sudden jump may come only with new technologies and a perfected protocol of interaction between the operating system and the hard disk drive. Yes, we mean the upcoming Serial ATA II and its main dainty – Native Command Queuing. Let’s just wait for a little.
But what about the subject of the review – the Hitachi Deskstar 7K250 series?
The main and paradoxical discovery we made was that the three Vancouver generations have roughly the same performance across the majority of our tests! IBM seems to have set the bar so high that neither IBM itself nor Hitachi can overcome it for almost three years now. Of course, there’s some progress, but it is always accompanied with regress.
The first difference of the 7K250 from the predecessors is open to the look of any observer – the transition of the central controller chip to Infineon’s production facilities. So far, the transition has been made without a serious modification of the logics, without a change of the processor core – the command set of the 7K250 fully repeats the command set of IBM’s drives, well-known to all service technicians. This change of the manufacturer of the controller may account for the certain slowdown of the 7K250 electronics which has led to a worse performance on small data blocks. Time will show if this affected the stability in any way. We can say as yet that many single-platter 7K250 models suffer from the same problems as we had with early samples of the Deskstar 180GXP – we mean the reduced performance due to instable data reading that occurs after the drive has been tested under a full load. All the senior models passed through our tests without problems.
Hitachi also intentionally put the senior and junior models into unequal conditions, introducing a number of limitations on the firmware level. As a result, the topmost 250GB models look favorable in this series, and they are among the world’s fastest HDDs today. The other models of the series are more or less slower, so comparing the 7K250 to the competitors we should always specify the capacity of the model in question.
The model with the lowest capacity seems to be a loathed child. It has always been far behind the others in all the tests, so we advise you to disregard it when you’re shopping for a HDD.
The main innovation in the 7K250 series are the Serial ATA models, but nothing very interesting happened here, either – such solutions have the same performance as the ATA ones.