Seagate ST1 1-Inch Hard Disk Drive Review

Today we would like to introduce to you a new one-inch hard disk drive from Seagate supporting CompactFlash interface. Based on the regular HDD architecture (featuring platters and heads), this product proved very fast, very reliable and robust against external physical vibrations and shock. And the most important is that it offers outstanding storage capacity at a very affordable price.

by Andrey Kuznetcov
12/07/2004 | 07:10 PM

Seagate Company undertook a detailed investigation and analysis of the perspectives and trends of the memory market, and they decided they should no longer disregard tremendous opportunities that exist out there.

 

Of course, they considered that designing a compact storage device supporting CompactFlash standard and based on the hard disk drive architecture would be a great idea, since Seagate is one of the leaders in hard disk drives development nowadays. This decision logically led to introduction of the new product line among Seagate’s products, called ST1. Today we are going to introduce to you one of these products.

Please welcome Seagate ST1 ST650211CF 5GB!

Closer Look

Before they actually released a new product into the market, Seagate not only carried out detailed market research, which revealed the increasing interest towards compact storage devices. They also had to take into account and solve a number of technical issues, which arose inevitably during the product development stage.

Of course, they had to make sure that miniature hard drives meet all the specific requirements for higher performance, because they would definitely be used in such devices as MP3 players, digital cameras, pocket PCs and other small portable solutions, which usually suffer a lot of physical vibrations and shock during use and transportation. The storage capacity of these drives had to be competitive with other analogous solutions available in the today’s market, such as Microdrive solutions from Hitachi. And of course, the newcomer from Seagate had to offer even better performance than the rivals to become a success.

Now let’s take a closer look at this product to see what Seagate actually managed to create. The ST1 hard disk drive family is currently represented by 2.5GB and 5GB models designed for CompactFlash interface. The latter solution mentioned above boasts the biggest storage capacity among all today’s 1” solutions of the kind. I would also like to stress that 5GB storage capacity allows this drive to compete very successfully with CompactFlash memory cards, where you will hardly find too many solutions with the capacity exceeding 4GB. Besides, the memory cards like that are still more expensive than the miniature hard disk drives. One of the major distinguishing features of this hard drive is unexpectedly large cache buffer, which is 2MB big. This is a typical cache-buffer for many regular 3.5” HDDs. The drive takes about 2sec maximum to boot and get ready for work, while the average noise level doesn’t go beyond 2 bel.

Higher reliability and stable performance in tough working conditions (in case of extra physical vibrations affecting the drive) are achieved due to Seagate’s brand name RunOn technology. This technology allows to detect inappropriate harmonic frequencies and to compensate them by automatically forcing the heads to stay on the tracks. It is also important to prevent the drive from failing in case of an unexpected external shock, such as when the device falls down on the floor, for instance, because in this case the heads can hit against the platter surface really hard and thus damage the surface. In order to ensure this will not happen, Seagate implemented their G-Force Protection technology in these ST1 drives, too. The idea behind this technology is that the heads get automatically removed from the platter surface once the HDD is shut down, which reduces the risk of accidental damage to the minimum.

  

  

The hard disk drive weighs 19g and features the following dimensions: 42.8mm x 36.4mm x 5mm. The approximate price of this solution is $300.

Testbed and Methods

Here are the programs and utilities we used to btest the performance of this new solution:

For our benchmarks we assembled the following test system:

We tested this hard disk drive with an ImageMate USB 2.0 card-reader from SanDisk. The HDD was formatted for FAT32 file system with the cluster of default size.

Performance in FC-Test

To test Seagate ST1 HDD in our FC-Test testing package we selected two patterns. The first one consisted of 100 files 1MB each. The second pattern consisted of one single file 100MB big. In order to better reveal the advantages and drawbacks of the new storage solution, we will compare it to similar products: Hitachi Microdrive HMS360404D5CF00 from the 3K4 family featuring 4GB storage capacity, and GS Magicstor with 2.2GB storage capacity, which are also designed for CompactFlash interface (see our article called Two Microdrive Hard Disk Drives from Hitachi for details).

When we compared the performance of our today’s hero with that of other testing participants we made a few allowances. The matter is that for the other tested products we used two patterns consisting of 900 files 1MB each and of one single file 900MB big. However, we considered true the assumption that once you reach a certain threshold file size, it no longer affects the performance during read and write operations. Therefore, we allowed ourselves to provide the data obtained during previous test session and those obtained today for our Seagate ST1 drive in the same tables and on the same diagrams.

On the first diagram you see the results of the Create algorithm for a large number of smaller files (1MB each). The new Seagate HDD is evidently faster than the competitors here.

File reading allows Seagate ST1 to get even farther ahead of the competitors. This hard disk drive is almost 2MB/sec faster than the closest rival, Hitachi Microdrive, while its victory over the GS Magicstor is simply dramatic for the latter.

Now let’s check out results obtained when we wrote a single large file onto the drive:

The gap between the leader and its opponents is even bigger than in case we have a lot of smaller files to create. The write speed of the new Seagate solution is almost 1.5 times higher.

The last diagram demonstrates read speed from one large file. Again we see that Seagate solution retained its indisputable leadership. It performs at a very stable speed while the file size has changed dramatically compared with the previous test.

Performance in AIDA32

With the help of a special option in AIDA32 program we managed to draw linear read and linear write graphs, as well as measure the average access time.


Linear Read Speed


Linear Write Speed


Average Access Time

The screenshots above indicate that the average access time of Seagate ST1 5GB HDD is 25msec, and the measured read and write speeds appeared about the same: both graphs look very similar, actually. We can now state that read speed results appeared very similar to those obtained during FC-Test, which once again proves our conclusions to be true. However, the just obtained write speed results appeared much higher than what the FC-Test had revealed. Here we see exactly the difference between synthetic benchmarks and those measuring real performance of the tested solution.

Conclusion

Summing up I would like to say that the results appeared really good. These are exactly the words I would like to write speaking about my impressions from the new Seagate ST1 solution. We have just seen that it successfully outperforms its No.1 competitor – Microdrive storage solution from Hitachi, not to mention the GS Magicstor. On the one hand we have to admit that this is pretty natural and predictable result, because it is always easier to develop a product when you have some market experience in the compact storage solutions filed and some examples in front of you. On the other hand, however, we should give due credit to Seagate, which managed to release a few new compact storage devices, which proved highly efficient and competitive throughout the entire test session.

What actually allowed the 5GB ST1 product to perform so well in our tests? It looks like the drive owes this impressive performance primarily to high data density per platter and large 2MB buffer, which is not typical of a 1-inch HDD. I have to admit that this time we unfortunately didn’t have the chance to take a closer look at the power consumption of the new solution, so we will definitely be posting an update to this article later on, when we get the chance to perform the required measurements.

And in the meanwhile I would like to state with all certainty that users have now got the chance to try out a new CompactFlash hard disk drive, which costs considerably less than any of the memory cards with comparable storage capacity out there. Hopefully, the release of this powerful product stimulates the price reduction in this market segment.