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Seagate Barracuda ATA-IV 60GB
With everyone trying to increase system performance as high as possible, it's often easy to neglect an important part of your computer, the hard drive. IDE drives have evolved in the last couple of years, and the current crop of drives sport 7200 RPM and the ATA/100 interface. The improvement in performance is definitely apparent when you compare the current drives to their 5400 RPM counterparts. Although IDE isn't the fastest interface out there, it's cheap and IDE RAID is widely enough available to make it a good choice for anyone's system. With the increase of the rotational speed from 5400 to 7200 RPM also came an increase in noise. You'll notice that some hard drives are louder than others. I'm sure you all know that characteristic sound drives make when they're transferring information (also known as thrashing). Seagate, a long time leader in high performance storage, has taken hard drive improvements a step further with their new Barracuda ATA-IV. This drive not only incorporates increased speed with 7200 RPM operation and ATA/100 but also silent operation and increased reliability. That's where this review comes in.
Features And Specifications
Seagate released the Barracuda ATA-IV line of drives earlier this year in June. What makes this drive different is the new "SoftSonic" Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB) motor which makes this drive virtually silent. According to Seagate, these drives only emit 2.0 Dba. Personally, my system is loud enough as it is, so the quieter the drive the better. The Barracuda ATA-IV series has a maximum capacity of 80 GB, which is the first 7200 RPM drive to sport 80 GBs using only 2 discs. It also comes in 20GB, 40GB, and 60GB flavors. The 2 MB buffer also ensures faster transfer rates.
Here are the specs of the drive I tested:
Seagate knows they're stuff, and it's apparent that they put a lot of effort in making the Barracuda ATA-IV not only a leader in performance but also reliability. It's one of the most advanced IDE drives on the market today. My hat goes off to the engineers at Seagate for their creation.
First Impression And Installation
Having been an IBM drive fan for the last 3 years or so, it was interesting to actually have a Seagate drive to test out. Will I be converted over? The drive I'm using to test is a 60 GB OEM model. The first thing that caught my eye is the drive construction. It's very solid and has a nice shiny finish to it. After inspecting the drive, I noticed that it indeed had internal padding to dampen the noise. After building a few computers, installing a hard drive wasn't really a big deal. My VP6 recognized the drive fine and I then proceeded to formatting and getting it ready for testing. After having it on for a bit, I noticed something I guess is a drawback to the drive being silent. The drive gets really hot, which might cause problems if you have a cramped case already. It ran considerably hotter than my IBM drives, but then it also ran a lot quieter... Now lets get down to some numbers...
I decided to get a variety of benchmarks together to see how the Barracuda does against the IDE RAID 0 on my VP6. As with every benchmark, this is just a relative measure of the performance of the Barracuda ATA-IV. Since every system will be different and the conditions will vary throughout, take these benchmarks as a reference point. My operating system of choice is Windows XP and I'm using NTFS for the file system. The latest drivers for the HPT370 IDE/RAID controller were installed before all the tests were run. Here's the breakdown of the test system.
This should be a good comparison considering the IBM drives I have are both 7200 RPM drives with ATA/100 and the total capacity is the same as well. From what we know about RAID 0, the IBM drives should win against the single 60 GB Seagate drive. The benchmarks of choice are Winbench 99, CliBench Mk III, ATTO Disk Benchmark, and Sisoft Sandra. Winbench 99 is a good benchmark that uses some real world apps to measure performance. It's far from being perfect, but it'll give you some idea of how well the drive performs. The rest are pretty much just synthetic benchmarks so they don't necessarily translate into real life.
CliBench MK III SMP 0.7.15
ATTO Disk Benchmark
The results are pretty consistent throughout all the different benchmarks. The RAID 0 array is the clear winner in every aspect except CPU utilization. However, the Barracuda is still a very solid performer. It's the fastest single IDE drive I have had. The Sandra scores, although synthetic, do show that it performs better than your typical 7200 RPM ATA/100 drive, almost catching up to the ATA/66 RAID array. I can only imagine the possibilities of putting a few of those monsters in RAID 0. With the IDE interface not even getting maxed out, it's good to see drives trying to catch up. I am definitely impressed. I did not get a chance to test the reliability of the drive since it wasn't mine to smash and throw around. However, I would imagine most users won't be putting 1,000 Gs of shock on the drive. It's still good to know that your data is safe from normal wear and tear. Since reliability is key for more important business applications, this drive is a good candidate to be used.
Pros & Cons
Seagate definitely has a winner on their hands here. Fast 7200 RPM spindle speed, ATA/100 interface, fast internal transfer rate, large capacity, and virtually silent operation make this drive a contender in the high performance market. SCSI drives will always be faster, but this Barracuda is much more affordable. The only complaint I have is the heat problem, which is not much of a big deal. If you're familiar with SCSI drives, those run pretty hot themselves. All it takes is an extra fan or two to offset the extra heat. If you get multiple drives for a RAID array, you might want to think about better cooling solutions. I've always been an IBM drive fan, so testing this Seagate drive opened my eyes a bit. I'm seriously going to consider Seagate drives for my next big hard drive upgrade. For those of you looking for a good IDE solution, you should definitely consider this drive. It won't beat out SCSI solutions out there of course, but it won't break your wallet either. You can get the 60 GB model for around $120, which is definitely a bargain compared to a few months ago. Now building an IDE RAID 0 array isn't so out of reach. It's ideal for the performance hungry gamer, small-business, or graphics designer. That's about all I can say about this drive.
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