Seagate Constellation ES.3 4TB Enterprise Hard Drive Review

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by Rob Williams on February 18, 2013 in Storage

We took a look at both of WD’s 4TB hard drive options in the past month, so it’s a great time to get some Seagate action going. The Constellation ES.3 competes with WD’s RE in the enterprise space, but it brings an interesting feature to the table: a 128MB cache. So let’s give the the drive a good test and see if it can topple the RE drive we raved over.

Real-World: Transfers, Game Level Loading & Windows Boot

One of the most common tasks that someone will tackle with a storage device is transferring data, so to see what our collection of drives are capable of, we take a collection of solid files and folders and transfer them from our super-fast SATA 6Gbit/s SSD to each hard drive. Then for good measure, we copy a file and folder on the same drive. Both our files and folders come in 4GB and 16GB sizes, with the folders holding between ~5,000 (4GB) and ~20,000 (16GB) files.

Our stopwatch starts as soon as we click the “Copy here” button in the context menu, and stops as soon as the transfer dialog disappears.

For most of the results leading up to this point, Seagate’s ES.3 has excelled vs. WD’s RE. However, it manages to fall behind in a couple of our real-world tests seen here. Solid file transfers are fine, but folder transfers and file/folder copies deliver some less-than-impressive results.

Game Level Loading

One of the biggest benefits of faster storage is quicker load times for games, both with regards to their startup and level-loading. For testing here, we use two of the heaviest games we have on hand; Sid Meier’s Civilization V and Total War: SHOGUN 2. Our test here is simple: we see how long it takes each game to load. Our stopwatch starts as soon as we click the option to load either game..

The ES.3 drive strikes back here, slotting in just behind the VelociRaptor in our Civilization V test and actually surpassing it in our SHOGUN 2 test. This seems like a test that could have benefited from the additional cache, but it’s difficult to know for sure. What we do know, though, is that quicker load times are welcomed regardless of how they happen.

Windows 7 Boot Time

Like game level loading, faster storage can mean faster OS boot times. To put this to the test, we rely on an Acronis image that has a clean install of Windows 7 Ultimate x64 and required drivers, with Ethernet disabled. For a more accurate result, we do our testing with a cold boot, after the system has been left to sit idle for a couple of minutes. We record both the time it takes to boot to the desktop from a completely cold boot, and also the time it takes from the very second we see the Windows loading screen appear.

It’s tests like this one that can lead to mass confusion when trying to reach a conclusion on a drive performance. Our HD Tune results put the read IOPS performance of the ES.3 drive on par with the RE, yet the RE beats it out in this test. This is despite the ES.3’s synthetic results putting it ahead of most of the competition.