Date: May 17, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams
Seagate has introduced to us once again the largest consumer drive available, and we have it on our testbench. Surprisingly, not only does it have much more space than the previous 500GB model, it also proves to be much faster. Let’s take a close look at the drive, and see just what perpendicular magnetic recording can offer us.
There are countless markets when it comes to computers, and they all have one thing in common. Each one has numerous companies fighting for the top spot, and the storage market is not excluded from the battle. While hard drives are not usually the ‘performance part’ that everyone craves, there is a huge selection out there begging for your cash. While Western Digital has the fastest consumer drive with their Raptor, Seagate holds the top spot for drive density.
Currently, the top spot for the mobile market is Seagate’s own Momentus 160GB drive. It’s large storage space is all thanks to PMR, or perpendicular magnetic recording. I also posted a review a few weeks ago of their 500GB desktop drive, although that shared the top spot with a few other companies.
Earlier this month, when information was leaked about Seagate’s 750GB drive, jaws dropped. To picture 3/4 of a Terabyte in a single drive is amazing. Thanks to Perpendicular Recording, this is a reality. We will touch on this technology soon. Let’s check out what this drive has to offer, as told by Seagate.
capacity in existing standard form factors
So who would benefit from such a massive hard drive? Seagate states that the drive is perfectly suited for pretty much everyone. Gamers, small businesses and low-cost servers that don’t need the speed of a 10,000 RPM or higher drive.
With the way technology is going, our digital collections are only getting larger. While 750GB would have been ridiculous to consider a few years ago, it makes more sense today. Of course, there are not -that- many people out that that need such a massive drive. Personally, I would have a very difficult time filling all of that space. There are many out there who will benefit from such a large drive though.
One benefit is the ability to hook two of these drives up in a RAID for 1.5TB of space. This is perfect for video editing and other space intensive multimedia tasks. Obviously, it’s up to you to decide whether you “need” such a massive drive, because you should be willing to shell out the money for it.
Let’s jump right into the fact of why 750GB is possible in a desktop drive, with a quick explanation of how PMR works.
PMR is a technique that became well known early last summer. As mentioned in the intro, the problem mobile hard drives face is the amount of storage they can handle. People wanted a lot more space than was currently being given, but it became feasibly impossible to fit much more storage using the classic method. Of course, due to technology moving forward at an alarming rate, it’s no surprise to see storage devices including more gigabytes in less space.
During the past decade, it’s been a very common thing to see disk space double over the years. I remember purchasing a brand new 8GB Western Digital drive for around $300US, only to see 20GB drives the next year for the same price. On the desktop side of things, we are now finally seeing drives hit a whopping 500GB, and that number will rise in due time. The storage market, like any other tech field is ever evolving though, so what $300 did even 5 years ago will get you 10x the performance today.
Because we desire more and more hard drive space, engineers ran into the problem of not being able to fit a larger amount of storage into the same form factor. Sure, it may be possible to fit 1TB into an enclosure, but it would still likely have two drives at the heart… or be huge. Things are worse on the mobile side of things though, because unlike their desktop counterparts, these weigh just a quarter of a pound, and don’t exactly offer much breathing room.
In order to achieve the ability of cramming more storage into the same amount of space, engineers had to figure out a way to fit more data bits into the same area. This of course presented it’s own set of complications. If data bits are small enough, the magnetic energy which holds that bit in it’s place may become small enough so it can’t magnetize properly.
On normal hard drives like the one in your desktop, the magnetic energy lies on the disc’s equal plane. As you may have guess, this new method is places the magnetic energy perpendicular to the plane of the disk. This way, the data bits are represented as upward/downward magnetization. Because of this, the media is deposited underneath the soft magnetic layer that functions as part of the write field. This technique sounds complicated, but it allows much higher density recording than the longitudinal method. The sample picture above is from Seagate’s site and can explain it better than words.
For your viewing pleasure, here are some additional pictures of the drive, including a physical comparison to the 500GB drive.
Here are two quick looks at what the Windows install screen reports the size as, then actual Windows and finally what the possibilities of partitioning are.
Onward to some testing!
To test out this beast, I ran it through many different tests, including real world. I compared the 750GB to the 7200.9 500GB and a WD 160GB. Before testing began, all hard drives were completely formatted with all partitions cleared. To completely clear the 160GB and 500GB drive, I ran Darik’s Boot and Nuke for a single pass. This program essentially overwrites all data bits on the hard drive to help them become unrecoverable. Of course, we are not worried about data recovery here, which is why I only used one pass.
Here is the list of tools I used for testing the drive, in case you want to test out your own:
Let’s jump straight into the benchmarks!
The last two sets of results are from the testing done for the 500GB review. All components in the computer have been kept the same since that review. The end results are only approximate, but should not be within 5 seconds different of the actual value. The version of Windows I used was Media Center Edition 2005, which spans two CD’s. For some reason, installing with the 160GB drive, I had to swap the discs less than with the 500GB and the 750GB. Why? I have no idea. Here are the timelines:
After removing the prompting for different discs, the entire installation took around 989 seconds, or 16.5 minutes.
After removing the prompting for different discs, the entire installation took around 1,038 seconds, or 17.3 minutes.
After removing the prompting for different discs, the entire installation took around 759 seconds, or 12.7 minutes.
The 750GB beats out the 500GB version in the Windows installation, but both still come short of the install time on the ATA drive.
HD Tach is one of my favorite storage benchmarks, mainly because it’s quite in-depth. It can give you a result for a burst rate, average and a latency.
We can see that the 750GB drive doesn’t have the incredible burst rate of the 500GB, but it’s still very impressive. The 750GB did conquer though, especially in the average read part. Whereas the 500GB fell short performance wise to the 160GB, the 750GB proves faster than both, while maintaining the nice latencies.
HD Tune is not just a benchmark, but a great tool for checking up on your drives health. Under the health panel, it will be able to tell you how many hours your hard drive has been running for. The benchmarking portion can give us similar info as HD Tach 3, but instead of a simple average, it can also give us a minimum and maximum.
The same applies to our HD Tune benchmarks. Here though, the 750GB drive proved 17MB/s faster on average. That’s a huge difference performance wise. It’s apparent that despite the wider density of the 750GB drive, the PMR helps maintain some great speed.
PC Mark has a very interesting way of benchmarking storage. Instead of using a ‘normal’ Min/Avg/Max scheme, they take various aspects of everyday computer use and turn them into a benchmark. Note that the final PC Mark in the graphs have a decimal, but the real score does not. The decimal was added to allow the other bars to show.
The differences continue to be apparent. I had thought that the 750GB drive would come in last place throughout our tests, but I was proven absolutely wrong. The performance that this drive offers is amazing.
SANDRA is obviously one of the most popular benchmarking tools out there, and for good reason. Note though, that the 500GB and 160GB drives were benchmarked with version 2005, while the 2007 was used for benchmarking the 750GB. A few quick tests proved no real difference between the versions for this use though.
Once again, the 750GB cleans up these tests, and only falls short in the buffered tests. It’s hard for any single drive to even consider keeping up to the 500GB’s buffered results. They are almost unheard of!
To perform real world testing, I took a huge conglomerate of files and timed the copies using the Windows clock on another PC. Regretfully, the 750GB tests did not use the same file set as the previous two, but they are still there to get a hint of differences.
Looking at the 750GB tests, 21K files in slightly over 6 minutes time is -very- nice to see. The speed of the drive in the real world tests showcase it’s power better than the synthetic benchmarks.
I have said it before, and will say it again: Seagate is impressing everyone. Since last fall, they have made a couple huge bangs, and show no sign of slowing down. Their 500GB drive came and impressed techies everywhere, especially with it’s insane burst rates. Then came the largest mobile drive available, the 160GB Momentus, which to this day still has no competition.
So we have this huge 750GB drive, which should prove far more than enough for anyone unless you are a hardcore media buff. I can say right now that this drive is awarded a 9 out of 10 and our Editors Choice award, and it well deserves that title. However, this is not a drive for everyone. Not everyone will remotely need 750GB of storage, myself included. However, if you do have such a need, then this drive is perfect for you.
The price will be another factor that may sway you from a purchase. The price will not hurt the score however. Why? Because this is the -only- 750GB drive available on the market, and it has no competition. A quick look at an e-tailer shows that the previously reviewed 500GB currently sells for $0.55 per GB, while the 750GB sells for $0.66 per GB. This is actually not that much of a hike, considering you are paying for the top drive available.
Due to the high price, you may be better off putting together a RAID of dual 500GB drives, which would give you 1TB and cost only $50 more than the 750GB single drive. That could also result in a speed bonus. As it stands though, a 500GB vs. 750GB, the 750GB comes out at the top in most of our performance tests.
There’s a couple things to also note. First, due to that problematic 1024 byte per megabyte, the 750GB drive is essentially 750 Billion bytes. In terms of real GB’s, it turns out to be 698GB total. Also, this drive get’s very HOT. The 500GB easily got up to the 47°C mark, but this 750GB sits at around 53°C. Though these drives are designed to handle this heat, 53°C is still too high for my liking. After throwing on a hard drive cooler, it brought the drive down to a much more comfortable 40°C. I highly recommend you plan on having sufficient cooling if you purchase this drive.
If you are in need of mass storage and have a deep wallet, you cannot go wrong with Seagate’s 750GB drive. It’s not only the largest drive on the market, but offers speed that consumers and enthusiasts alike can appreciate. So.. when’s our 1TB drives?
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May 17 Addendum: It seems as though this drive has a S-ATA switch that I was not informed about. Due to this, the benchmarks were all completed using the 1.5GBps switch and not the 3GBps switch. Re-running a few quick benchmarks shows that the 750GB’s burst rate doesn’t only keep up to the 500GB, but surpasses them. All other figures remain the same. So please keep in mind that the burst rates are equivelent to the 500GB in the charts, though they don’t reflect it. Thanks to Blackened in the forums for pointing this out.
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