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With 250GB platters, 32MB of cache, and a 7,200-RPM spindle speed, the Barracuda 7200.11 should be the fastest high-capacity drive on the market. Except that it isn't. Results from our performance testing are mixed at best, with the new 'cuda excelling in some tests but faltering badly in others.

If we just relied on HD Tach, the drive would look like a winner, with pack-leading transfer rates and a very quick random access time. That isn't the whole story, though. Those fast transfer rates don't carry over to FC-Test, where we saw the Barracuda turn in dismal throughput with file creation workloads and an uninspired performance overall. The only bright spot was the ISO test pattern, whose small number of large files most closely resembles HD Tach's sustained transfer rate tests.

FC-Test wasn't the only test suite to run slowly on the 'cuda. The drive's WorldBench score was also a few points off the pace—and even lower than that of the 7200.10. That makes it tough to recommend the 7200.11 for desktops, particularly when competing drives offer faster and more consistent performance.

Fortunately, the 7200.11 has a few redeeming qualities that make it appropriate for other environments. The Barracuda turned in the highest IOMeter transaction rates we've seen from a 7,200-RPM drive, for example. When combined with a relatively strong showing under our demanding iPEAK multitasking workloads, the new 'cuda starts to look like it could make a lot of sense for workstations and even servers.

Reasonably low power consumption should also appeal to the enterprise crowd, and we're pleased to report that the 7200.11 has returned the Barracuda to relative silence. Those factors would combine to make the new 'cuda an attractive option for home theater PCs where transfer rates and application performance are less of a concern, were it not for one little thing: price.

Cost is a concern for most of us, and that kills a lot of the new 'cuda's appeal. The drive is currently selling for $347 and up online, making it the most expensive terabyte drive on the market by roughly $70. It's tough to bridge such a large gap. Although the drive's five-year warranty may justify the premium for some, it doesn't quite do it for me. What's worse, the 'cuda's high price sullies its appeal for home theater PCs, where the much cheaper Caviar GP is already the quieter option.

Were it significantly cheaper, I'd be more inclined to recommend the Barracuda 7200.11 for a wider range of applications. However, the drive's relatively high price and mixed performance narrows its appeal to users who don't mind paying extra for faster performance under demanding multitasking and multi-user loads. The new 'cuda is no doubt an improvement over its predecessor—a huge one in some cases—but it's not a clear winner across the board. TR

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