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Seagate's Barracuda 7200.7 Serial ATA hard drive

Oooooooh, Barracuda
— 12:00 AM on February 3, 2004

ModelBarracuda 7200.7
Price (120GB)US$95

IT SEEMS like only yesterday Serial ATA drives were little more than an unfulfilled promise. A year ago, SATA drives were rare in retail, and tracking down something as simple as a SATA power adapter was nearly impossible. Fortunately, Serial ATA drives have come a long way in a relatively short period of time. Today, SATA drives are widely available on retail shelves and inside OEM systems, and it's almost impossible to buy a new mid-range or high-end motherboard that doesn't come with at least a couple of SATA ports, cables, and power adapters.

Seagate's Barracuda V was the first Serial ATA drive to see widespread retail availability. Despite also being the first drive to provide native rather than bridged Serial ATA support, the Barracuda V's platter technology was a little behind the competition, and performance suffered.

Since releasing the Barracuda V, Seagate has been hard at work on its second generation Serial ATA drive, the Barracuda 7200.7. The 7200.7 is now widely available in retail, and we've managed to snag one for testing.

The drive
Before I start throwing graphs at you, let's take a quick look at the drive.

As you might expect, the Barracuda 7200.7 isn't much to look at. For whatever reason, hard drive manufacturers continue to ignore aesthetics completely and build drives that all pretty much look the same. This cosmetic restraint seems a little out of place in a world where wild colors permeate everything from motherboards to memory sticks, but not even the drives Apple uses have any sort of visual flair.

Unlike the Serial ATA offerings from Maxtor and Western Digital, which offer standard four-pin MOLEX power connectors in addition to Serial ATA power plugs, the Barracuda 7200.7 only accepts Serial ATA power connectors. Thankfully, Serial ATA power adapters are shipping with most new motherboards and power supplies, so powering the drive shouldn't be a problem for most.

The Barracuda's lack of a four-pin MOLEX connector may have something to do with the fact that the drive has a native rather than bridged Serial ATA implementation. Bridged Serial ATA implementations have to translate "parallel" to Serial ATA, so they suffer from an overhead penalty not present in native SATA implementations. However, current hard disk technology isn't anywhere near as fast the Serial ATA spec's maximum transfer rate of 150MB/sec, so there should be a room for a little bridge overhead.

Here's a quick summary of the drive's more notable specs:

Maximum internal transfer rate683Mbits/sec
Maximum external transfer rate150MB/sec
Average sustained transfer rate58MB/sec
Average seek time8.5ms
Average rotational latency4.16ms
Spindle speed7,200RPM
Cache size8MB
Platter size80GB
Available capacities80GB, 120GB, 160GB, 200GB
Serial ATA interfaceAgere native SATA
Warranty lengthThree years

Overall, the 7200.7's specs are pretty much what you'd expect from a new 7,200RPM hard drive. What is a little unexpected, however, is that 7200.7 SATA drives with 8MB of cache carry a three-year warranty. One-year warranties have become a new standard for consumer-level hard drives, so it's nice to see Seagate offering three years on some of the 7200.7s.

In addition to a longer than average warranty, the Barracuda 7200.7 can apparently withstand 350Gs of non-operational shock, which should help the drive survive even the most abusive UPS employees. Seagate also claims the 'cuda has the lowest idle acoustics in the industry, which we'll be putting to the test. Unfortunately, exerting 350Gs of force is a little beyond the capabilities of my Benchmarking Sweatshop, so we'll have to take Seagate on its word there.