IN THE HARD DRIVE WORLD
, capacity is king. Capacity actually comes in two flavors. The first and most obvious is the storage capacity of a hard drive. The second, and potentially more important, is the capacity of individual platters within a drive. This platter capacity is known as the areal density, and it can do more than just increase the amount of data a drive can hold. Higher areal densities allow drives to offer more storage capacity with fewer platters, potentially lowering noise levels, cutting power consumption, and reducing the risk of a catastrophic head crash. As if that weren't enough, higher areal densities can also improve performance by allowing the drive head to access the same amount of data over a shorter physical distance.
Seagate's new Barracuda 7200.9 family of Serial ATA hard drives packs storage capacity on both fronts, with one model weighing in at a hefty half-terabyte and another packing a single 160GB platter whose areal density is 25% higher than its closest competitor. We've rounded up both models and run them through a brutal gauntlet of storage tests against earlier Barracudas and drives from Hitachi, Maxtor, and Western Digital. Read on to see how the 7200.9s compare.