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Test notes
We'll be comparing the performance of the SpinPoint T with that of a slew of competitors, including some of the latest and greatest Serial ATA drives from Hitachi, Maxtor, Seagate, and Western Digital. These drives differ when it comes to external transfer rates, spindle speeds, cache sizes, platter densities, NCQ support, and capacity, all of which can have an impact on performance. Keep in mind the following differences as we move through our benchmarks:

  Max external transfer rate Spindle speed Cache size Platter size Capacity Native Command Queuing?
Barracuda 7200.7 NCQ150MB/s7,200RPM8MB80GB160GBYes
Barracuda 7200.8150MB/s7,200RPM8MB133GB400GBYes
Barracuda 7200.9 (160GB)300MB/s7,200RPM8MB160GB160GBYes
Barracuda 7200.9 (500GB)300MB/s7,200RPM16MB125GB500GBYes
Barracuda 7200.10300MB/s7,200RPM16MB188GB750GBYes
Barracuda ES300MB/s7,200RPM16MB188GB750GBYes
Caviar SE16300MB/s7,200RPM16MB83GB250GBNo
Caviar SE16 (500GB)300MB/s7,200RPM16MB125GB500GBYes
Caviar RE2150MB/s7,200RPM16MB100GB400GBYes
Caviar RE2 (500GB)300MB/s7,200RPM16MB125GB500GBYes
Deskstar 7K500300MB/s7,200RPM16MB100GB500GBYes
DiamondMax 10150MB/s7,200RPM16MB100GB300GBYes
Raptor WD740GD150MB/s10,000RPM8MB37GB74GBNo*
Raptor X150MB/s10,000RPM16MB75GB150GBYes
Raptor WD1500ADFD150MB/s10,000RPM16MB75GB150GBYes
SpinPoint T 300MB/s 7,200RPM 16MB 133GB 400GB Yes

Note that the 250GB Caviar SE16 and the Raptor WD740GD lack support for Native Command Queuing. The WD740GD does support a form of command queuing known as Tagged Command Queuing (TCQ), but host controller and chipset support for TCQ is pretty thin. Our Intel 955X-based test platform doesn't support TCQ.

We have test results from older and newer versions of Western Digital's Caviar SE16 and RE2. To avoid confusion, we'll be referring to the newer drives as the Caviar RE2 (500GB) and Caviar SE16 (500GB), while the old drives will appear as the Caviar RE2 and Caviar SE16.

Since Seagate makes versions of the 7200.7 both with and without NCQ support, the 7200.7 in our tests appears as the "Barracuda 7200.7 NCQ" to clarify that it's the NCQ version of the drive. The Caviar RE2, Deskstar T7K250, DiamondMax 10, 7200.8, 7200.9, 7200.10, ES, Raptor X, and Raptor WD1500ADFD aren't explicitly labeled as NCQ drives because they're not available without NCQ support.

Finally, we should note that our WD1500ADFD has a slightly newer firmware revision than the Raptor X sample we've had since February. The drives still share identical internals, but firmware optimizations could give our newer Raptor an edge over the X in some tests.

Our testing methods
All tests were run three times, and their results were averaged, using the following test system.

Processor Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4GHz
System bus800MHz (200MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard Asus P5WD2 Premium
Bios revision0422
North bridgeIntel 955X MCH
South bridgeIntel ICH7R
Chipset driversChipset
Memory size1GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory typeMicron DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz
CAS latency (CL)3
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)3
RAS precharge (tRP)3
Cycle time (tRAS)8
Audio codecALC882D
Graphics Radeon X700 Pro 256MB with CATALYST 5.7 drivers
Hard drives Hitachi 7K500 500GB SATA
Maxtor DiamondMax 10 300GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 NCQ 160GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.8 400GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 160GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 500GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 750GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar SE16 250GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar RE2 400GB SATA
Western Digital Raptor WD740GD 74GB SATA
Western Digital Raptor X 150GB SATA
Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar RE2 500GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar SE16 500GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda ES 750GB SATA
Samsung SpinPoint T 400GB SATA
OS Windows XP Professional
OS updatesService Pack 2

Thanks to the folks at NCIX for hooking us up with the SpinPoint T we used for testing. NCIX is currently one of only a handful of vendors actually selling versions of the drive with a 400GB capacity and 16MB of cache.

Our test system was powered by OCZ PowerStream power supply units. The PowerStream was one of our Editor's Choice winners in our last PSU round-up.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems' Windows desktop was set at 1280x1024 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.