review seagates barracuda 7200 11 hard drive

Seagate’s Barracuda 7200.11 hard drive

Manufacturer Seagate
Model Barracuda 7200.11 (1TB)
Price (Street)
Availability Now

Seagate consistently snags the largest slice of the hard drive market, and it was the first manufacturer to push capacities to 750GB. However, the company has been slow to the terabyte mark, handily beaten to the punch by Hitachi’s Deskstar 7K1000. Western Digital recently pulled up to the terabyte table with its Caviar GP, too, leaving Seagate’s brand-new Barracuda with fresh competition in the high-capacity game.

In some ways, the new ‘cuda combines the best of what you get with the Deskstar 7K1000 and Caviar GP without the baggage inherent to each. The Deskstar, for example, is blessed with a massive 32MB cache and speedy 7,200-RPM spindle speed, but needs five relatively low-density 200GB platters to reach the terabyte mark. The Caviar, on the other hand, spreads its terabyte over just four 250GB platters, but its performance is hampered by spindle speeds that dip below 7,200-RPM.

Taking a little from column A and a little from column B, the Barracuda 7200.11 rolls in with four 250GB platters complemented by 32MB of cache and a 7,200-RPM spindle speed. Throw in a five-year warranty that you don’t get with either the Deskstar or the Caviar, and it looks like this latest ‘cuda may have been worth the wait.

To find out for sure, we’ve run Seagate’s latest through an exhaustive series of tests, comparing its performance, noise levels, and power consumption with more than 20 other hard drives. Keep reading to see how the 7200.11 stacks up.

Oooooh, Barracuda
According to Seagate, this latest addition to the Barracuda line should have widespread appeal. The company lists a number of “key applications” for the drive, predictably including mainstream desktops, external storage devices, and gaming and high-end PCs. Surprisingly, though, Seagate says the 7200.11 is also appropriate for workstations and desktop RAID arrays—ground hard drive makers have normally reserved for enterprise-class drives.

Manufacturers have always liked to segment desktop and enterprise products, but in the world of 7,200-RPM Serial ATA drives, there isn’t much difference between the two. Drives tend to share the same platters, mechanics, and packaging, and they usually offer near-equivalent performance—Seagate’s own enterprise-class Barracuda ES, for example, offers comparable performance to the 7200.10 on which it is based. Seagate isn’t alone, either. The performance of Western Digital’s desktop Caviar SE16 is roughly equivalent to that of the company’s enterprise-oriented RE2, too.

Unlike Western Digital, Seagate further blurs the line between desktop and enterprise drives by offering an industry-leading five–year warranty on all its desktop drives—two years more than its competitors. Five years of coverage is usually reserved for enterprise products, so it’s a welcome addition to any desktop drive. More extensive warranty coverage doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the 7200.11 will be more reliable than drives covered for only three years, though.

Barracuda 7200.10

Barracuda 7200.11

Maximum external
transfer rate
300MB/s 300MB/s

Sustained data rate
NA 105MB/s

Average rotational
4.16ms 4.16ms

Spindle speed
7,200-RPM 7,200-RPM

80, 160, 200, 250,
300, 320, 400, 500, 750GB
500GB, 750GB, 1TB

Cache size
2MB (80,
8MB (80, 160, 200GB)
16MB (250, 320, 400, 500, 750GB)
16MB (500,
32MB (500GB, 750GB, 1TB)

Platter size
188GB (750GB) 250GB

Idle acoustics
2.5-2.8 bels 2.5-2.7 bels

Seek acoustics
2.8-3.7 bels 2.8-2.9 bels

Idle power
5.3-9.3W 8.0W

power consumption
9.0-12.6W 10.6-11.6W

Warranty length
Five years Five years

The Barracuda 7200.11 may inherit a five-year warranty from its 7200.10 predecessor, and to be fair, it has the same 300MB/s Serial ATA interface and 7,200-RPM spindle speed. But that’s where the similarities end. These drives are quite different in a couple of very important ways. First, there’s the question of cache. The 7200.11 is equipped with a full 32MB—twice that of its predecessor. The 500 and 750GB flavors of the 7200.11 will also be made with only 16MB of cache, but these drives won’t be available through normal distribution channels. I’d expect to find them only in OEM systems.

Giving the Barracuda more cache to play with should improve performance, but perhaps not as much as the 7200.11’s other edge: areal density. Seagate’s first-generation perpendicular recording technology squeezed 188GB onto each of the 7200.10’s platters. However, the 7200.11 uses second-gen perpendicular recording tech capable of packing 250GB onto each platter—a jump of nearly a third. This higher areal density allows the drive head to access more data over shorter physical distances, bolstering the drive’s performance potential in the process.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to get a handle on exactly what kind of performance increase we can expect from the 7200.11’s denser platters. Seagate does claim the drive has a 105MB/s sustained data rate, but the company doesn’t publish a similar spec for the 7200.10. I suppose we’ll have to fall back on extensive benchmark results that test sustained throughput and file copy performance instead. What a shame.

Denser platters do more than just boost areal density, though. They also allow Seagate to build terabyte drives with just four platters—one fewer than Hitachi’s terabyte Deskstar. Reducing the number of platters lowers the weight the drive motor has to spin, and that should pay dividends when we examine power consumption a little later on.

We’ve seen evidence that drives with fewer platters tend to be quieter than those with more, so the 7200.11’s four-platter design could give it an edge on the acoustic front, as well. Low noise levels actually used to be a staple of Seagate hard drives, but the Barracuda has grown louder than its competitors over the years. Seagate is looking to return to silence with the 7200.11, whose “SoftSonic” motor promises quiet operation.

Our digital sound level meter will be the ultimate judge of whether the SoftSonic motor delivers. In the meantime, note that Seagate lists a much tighter range for the 7200.11’s seek acoustics than it does for those of the 7200.10. Maximum power consumption is lower for the new ‘cuda, as well, which is quite a feat considering it packs an additional 250 gigabytes.

Test notes
We’ll be comparing the performance of the Barracuda 7200.11 with that of a slew of competitors, including some of the latest and greatest Serial ATA drives from Hitachi, Maxtor, Samsung, 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


Native Command

Barracuda 7200.7
150MB/s 7,200-RPM 8MB 80GB 160GB Yes

Barracuda 7200.8
150MB/s 7,200-RPM 8MB 133GB 400GB Yes

Barracuda 7200.9
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 8MB 160GB 160GB Yes

Barracuda 7200.9
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 125GB 500GB Yes

Barracuda 7200.10
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 188GB 750GB Yes

Barracuda 7200.11







Barracuda ES
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 188GB 750GB Yes

Caviar GP
300MB/s 5,400-7,200-RPM 16MB 250GB 1TB Yes

Caviar SE16
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 83GB 250GB No

Caviar SE16 (500GB)
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 125GB 500GB Yes

Caviar SE16 (750GB)
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 188GB 750GB Yes

Caviar RE2
150MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 100GB 400GB Yes

Caviar RE2 (500GB)
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 125GB 500GB Yes

Deskstar 7K500
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 100GB 500GB Yes

Deskstar 7K1000
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 200GB 1TB Yes

DiamondMax 10
150MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 100GB 300GB Yes

DiamondMax 11
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 125GB 500GB Yes

Raptor WD740GD
150MB/s 10,000RPM 8MB 37GB 74GB No*

Raptor X
150MB/s 10,000RPM 16MB 75GB 150GB Yes

Raptor WD1500ADFD
150MB/s 10,000RPM 16MB 75GB 150GB Yes









SpinPoint T
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 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 several versions of Western Digital’s Caviar SE16 and RE2. To avoid confusion, we’ll be listing their capacities in parentheses in each of our graphs.

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 other drives 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, 2006. The drives still share identical internals, but firmware optimizations could give our newer Raptor an edge over the X in some tests.

Performance data from such a daunting collection of drives can make our graphs a little hard to read, so I’ve highlighted the Barracuda 7200.11 in bright yellow and its high-capacity competitors—the Barracuda 7200.10 and ES, the Deskstar 7K1000, the Caviar GP, and the Caviar SE16 and RE2 750GB—in pale yellow to set them apart from the others. We also have two sets of IOMeter graphs: one with all the drives, and another with just the 7200.11 and its direct rivals. Most of our analysis will be limited to how the 7200.11 compares with its direct rivals, so it should be easy to follow along.

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 bus 800MHz (200MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard Asus P5WD2 Premium
Bios revision 0422
North bridge Intel 955X MCH
South bridge Intel ICH7R
Chipset drivers Chipset
Memory size 1GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Micron DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz
CAS latency (CL) 3
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 3
RAS precharge (tRP) 3
Cycle time (tRAS) 8
Audio codec ALC882D
Graphics Radeon X700 Pro 256MB with CATALYST 5.7 drivers
Hard drives Hitachi 7K500 500GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar SE16 750GB 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
Maxtor DiamondMax 11 500GB SATA
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000 1TB SATA
Western Digital RE2 750GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar GP 1TB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB SATA
OS Windows XP Professional
OS updates Service Pack 2

Thanks to the folks at Newegg for hooking us up with the DiamondMax 11 we used for testing. Also, thanks to NCIX for getting us the Deskstar 7K1000.

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 1280×1024 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.

WorldBench overall performance
WorldBench uses scripting to step through a series of tasks in common Windows applications. It then produces an overall score. WorldBench also spits out individual results for its component application tests, allowing us to compare performance in each. We’ll look at the overall score, and then we’ll show individual application results.

The Barracuda 7200.11 gets off to a rough start in WorldBench, where it sits one point behind the 7200.10. That puts the drive a full two points off the pace set by Western Digital’s fastest Caviar and one point shy of scores set by our other terabyte drives, the Deskstar 7K1000 and the Caviar GP.

Multimedia editing and encoding

MusicMatch Jukebox

Windows Media Encoder

Adobe Premiere

VideoWave Movie Creator

Among WorldBench’s multimedia editing and encoding tests, only Premiere shows much of a performance difference between the drives. There, the ‘cuda manages a respectable score; it’s not quite as fast as the Caviar SE16 and RE2—desktop and enterprise versions of essentially the same drive—but it’s at least as fast as its terabyte competition.

Image processing

Adobe Photoshop

ACDSee PowerPack

WorldBench’s Photoshop test doesn’t appear to take advantage of faster drives, but the suite’s ACDSee workload does. In that test, the 7200.11 finds itself hanging towards the back of the pack, only beating its 7200.10 predecessor and the Barracuda ES. To be fair, the new ‘cuda isn’t far behind the Deskstar 7K1000 and Caviar GP. It is more than 20 seconds slower than the Caviar SE16 and RE2, though.

Multitasking and office applications

Microsoft Office


Mozilla and Windows Media Encoder

Scores don’t vary much across WorldBench’s office and multitasking tests. We’ll revisit multitasking performance with more demanding disk-intensive workloads in a moment.

Other applications



Nero and WinZip give the ‘cuda a chance to stretch its legs, but the drive comes up a little short in both tests. The 7200.11 loses ground to all its direct competitors here, and can’t even match the performance standard set by a Barracuda 7200.10 that’s roughly a year and a half old. It looks like these tests are what’s dragging down the ‘cuda’s overall WorldBench score.

Boot and load times
To test system boot and game level load times, we busted out our trusty stopwatch.

The Barracuda 7200.11 finds itself near the back of the pack in our system boot time test. At least it has some company; terabyte drives from Hitachi and Western Digital are also slow to boot our test system, suggesting that capacity may play a role here.

Capacity doesn’t appear to affect game load times, allowing the ‘cuda to surpass not only its 7200.10 ancestor, but also the terabyte Caviar GP. The Deskstar 7K1000 is the fastest terabyte drive here, though.

File Copy Test
File Copy Test is a pseudo-real-world benchmark that times how long it takes to create, read, and copy files in various test patterns. File copying is tested twice: once with the source and target on the same partition, and once with the target on a separate partition. Scores are presented in MB/s.

To make things easier to read, we’ve busted out our FC-Test results into individual graphs for each test pattern. We’ll tackle file creation performance first.

Second-gen perpendicular platters and a massive 32MB cache don’t appear to help the 7200.11 in File Copy Test’s file creation, er, tests. The new ‘cuda’s performance is particularly dismal with the Install and MP3 test patterns, which contain a large number of medium-sized files. FC-Test’s Windows and Program test patterns feature a large number of small files, and that seems to suit the 7200.11 a little better, allowing it to at least eclipse the performance of the 7200.10 and Barracuda ES. The drive performs about as well with an ISO test pattern made up of a small number of very large files, oddly enough.

Despite its slightly better showings with the ISO, Programs, and Windows test patterns, the 7200.11 is still well off the pace set by its fastest rivals. Even the Caviar GP, with its slower spindle speed, is consistently out ahead of the ‘cuda.

Now this is more like it, sort of, maybe. When we shift from file creation to read operations, the Barracuda 7200.11 shows flashes of brilliance followed by further disappointment. With the ISO test pattern, the ‘cuda leads the entire field by 14MB/s. That victory is short-lived, though. The Install, MP3, and Programs test patterns push the Barracuda back into fourth place behind the Caviar SE16, the RE2, and the DeskStar 7K1000. The real shocker here is the Windows test pattern, which finds the 7200.11 not only behind its direct rivals, but the 7200.10 and ES, as well.

FC-Test – continued
Next, File Copy Test combines read and write tasks with some, er, copy tests.

Copy tests stress read and write performance, and the results are mixed. The ISO test pattern again proves fertile ground for the ‘cuda, which leads the field by a sizable margin. Seagate even scores a couple of third-place finishes with the Install and MP3 test patterns, putting it ahead of the other terabyte drives in both. However, the 7200.11 doesn’t fare as well with the Programs and Windows test patterns, where it falls to fourth and fifth place, respectively.

FC-Test’s second wave of copy tests involves copying files from one partition to another on the same drive.

The results of FC-Test’s partition copy tests closely mirror those of its straight copy tests. Here, the new ‘cuda easily rips through the ISO pattern and just gets onto the podium with the Install and MP3 test patterns. The large number of small files present in the Programs and Windows test patterns again prove problematic for the drive, though.

iPEAK multitasking
We’ve developed a series of disk-intensive multitasking tests to highlight the impact of command queuing on hard drive performance. You can get the low-down on these iPEAK-based tests here. The mean service time of each drive is reported in milliseconds, with lower values representing better performance.

Our iPEAK multitasking tests kick off with a dual file copy workload that sees the 7200.11 perform reasonably well. The drive also handles with aplomb the compressed file workloads that contain a VirtualDub import as a secondary task. With those workloads, the new ‘cuda is several times faster than its predecessor, and in one case, quicker than all its rivals. The compressed file workloads with a file copy operation as a secondary task are a little more challenging for the 7200.11, which falls behind its direct competition from Hitachi and Western Digital.

iPEAK multitasking – con’t

Results from our second wave of iPEAK workloads are generally quite good for the 7200.11. The drive’s performance eclipses that of its rivals with workloads that involve a VirtualDub import as a secondary task. In these tests, the 7200.11 is once again several times faster than the old Barracuda 7200.10. The new ‘cuda is at the front of the pack with our Outlook import/file copy workload, as well, losing to only one rival. However, with our Outlook export/file copy workload, the ‘cuda falls behind direct competition and proves slower than the 7200.10.

IOMeter – Transaction rate
IOMeter presents a good test case for command queuing. To keep things easy to read, we’ve busted out two sets of graphs here. The first includes the 7200.11 and its closest competitors, while the second has results for all the drives we’ve tested. With over 20 drives, those latter graphs are a little difficult to read, so we’ll focus our attention on the first set and the Deskstar’s direct rivals.

Performance in demanding multi-user environments was never a strong suit of the last generation of Barracuda hard drives, but things have changed with the 7200.11. The new ‘cuda is way ahead of its predecessors here, turning in higher transaction rates than any of its competitors. Performance ramps quickly, too, allowing the Barracuda to deliver higher transaction rates than its rivals across a wide range of light to heavy loads.

Good luck with these, folks.

IOMeter – Response time

The new ‘cuda’s IOMeter response times are very quick, a huge improvement over the previous generation. Not even Western Digital’s enterprise-oriented RE2 delivers a better performance here.

IOMeter – CPU utilization

CPU utilization results are low across the board. The 7200.11 doesn’t fare any better than its competition here, but it doesn’t do any worse, either.

HD Tach
We tested HD Tach with the benchmark’s full variable zone size setting.

250GB platters and a full 7,200-RPM spindle speed are a potent combination in HD Tach’s sustained read and write speed tests. In these synthetic tests, the 7200.11 manages higher throughput than any other drive by about 7MB/s.

The new ‘cuda’s burst speed is the best we’ve seen, too. Just remember to flip the drive’s jumper from SATA 150 to SATA 300 mode.

The Barracuda 7200.11 improves on its predecessor’s seek time by nearly a millisecond. That isn’t quite good enough to catch the DeskStar 7K1000, but it’s quick enough for second place among high-capacity drives.

Results from HD Tach’s CPU utilization test are within the +/- 2% margin of error for this test.

Noise levels
Noise levels were measured with an Extech 407727 Digital Sound Level meter 1″ from the side of the drives at idle and under an HD Tach seek load. Drives were run with the PCB facing up.

The last few generations of Barracuda hard drives haven’t delivered exceptionally low noise levels, but the 7200.11 is a huge improvement, particularly under seek loads, where it’s nearly four decibels quieter than its predecessor. The new ‘cuda isn’t just quieter than the old one, though; it also makes less noise than most of its high-capacity competition. Only the Caviar GP is quieter at both idle and when seeking.

Power consumption
For our power consumption tests, we measured the voltage drop across a 0.1-ohm resistor placed in line with the 5V and 12V lines connected to each drive. Through the magic of Ohm’s Law, we were able to calculate the power draw from each voltage rail and add them together for the total power draw of the drive.

Considering its terabyte capacity, the 7200.11’s power consumption is actually quite reasonable. Sure, it pulls more watts than Western Digital’s GreenPower Caviar GP, but that drive owes much of its energy efficiency to a slower spindle speed. Among high-capacity 7,200-RPM drives, the new ‘cuda draws the fewest watts at idle. Under a seek load, only 750GB drives from Western Digital are more frugal.


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.