Seagate’s Barracuda ES.2 hard drive

Manufacturer Seagate
Model Barracuda ES.2 (1TB)
Price (Street)
Availability Now

Enterprise storage used to be dominated by expensive SCSI solutions with lofty spindle speeds. In recent years, however, Serial ATA drives spinning at a mere 7,200RPM have become increasingly popular for applications that favor storage capacity and cost over performance. It’s easy to see why; current SCSI drives top out at only 300GB, and you’ll pay more than a dollar per gigabyte for the privilege. Meanwhile, the latest Serial ATA drives manage to pack up to a terabyte of storage into the same 3.5″ form factor as their SCSI counterparts, but at closer to 25 cents per gigabyte.

You can’t just show up in a server room with a palette of desktop drives, though. Enterprise customers are a discerning lot, and they’re particularly, er, particular about reliability, power consumption, and suitability for multi-drive RAID environments. Standard desktop drives simply won’t do, which is why hard drive manufacturers have developed SATA drives with enterprise-class credentials. These drives are based on desktop models, but they tend to undergo more stringent reliability testing, benefit from additional features, and come equipped with firmware tweaked to improve performance with demanding enterprise workloads.

Seagate first dipped its toe into the enterprise SATA market with the Barracuda ES, which was based on the company’s then-current 7200.10 drive technology. Since then, Seagate has rolled out a 7200.11 drive platform, and with it, a new Barracuda ES.2. With a terabyte of total capacity spread over four 250GB platters and 32MB of cache, the ES.2 looks great on paper. But how does the drive’s performance compare with its direct rivals and the 7200.11 on which it’s based? Read on to find out.

The drive

The Barracuda ES.2 shares the same underpinnings as the desktop 7200.11, which is a pretty good foundation. After all, the 7200.11 boasts 250GB platters spinning at 7,200RPM, a feat unmatched by other enterprise-class terabyte drives. Hitachi’s Ultrastar, for example, only packs 200GB per platter, giving the drive head access to less data over the same physical distance as the ES.2. Western Digital’s RE2-GP matches Seagate’s 250GB platters, but it does so with a spindle speed closer to 5,400RPM, yielding an obvious advantage to the Barracuda.

With the same basic hardware as the 7200.11, it’s no surprise that the Barracuda ES.2’s specifications are all but identical. Seagate just happens to publish more detailed information on the ES.2 than it does for the 7200.11. There are, however, a few key differences between the drives that are worth highlighting.

Barracuda 7200.11

Barracuda ES.2

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

Maximum internal
transfer rate
NA 160.9MB/s

Sustained data rate
105MB/s 105MB/s

Average rotational
4.16ms 4.16ms
Average read seek
NA 8.5ms
Average write seek
NA 9.5ms

Spindle speed
7,200RPM 7,200RPM

500GB, 750GB, 1TB 250GB, 500GB, 750GB, 1TB

Cache size
16MB (500,
32MB (500GB, 750GB, 1TB)

Platter size
250GB 250GB

Idle acoustics
2.5-2.7 bels 2.5-2.7 bels

Seek acoustics
2.8-2.9 bels NA

Idle power
8.0W 8.0W

power consumption
10.6-11.6W 10.6-11.6W
Mean Time Between
Failures (MTBF)
750,000 hours 1.2 million hours

Warranty length
Five years Five years

The ES.2, for example, is available as a single-platter 250GB drive, while the lowest 7200.11 capacity is 500GB. There are also differences when it comes to cache; all ES.2 capacities enjoy a full 32MB, but with the 7200.11, 500 and 750GB flavors are also offered with 16MB. Seagate technically makes versions of the ES.2 with 16MB of cache. However, those drives swap a Serial ATA interface in favor of 300MB/s Serial Attached SCSI.

Despite sporting smaller caches, Seagate says SAS-enabled ES.2 drives draw slightly more power than their SATA counterparts. SAS models are rated for idle power consumption of 10.2W, with typical power consumption pegged at 13.0W.

Power consumption is an important metric for enterprise customers looking at running not just one drive, but servers, racks, or even rooms filled with them. To help improve its energy efficiency, the ES.2 features a dynamic power optimization scheme called PowerTrim that can selectively shut down portions of the drive that aren’t in use. Seagate says PowerTrim has no impact on overall performance, and given the company’s own power consumption specifications, it appears to be implemented in the Barracuda 7200.11, as well. We’ll take a closer look at actual drive power consumption a little later to see how the two drives compare.

Another focus for enterprise customers is vibration tolerance, and for good reason. When you have multiple drives sandwiched together in the same enclosure, vibrations produced by the mass of spinning platters and seeking actuators make it more difficult for drive heads to stay on track. If vibrations become too severe, drives may interrupt operation to prevent catastrophic head crashes. Such interruptions can degrade performance, which is why Seagate is quick to claim that the ES.2 has the highest rotational vibration tolerance in its class—12.5 Rad/sec² at 1500Hz, to be exact. Interestingly, the ES.2 owes much of its vibration tolerance to firmware tweaks that you won’t find in the 7200.11.

The ES.2 also differs from the 7200.11 when it comes to reliability specs. Both drives are covered by a five-year warranty; however, the ES.2 is rated for a mean time between failures (MTBF) of 1.2 million hours—much longer than the 7200.11’s mere 750,000 hours. Seagate also says that the ES.2’s nonrecoverable read errors per bits read is an order of magnitude lower than that of the 7200.11. That sounds impressive, of course, but an order of magnitude in this case is the difference between 1015 and 1014.

We don’t usually spend a whole lot of time poring over a hard drive’s physical characteristics because there’s rarely anything to see. The ES.2’s interface speed jumper gives us an excuse for one close-up, though. This jumper controls the speed of the drive’s Serial ATA interface, which is set to 150MB/s by default. You’ll have to remove the jumper to enjoy SATA in all its 300MB/s glory, and that’s easier said than done given how the half-height jumper is recessed in the drive’s casing. A pair of tweezers did the trick for me, but a full-size jumper would’ve made things much easier.

Test notes
We’ll be comparing the performance of the Barracuda ES.2 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
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 250GB 1TB Yes

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

Barracuda ES.2







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 ES.2 in bright yellow and its high-capacity competitors—the Barracuda 7200.11, 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. You’ll also find results from the Raptor WD1500ADFD highlighted in pale yellow to illustrate how the ES.2 compares to an enterprise-class SATA drive spinning at 10,000RPM. We also have two sets of IOMeter graphs: one with all the drives, and another with just the Barracuda ES.2 and its direct rivals. Most of our analysis will be limited to how the ES.2 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
Seagate Barracuda ES.2 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 ES.2 ties its desktop counterpart in WorldBench, putting it two points behind the fastest drives in this test. Interestingly, the ES.2’s score also matches that of its predecessor, the Barracuda ES.

Multimedia editing and encoding

MusicMatch Jukebox

Windows Media Encoder

Adobe Premiere

VideoWave Movie Creator

Among WorldBench’s multimedia editing and encoding tests, only Premiere seems to stress the storage subsystem. In that test, the ES.2 sits in the middle of the pack, beaten my nearly all of its direct competitors.

Image processing

Adobe Photoshop

ACDSee PowerPack

ACDSee gives our hard drives some room to stretch their legs, but the Barracuda ES.2 comes up a little short. The drive is again bested by its direct rivals, including the 7200.11. Among high-capacity contenders, only the original ES is slower here.

Multitasking and office applications

Microsoft Office


Mozilla and Windows Media Encoder

Performance is too close to call through WorldBench’s office and multitasking tests.

Other applications



However, Nero and WinZip provide some drama. In both tests, the ES.2 lags well behind all of its closest competitors. It’s interesting to note that the 7200.11 has at least a ten-second advantage in each test, as well.

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

For whatever reason, all of our terabyte drives boot into Windows XP rather slowly. Among them, the ES.2 at least comes out ahead of offerings from Hitachi and Western Digital.

Our level load time tests are less encouraging for the ES.2. The drive again finds itself at the back of the field, losing to nearly all of its direct rivals.

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.

The Barracuda ES.2 gets thoroughly worked over in FC-Test’s file creation, er, tests. Not only is it consistently slower than the 7200.11—and by margins that are far from trivial—it falls to dead last place with the MP3 test pattern.

Fortunately, the ES.2 bounces back under FC-Test’s read workloads, sort of. The drive actually manages a second-place finish with the ISO test pattern, which is made up of a small number of very large files. Performance through most of the other workloads is decent, as well, although the ES.2 is consistently beaten by a Western Digital RE2-GP whose spindle speed is closer to 5,400RPM. The Windows test pattern’s large array of small files also proves problematic for the ‘cuda, causing it to fall well off the pace set by its closest competitors.

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

Copy tests combine read and write operations, and since the ES.2 hasn’t excelled with either, it’s no surprise to see the drive trailing its rivals with most test patterns. The only bright spot here is the ISO test pattern, which vaults the ES.2 into second place behind the 7200.11. Even then, though, the desktop ‘cuda proves more than 13% faster.

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

Trailing the 7200.11 by such a significant margin causes the ES.2 to lose its second place status with the ISO test pattern when we move to partition copy tests. Western Digital’s 750GB Caviar SE16 and RE2 sneak onto the podium, dropping the ES.2 to fourth place. The picture doesn’t get any better through the remaining test patterns, either; once again, the Seagate’s latest enterprise ‘cuda is slower than most of the high-capacity drives we’ve tested.

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.

The ES.2 finally starts to hit its stride in iPEAK, where it essentially tops the field with three of our first five workloads. Tests involving compressed file extraction prove a little more challenging for the ‘cuda, but even then it manages to stay close to the leaders. Note the huge improvement in performance over the original Barracuda ES with workloads involving a VirtualDub import, as well.

iPEAK multitasking – con’t

Redemption continues for the ES.2 through our second batch of iPEAK workloads. Here, the drive leads the pack with three of four workloads, and by healthy margins at that. Even when it falls out of first place, it only loses ground to its desktop counterpart, the Barracuda 7200.11.

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 Barracuda ES.2 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 ES.2’s direct rivals.

The ES.2’s firmware should be optimized to deliver better performance with exactly the sort of multi-user workloads that IOMeter simulates, but our test results seem to suggest otherwise. It’s not that the drive’s performance is particularly poor—transaction rates are actually quite good when compared with other terabyte rivals—it’s that the Barracuda 7200.11 is consistently much faster. Given the ES.2’s enterprise aspirations, the drive should at least match its desktop counterpart here, if not beat it outright.

Good luck with these, folks.

IOMeter – Response time

Disappointment continues when we look at IOMeter response times, with the ES.2 falling behind the 7200.11 again. The ES.2 really isn’t that bad here, but given how well the 7200.11 performs, we expected much better from its enterprise cousin.

IOMeter – CPU utilization

At least the ES.2 manages low CPU utilization, but with all our drives hovering under half a percent, that doesn’t say much.

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

In HD Tach’s synthetic transfer rate tests, the ES.2 finally catches another break. Here, the drive surges into second place, topped only by the 7200.11. Note that these sustained transfer rates don’t necessarily track with the results from our real-world file copy tests. There’s more to actually transferring files than peak disk throughput.

Despite removing a jumper that would have limited the ES.2 to a 150MB/s Serial ATA interface, the drive’s HD Tach read burst speed fails to impress. Nearly all of the ES.2’s direct rivals are faster here, including the 7200.11, which leads its enterprise cousin by close to 80MB/s.

At least the ES.2 delivers quick random access times, matching the performance of the 7200.11 and pulling up just short of Hitachi’s terabyte Deskstar.

CPU utilization results are within HD Tach’s +/- 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.

Noise levels aren’t particularly important for server rooms and data centers, but it’s worth noting that the Barracuda ES.2 is pretty quiet at both idle and under a seek load.

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.

While the ES.2 can’t match the frugal power consumption of Western Digital’s GreenPower drives, it’s more energy efficient than Hitachi’s terabyte Deskstar, particularly under load. Note that the ES.2’s power consumption closely matches that of the Barracuda 7200.11, suggesting that either PowerTrim is available with both drives, or that it isn’t doing much to improve the ES.2’s power consumption.


To say that the Barracuda ES.2’s performance is disappointing would be an understatement. In fact, we were so surprised by the drive’s scores in some tests that we contacted Seagate to see what was up. It’s been a couple of weeks since, and they’re still looking into it. Meanwhile, the ES.2 is widely available for sale, compelling us to share our results.

Those results largely speak for themselves. In most tests, the Barracuda ES.2 is slower than not only its desktop counterpart, but also its direct rivals. This uninspired performance is particularly prevalent when we look at our FC-Test results, which show the ES.2 to be much slower than the competition in most cases. With 250GB platters and a 32MB cache, the ES.2 should be able to do better.

In fact, the drive can do better. One needs to look no further than the performance of its desktop counterpart, the Barracuda 7200.11, to see that the ES.2 is capable of delivering better performance. This is especially apparent in IOMeter—a test that should highlight the ES.2’s enterprise credentials—where the ES.2 delivers lower transaction rates and slower response times than the 7200.11. The opposite should be the case, as evidenced by the original Barracuda ES, which consistently outperforms its 7200.10 counterpart in IOMeter.

The Barracuda ES.2 isn’t completely without merit, of course. The drive blitzed our disk-intensive iPEAK multitasking workloads, often beating opponents by significant margins. It also offers extremely high throughput in synthetic transfer rate tests and when reading and copying extremely large files. Random access times are among the lowest we’ve measured for a drive spinning at 7,200RPM, as well. But those flashes of brilliance don’t burn brightly enough to illuminate an otherwise bleak performance outlook, especially considering the nearly $50 price premium that the drive commands over the Barracuda 7200.11. Seagate may well address whatever is keeping the ES.2 from reaching its full potential, but until then, the drive is a tough sell.

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