Seagate’s Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB hard drive

Manufacturer Seagate
Model Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB
Price (MSRP)
Availability Now

It’s been more than 18 months since Hitachi reached the terabyte mark with the Deskstar 7K1000. In that time, all the major players in the hard drive industry have spun up terabytes of their own, and in some cases, offered multiple models targeting different markets. With so many options available and more than enough time for the milestone capacity’s initial buzz to fade, it’s no wonder that the current crop of 1TB drives is more affordable than we’ve ever seen from a flagship capacity. The terabyte, it seems, is old news.

One-point-five terabytes is the new hotness these days—the next step up the capacity scale. This time it was Seagate who struck first with a version of its Barracuda 7200.11 rippling with four 375GB platters. In addition to raising the bar on the capacity front, the higher areal density of these platters promises to improve performance dramatically. In fact, Seagate says its latest ‘cuda can sustain transfer rates up to 120MB/s, which would put the drive squarely in VelociRaptor territory.

So the Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB has the potential to be a leader in both performance and capacity. And it costs much less than you might expect from a new flagship. That sounds like the perfect hard drive recipe, but does the one-point-five measure up? We’ve squared it off against some of the fastest, highest capacity drives on the market to find out.

New platters for an existing platform

Although the Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB breaks new ground on the capacity front and may very well be the fastest 7,200-RPM hard drive we’ve tested, it’s not an entirely new product. Indeed, the Barracuda 7200.11 family has been around for about a year now, and this latest step up the capacity ladder simply adds denser platters to the equation.

Seagate launched the 7200.11 with a terabyte model that packed four 250GB platters. You’ll find the same number of platters in the one-point-five, but this time they weigh in at 375GB each—an increase in areal density of 50%. Obviously, this jump in areal density was essential in allowing Seagate to reach the 1.5TB mark without having to resort to a fifth platter. Bumping up the Barracuda’s per-platter capacity should also pave the way for faster sequential transfer rates.


Maximum external transfer rate
300MB/s

Sustained data rate
120MB/s
Random read seek time
Random write seek time
Average rotational latency 4.16ms

Spindle speed
7,200RPM

Available
capacities
1.5TB

Cache size
32MB

Platter size
375GB

Idle power consumption
8W

Idle acoustics
2.7 bels

Seek acoustics
2.9 bels

Warranty length
Five years

Although the 1.5TB’s 375GB platters have a much higher areal density than those of the rest of the 7200.11 line, their advantage over other drives in the market is less substantial. Samsung and Western Digital both offer drives with 334GB platters, and we’ll see in a moment how their performance compares in both sequential throughput drag races and real-world file copy tests. The one-point-five’s claimed sustained throughput of 120MB/s certainly sets expectations high, though.

As one might expect from a high-end desktop drive, the new head of the 7200.11 family comes equipped with a 300MB/s Serial ATA interface and 32MB of cache memory. The ‘cuda’s spindle speed remains at 7,200RPM, just like every other desktop drive short of Western Digital’s Raptors.

Home theater PCs tasked with recording HD video seem like a good match for the one-point-five’s expansive capacity, and Seagate has done what it can to keep the drive quiet. Like the rest of the 7200.11 family, the 1.5TB model uses a SoftSonic motor that Seagate says keeps noise levels down in the 2.7-2.9 bels range. The drive consumes just 8W of power at idle, too, so it’s not going to be throwing much heat into an enclosure.

Seagate currently offers the best warranties in the business, covering all of its internal hard drive products for five years. 1.5TB might be a drop in the bucket five years from now, but the additional coverage is certainly appreciated, especially with desktop drives from other manufacturers typically only covered for three years. However, we should note that Seagate’s five-year warranty only applies if you’ve bought the drive through an authorized vendor. Fortunately, there are plenty of those to choose from, including Newegg, ZipZoomfly, Fry’s, Tiger Direct, and even Wal-Mart, among others. Seagate doesn’t make users jump through ridiculous registration hoops just to quality for coverage, either.

Test notes
We’ll be comparing the performance of the Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB with that of a slew of competitors, including some of the latest and greatest Serial ATA drives from Hitachi, Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital. These drives differ when it comes to external transfer rates, spindle speeds, cache sizes, platter densities, 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

Barracuda 7200.11
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 250GB 1TB

Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB

300MB/s

7,200-RPM

32MB
375GB
1.5TB

Barracuda ES.2
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 250GB 1TB

Caviar Black
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 334GB 1TB

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


Caviar SE16 (640GB)
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 320GB 640GB

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


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

RE2-GP
300MB/s 5,400-7,200-RPM 16MB 250GB 1TB

RE3
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 334GB 1TB

SpinPoint F1
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 334GB 1TB

VelociRaptor VR150
300MB/s 10,000-RPM 16MB 150GB 300GB

Performance data from such a daunting collection of drives can make our bar graphs a little hard to read, so we’ve colored the bars by manufacturer, with the one-point-five appearing in brighter green than the rest of Seagate’s drives. Pay close attention to how the 7200.11 1.5TB stacks up against not only its 1TB predecessor, which we’ve simply referred to as the Barracuda 7200.11, but also the 334GB-per-platter SpinPoint F1 and Caviar Black.

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 7.2.1.1003
AHCI/RAID 5.1.0.1022
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 Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB
Seagate Barracuda ES.2 1TB
Samsung SpinPoint F1 1TB
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000 1TB

Western Digital RE2- GP 1TB

Western Digital Caviar GP 1TB

Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB

Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB


Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB

Western Digital Caviar SE16 640GB

Western Digital RE3 1TB


Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB
OS Windows XP Professional
OS updates Service Pack 2

Thanks to NCIX for getting us the Deskstar 7K1000 and SpinPoint F1.

Our test system was powered by OCZ PowerStream power supply units.

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
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.

Even with the highest density platters on the market, the 1.5TB Barracuda isn’t the fastest drive in WorldBench. It does score two points higher than the terabyte 7200.11, but that still leaves it a couple of points out of the lead, behind the latest desktop drives from Western Digital.

Multimedia editing and encoding

MusicMatch Jukebox

Windows Media Encoder

Adobe Premiere

VideoWave Movie Creator

Of WorldBench’s multimedia editing and encoding tests, only Premiere spreads out the field. There, the latest ‘cuda finds itself close to the front of the pack, although it trails the 640GB Caviar SE16 and the SpinPoint F1.

Image processing

Adobe Photoshop

ACDSee PowerPack

ACDSee provides another opportunity for the Barracuda one-point-five to strut its stuff, and this time it’s much faster than the old 7200.11. However, the 1.5TB drive still can’t catch Western Digital’s latest.

Multitasking and office applications

Microsoft Office

Mozilla

Mozilla and Windows Media Encoder

WorldBench’s office and multitasking tests don’t show much preference for one drive over another.

Other applications

WinZip

Nero

WinZip and Nero are more demanding, though, and here the field really breaks open. The 7200.11 1.5TB finds itself in the middle of the pack in both tests, which makes it faster than Seagate’s previous Barracuda but slower than the fastest drives on the market.

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

It takes the 1.5TB 7200.11 a full five seconds longer to boot than its 1TB predecessor. That makes the one-point-five one of the slowest drives in this test, well behind most of the terabyte pack.

The latest ‘cuda fares better in our game level load time tests. In both Doom 3 and Far Cry, it’s only a couple of seconds behind the VelociRaptor.

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 separated our FC-Test results into individual graphs for each test pattern. We’ll tackle file creation performance first.

Areal density doesn’t seem to be doing much for the 1.5TB Barracuda with our first batch of FC-Test workloads. In this first wave of file creation tests, the one-point-five is painfully slow, languishing at the back of the field behind even Hitachi’s original 7K1000. At least the 1.5TB 7200.11 is faster than the terabyte model, but that’s not saying much here.

Perhaps Seagate has simply biased the drive towards reads over writes, because when we switch to FC-Test’s read speed tests, the 1.5TB Barracuda puts on a show. It’s the fastest drive in the bunch with the install, ISO, and MP3 workloads, and second only to the VelociRaptor with the remaining two. In fact, with the ISO workload, which is made up of a small number of very large files, the one-point-five eclipses 120MB/s.

FC-Test – continued

Next, File Copy Test combines read and write tasks in some, er, copy tests.

Even lightning-quick read speeds can’t help the 1.5TB Barracuda when we switch to file copy tests. At best, the ‘cuda climbs to the middle of the pack, but it’s still well behind terabyte drives from Samsung and Western Digital. The ISO workload proves particularly problematic for the one-point-five, which actually turns in much slower copy speed than the original 7200.11.

Splitting copy tests across two partitions doesn’t make much of a difference for the 1.5TB Barracuda. Performance with the ISO workload is still dismal, and even with the other workloads, the ‘cuda is still slower than most of its rivals.

iPEAK multitasking
We’ve developed a series of disk-intensive multitasking tests to highlight the impact of seek times and 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 one-point-five appears to be particularly adept at handling our iPEAK multitasking workloads. Despite the slow copy speeds we observed in FC-Test, the ‘cuda comes out on top with our dual file copy workload. It also handles with aplomb workloads that include a compressed file creation as the primary task. However, the 1.5TB Barracuda isn’t quite as quick when we switch to a compressed file extraction as the primary task.

In our second wave of iPEAK tests, the 7200.11 1.5TB continues to perform well. The drive is very competitive with workloads that involve an Outlook export task, and it’s the fastest of the lot with workloads that include an Outlook PST import.

Even more impressive than the one-point-five’s individual iPEAK performances is the drive’s overall consistency. If you average the mean service times for each drive across all nine workloads, the ‘cuda comes out ahead of the entire field, including the VelociRaptor.

IOMeter
IOMeter presents a good test case for both seek times and command queuing.

You might think that a strong showing in our multitasking tests would set up the 1.5TB ‘cuda nicely for our multi-user IOMeter test patterns. You’d be dead wrong. The one-point-five is quite disappointing in these tests, falling behind not only the fastest 7,200-RPM drives in the bunch, but also the terabyte 7200.11. Only terabyte drives from Samsung and Hitachi are slower here.

At least the new ‘cuda doesn’t consume many CPU cycles in IOMeter, but then none of these drives do.

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

In HD Tach’s sequential throughput drag races, the one-point-five pulls up just short of the 10K-RPM VelociRaptor. That still puts the drive ahead of the rest of the 7,200-RPM field, though.

The Barracuda 7200.11’s 32MB of cache memory is the same for the terabyte model as it is for the one-point-five, which puts Seagate’s latest a little behind the VelociRaptor in HD Tach’s burst speed test.

Switching gears to an access time test, the 1.5TB Barracuda falls to the back of the pack, behind even Western Digital’s sub-7,200-RPM GreenPower drives. Note, also, that the one-point-five’s random access time is more than two milliseconds slower than that of the terabyte 7200.11.

The results of HD Tach’s CPU utilization test are well within the app’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.

Those eyeing the one-point-five for home theater PC applications will be pleased to know that the drive is every bit as unobtrusive as the original 7200.11. This isn’t the quietest drive on the market, but it’s only a decibel louder than the best at idle.

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.

The 1.5TB Barracuda lives up to its 8W idle power consumption rating, which isn’t bad, especially when you take into account the drive’s total capacity. If you consider these results in terms of gigabytes per watt, the one-point-five actually fares quite well.

Conclusions

The first terabyte hard drive debuted at $345, or a whopping 35 cents per gigabyte. Hard drive prices have plummeted since, with terabyte models currently selling for between $120 and $150. Surprisingly, though, the Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB doesn’t carry much of a price premium. The drive is widely available for less than $190, which works out to around 12 cents per gigabyte. That’s still a higher cost per gigabyte than your average terabyte model, but much less than we’d expect from the industry’s new high-water mark in capacity.

Of course, it takes more than a capacity milestone and reasonable price to make a good hard drive. Performance matters, too, and it’s in this realm that Seagate’s Barracuda 1.5TB has a few weaknesses. Sure, the drive’s sustained throughput looks excellent in HD Tach—that’s what we’d expect from the industry’s highest density platters—but our FC-Test results reveal that in the real world, the latest ‘cuda writes much, much slower than it reads. The 1.5TB Barracuda’s random access time is also the highest we’ve seen from a recent 7,200-RPM drive, and its performance under our multi-user IOMeter loads was quite poor.

Fortunately, the one-point-five fared reasonably well in WorldBench, and it was surprisingly snappy when faced with our disk-intensive multitasking workloads. If you’re only concerned with read throughput, it’s the quickest 7,200-RPM drive on the market. And it’s occasionally faster than even the 10K-RPM VelociRaptor. The drive is also quiet and energy-efficient enough for home theater PC applications, just as long as your media center doesn’t spend a lot of time seeking, which is a little louder than we’d like.

The fact that the 1.5TB Barracuda excels in some arenas and stumbles badly in others makes me question Seagate’s decision to pair its new 375GB platters with a year-old 7200.11 core. Even in its day, the original 7200.11 wasn’t the fastest drive on the market; in some instances, the one-point-five is actually slower. If you’re looking to cram as much capacity as possible into a 3.5″ drive bay, the ‘cuda is certainly the best option by a good 500GB. However, the drive’s poor real-world write speeds make it a tough sell for PC enthusiasts who can find much better all-around performance elsewhere.

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