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Hitachi's Deskstar E7K1000 hard drive

The Deskstar gets a platter upgrade

Manufacturer Hitachi
Model Deskstar E7K1000 1TB
Price (Street) $221
Availability Now

The Deskstar brand is infamous among enthusiasts, and not just because it's a thinly-veiled attempt to tickle the Star Wars obsession that lives in the hearts of most geeks. First, there was the 75GXP failure fiasco, which fueled not only a class action lawsuit, but also our longest running comment thread. IBM eventually sold its hard drive business to Hitachi, which kept the Deskstar name intact despite the (probably undeserved) stigma associated with the name.

Under Hitachi's tutelage, the Deskstar again made headlines, this time as the first hard drive to hit the terabyte mark. This was quite an achievement at the time—Hitachi had to squeeze a whopping five platters into the drive to hit 1TB, and it took a while for the competition to catch up. But that was nearly two years ago, and time hasn't been kind to the first 3.5" terabyte. Areal densities have risen dramatically, allowing other drive makers to build terabyte drives with as few as three platters. Drives with fewer platters tend to be quieter and require less power, and with higher areal densities, they're quicker as well.

Not content to be left out, Hitachi has updated its Deskstar line with a new terabyte model primed for enterprise. With three 334GB platters, this fresh E7K1000 should easily outclass the original. The real question, however, is how it fares against the latest terabyte drives from Western Digital, Seagate, and Samsung. Join us as we put the E7K1000 through its paces against the best the competition has to offer to find out.

E is for enterprise
According to Hitachi, the Deskstar E7K1000 is designed for enterprise applications like nearline storage and RAID arrays. It's common for drive makers to spin out enterprise versions of their desktop products; Western Digital's RE3 is simply an enterprise version of the Caviar Black, for example, and Seagate's Barracuda ES.2 is to workstations and servers what the Barracuda 7200.11 is to desktops. The E7K1000 looks to be an enterprise version of Hitachi's Deskstar 7K1000.B desktop drive, with a few notable differences.

The first and perhaps most important of these differences—at least as far as the drive's target market is concerned—is the addition of Rotational Vibration Safeguard (RVS) tech that helps to maintain drive performance in high-vibration environments. Enterprise-class drives are often tightly packed in RAID arrays or rackmount enclosures where the close proximity of other drives creates a fair amount of vibration. These surrounding vibrations can easily knock a drive head off track, slowing performance. To combat this performance loss, RVS polls vibration sensors located at several points on the drive and adjusts the head position accordingly, resulting in more consistent performance in vibration-rich locales.

Enterprise customers tend to be picky about data security, so the E7K1000 is also available with an optional Bulk Data Encryption (BDE) feature. This AES encryption scheme garbles the contents of the entire drive, but it seems more appropriate for mobile products destined for laptops than a 3.5" drive that will probably live in a fixed, secure server room. That's probably why BDE isn't a standard feature for the E7K1000.

Maximum external transfer rate 300MB/s
Maximum media transfer rate 173.5MB/s
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Average read seek time 8.5 ms
Available capacities 500GB, 750GB, 1TB
Cache size 32MB
Platter size 334GB
Idle power consumption 5.2W (1TB)
4.4W (500, 750GB)
Idle acoustics 2.7 bels (1TB)
2.4 bels (500, 750GB)
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) 1.2 million hours
Warranty length Five years

Another notable difference between the Deskstar E7K1000 and its desktop counterpart is the amount of cache on the drive. Hitachi equips the E7K1000 with a full 32MB, while the desktop 7K1000.B has only 16MB. The E7K1000 is also available at fewer capacity points than its mainstream twin, with Hitachi only offering the drive in 500GB, 750GB, and 1TB flavors. All three capacities use the same 334GB platters, which appear to be identical to those used in the 7K1000.B (the 7K1000.B's maximum media transfer rate matches that of the E7K1000, suggesting that the platters in both drives have the same areal density).

With Hitachi now packing 334GB per platter, it only takes three discs to bring the E7K1000 up to 1TB—two fewer than the first terabyte Deskstar. That's a big drop in rotational weight, which means less work for the E7K1000's drive motor, and lower power consumption overall. In a bid to further reduce power consumption, the drive is also endowed with Hitachi Voltage Efficiency Regulator Technology (HiVERT) tricks borrowed from Travelstar mobile line. Hard drives step down the 5V and 12V power they get from a system's PSU, and according to Hitachi, HiVERT improves the efficiency of this conversion.

Another benefit to Hitachi moving its terabyte from five to three platters should be lower noise levels; in our experience, drives with fewer platters tend to be quieter than those with more. Deskstars also feature an Advanced Acoustic Management (AAM) capability that allows users to adjust seek ferocity. Drives are typically tuned for maximum performance by default, but with Hitachi's drive feature tool, one can easily optimize for silence. We'll be testing the E7K1000 in both its default performance configuration and optimized for lower acoustics to illustrate AAM's impact on not only noise levels, but performance as well.

More extensive validation testing and additional warranty coverage are the last two perks the Deskstar E7K1000 picks up from its enterprise focus. The drive is rated for a Mean Time Between Failures of 1.2 million hours, which is typical for an enterprise-class drive. Hitachi also covers the E7K1000 with a five-year warranty that offers two more years of coverage than you get with an ordinary desktop Deskstar.