A quick look at Seagate’s 1.5TB Barracuda firmware update

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

Seagate became the first manufacturer to break the terabyte mark with its Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB. We reviewed the drive last year, and found it to be quite speedy in straight-line throughput drag races. The one-point-five wasn’t the fastest drive overall, mind you, but with a very reasonable $130 street price and a then-five-year warranty, it was a pretty good deal for those looking to maximize storage capacity.

Unfortunately, it seems that early versions of the 1.5TB Barracuda were stricken with random freezing, causing Seagate to issue a firmware update to resolve the issue. As is often the case with new firmware releases, there was some concern that in fixing the freezing problem, Seagate had to dial back the Barracuda’s performance. Curious to see whether this was the case, we applied Seagate’s new SD1A firmware to our production ‘cuda and ran the drive through a battery of tests to see how its performance compared with the original SD17 firmware.

Installing the updated firmware was easy enough, but actually getting our hands on it proved more problematic than it should have been. You see, Seagate doesn’t post firmware updates on its website or even in its support forums—you have to get in touch with the company’s support team and have them send you the necessary update. Here’s a tip: don’t bother calling the support hotline. I spent 25 minutes on hold before finally giving up, and another 10 minutes in the online support chat section of Seagate’s website before getting a download link for the firmware update. Seagate should have at least made the update easier to download by putting a direct link to it in forum posts discussing the problem.

Anyway, we ran our ‘cuda through the usual gauntlet of performance, noise, and power consumption tests not quite sure what to expect. We’d seen forum and comment claims of degraded performance, but couldn’t find much evidence in our own test results, which are provided on the following page. I won’t bother running through the graphs individually because, well, there isn’t much to see. With few exceptions, the performance of the Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB with the new SD1A firmware is all but identical to that of the drive with its original SD17 firmware. That’s bad news for conspiracy theorists, but good news for ‘cuda owners afflicted by the freezing bug.

Test notes
We’ll be comparing the performance of the Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB with the new SD1A firmware against not only the drive with its original shipping firmware, but also 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 7,200RPM 32MB 250GB 1TB

Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB
300MB/s 7,200RPM 32MB 375GB 1.5TB

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

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

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

Caviar Green
300MB/s 5,400-7,200RPM 32MB 333GB 1TB


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

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

Deskstar E7K1000
300MB/s 7,200RPM 32MB 334GB 1TB


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

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

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

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

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

Note that we have two versions of Western Digital’s GreenPower desktop Caviar. The Caviar GP is the original GreenPower drive, model number WD10EACS, while the Caviar Green is the new WD10EADS derivative.

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 1.5TB Barracuda appearing in a brighter green than the rest of Seagate’s drives. We have two sets of results for the ‘cuda. The drive with its original firmware is listed simply as the Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB while results from the new firmware rev have an (SD1A) added onto the end.

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


Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB

Hitachi Deskstar E7K1000 1TB
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 an OCZ PowerStream power supply unit.

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.

The results

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

Comments closed
    • issa2000
    • 11 years ago

    just updated to SD1B, seams ok

    vista + xp good

    • Freon
    • 11 years ago
    • shadowlite
    • 11 years ago

    Hmm … its weird though, I went to the online support chat and waited for 30 mins, the tech support said that no firmware is available yet and that their engineers are looking into it.
    Then he mentioned that they will post an online serial checker tool on Monday to see if the drive is affected.

    When I told him that I’ve read this article and though that it was available, the person said that the information is incorrect ( i.e. there is no updated firmware available yet ) and also when the firmware is available, the distribution of firmware is only allowed through call in and not the online chat support.

    So … what the hell is happening?! -__-“

    • SpotTheCat
    • 11 years ago

    What’s going on with the format? It isn’t the “easy reading TR” style I’m used to.

      • yogibbear
      • 11 years ago

      It’s just an updated firmware comparison, so no formatting is required. Only people that own this drive would be interested. If there were actual major differences between the two differnt firmware versions, then a longer article probably would’ve been made.

      • SpotTheCat
      • 11 years ago

      There wasn’t even a conclusion!

        • Saber Cherry
        • 11 years ago

        That’s my problem with the article, too. It was hard to even find the text… but even then, it didn’t ‘digest’ the graphs for me. Graphs are best used as supporting evidence, not as an article. So I’m left not knowing the answer to the question the article was supposed to address – whether the update made performance go up or down.

          • Dissonance
          • 11 years ago

          /[

    • JustAnEngineer
    • 11 years ago

    Page 2 may be the longest TR article page that we’ve seen in quite a while. Did we run out of ads?

      • highlandr
      • 11 years ago

      Yeah, that page actually made me WANT more pageviews in a review. Sure there was no commentary, but I was paging down for quite a while…

        • Dissonance
        • 11 years ago

        The performance results were provided on a single page for reference only, since the text on the preceding page explained that there was essentially no difference in performance. Expect future storage coverage to be busted into pages as usual.

          • DrDillyBar
          • 11 years ago

          If you wrote the heading “conclusion” on the first page, even I may not have clicked the next button only to discover the second page was the last. But whatev…. it clicked eventually.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 11 years ago

    Just a small suggestion for the various WD Greenpower drives – maybe put the model number (WD10EACS, WD10EADS) in future graphs to make distinguishing them easier. Of course at some point you’re going to review the WD10EADS 2TB drive as well and will have to put the capacity on the chart too.

    • jpostel
    • 11 years ago

    I have the drive and ran into the pausing issue. Since my OS was on another drive, only data RW to the Seagate drive caused issues. I loaded the new firmware and it seemed to be OK for a day or so, but as soon as it happened again, I yanked it out and replaced it with a 1TB WD.

    I am thinking about putting it in another PC as the secondary drive to test it out.

    I must admit that I have not had something like this happen in years. I was never hit with the deathstar drive issue, even though I owned a couple. It has to be 6-8 years since I saw something like this, and that was bad batches of hot-swap scsi drives that we got from Dell.

    • Voldenuit
    • 11 years ago

    Since the problems with the 1.5 TB drive only showed up on Vista (and Linux), shouldn’t the test have been done on Vista instead of XP?

    XP users (like myself) were pretty much unaffected by the SD17 firmware problems.

    Also, shouldn’t RAID performance (another trouble some spot for the 1.5TB drive) been investigated?

    • Philldoe
    • 11 years ago

    Seagates Retail drives are still on a 5 year warrenty. only the OEM drives are affected by the 2 year drop.

    And honestly, this little problem dosn’t scare me a bit. What did IBM do with the deskstar? They denied the problem and ignored it. What did seagate do? 2 days after the story broke they fixed it.

    +1 Seagate.

      • adisor19
      • 11 years ago

      Problem is Seagate OEM drives already had a little 10$ extra compared to drives from other manufacturers. Right now, the 10$ difference is still there while the warranty is the same. Makes no sense to buy Seagate OEM drives.

      Adi

    • l33t-g4m3r
    • 11 years ago

    can somebody torrent the firmware?
    edit:
    ยง[<http://promotions.newegg.com/files/8h_SD1A.zip<]ยง I'm glad TR wrote an article on this. Seriously. Seagate wasn't being very informative on the matter.

    • Prototyped
    • 11 years ago

    So, er, are these things failing in droves within a few weeks of installation like the 1 TB drives?

    • indeego
    • 11 years ago

    Time to update the HDD test platform. It’s long/tooth mateg{<.<}g /[

      • Dissonance
      • 11 years ago

      As we’ve said on numerous occasions, we’ll be updating with the transition to 6Gbps SATA.

      • Krogoth
      • 11 years ago

      It does the job fine as I highly doubt the controller and CPU are the bottlenecks in these suites.

      • grantmeaname
      • 11 years ago

      ICH8R is a die shrink of ICH7R. As is ICH9R, as is ICH10R.

    • eitje
    • 11 years ago

    q[

    • squngy
    • 11 years ago

    Woulda’ liked to see WD 2TB beast included in those graphs ; )

      • derFunkenstein
      • 11 years ago

      Would like to see a WD 2TB drive in my USB enclosure. w00t!

    • moose17145
    • 11 years ago

    “I won’t bother running through the graphis individually because,…”

    First page, i assume “graphis” is supposed to be “graphs”

    • DrDillyBar
    • 11 years ago

    So if I install this firmware, the freezing thing is gone… right?
    /Suspicion

      • continuum
      • 11 years ago

      So long as it stops the freezing!

      As far as firmware, end-users may have some luck actually googling for it… =P

    • adisor19
    • 11 years ago

    No 5 year warranty means no more Seagate drives for me.

    Adi

      • bthylafh
      • 11 years ago

      What if Apple uses Seagate drives? What then?

        • BoBzeBuilder
        • 11 years ago

        Then that means more Seagate drives for Adi.

        Adi

          • DrDillyBar
          • 11 years ago

          The sacrifices we make eh?

            • indeego
            • 11 years ago

            Please end your posts with Adi in this thread. -Adig{<.<}g

            • DrDillyBar
            • 11 years ago

            Adi

            • adisor19
            • 11 years ago

            Hot damn, i’m popular these days ๐Ÿ˜€

            You guys keep it up and my name will appear over 9000 times on the comments section !!1ONE

            Adi

            • jstern
            • 11 years ago

            Are you Canadian?

            • DrDillyBar
            • 11 years ago

            yuppers

          • adisor19
          • 11 years ago

          See reply #22

          Adi

        • eitje
        • 11 years ago

        Apple would never use Seagate drives, because Apple only uses the finest quality components to create their techno-art.

        Adi

          • derFunkenstein
          • 11 years ago

          Got a Macbook that’ll disagree with ya there.

            • eitje
            • 11 years ago

            revisionist history says your macbook can’t be using a Seagate drive.

          • adisor19
          • 11 years ago

          Wrong. Apple does use Seagate drives. My first mini came with a 4200RPM abomination from Seagate. Yes, i do see your sarcasm.

          Adi

            • eitje
            • 11 years ago

            you take that back right now!
            how could you betray the MotherTech?!?

            • adisor19
            • 11 years ago

            Err.. i know it’s running gag here on TR to paint me as a Macolyte, but if you look harder you’ll also see the posts where i criticize Apple ๐Ÿ™‚

            Adi

            • bthylafh
            • 11 years ago

            There’s a big fat dollop of truth behind this stereotype.

        • adisor19
        • 11 years ago

        I’m talking about buying one by myself from the store. If it comes in an Apple laptop/pc, well i’m obviously gonna use it or at worse swap it with something else. 99% of my storage is in RAID5 setups and those are not from Apple.

        Adi

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 11 years ago

      Guys, guys, guys! You are getting the whole “Adi sig” thing wrong. It’s really easy to do but if you keep doing it wrong it won’t be funny anymore.

      _[

        • adisor19
        • 11 years ago

        I’ve always dreamed of one day having my very own meme :’) *snif*

        Adi

        (Edit : corrected spelling mistake thanks to ssidbroadcast)

          • ssidbroadcast
          • 11 years ago

          one… *[

    • 5150
    • 11 years ago

    Too little, too late in my mind. Seagate has some serious QC issues and I won’t be buying any of their drives for quite some time.

      • moose17145
      • 11 years ago

      The sad part is, mechanically their drives still seem to be about the best i have seen. I can’t remember the last time i saw a Seagate drive MECHANICALLY fail. All of their issues seems to all be firmware related. The end result is still the same…. but you know… just saying….

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