Seagate’s Barracuda LP 2TB hard drive

Manufacturer Seagate
Model Barracuda LP 2TB
Price (Street)
Availability Now

Nearly two years ago, Western Digital launched its first “GreenPower” hard drive. Then known as the Caviar GP, this new approach to desktop storage attenuated the pursuit of raw performance by using slower spindle speeds to improve energy efficiency, as well. Reducing power consumption may have been the primary goal, but ratcheting back rotational speeds also lowered noise levels—an arguably more important benefit for enthusiasts and mainstream users alike.

Had the Caviar GP’s performance been atrocious, the concept probably wouldn’t have caught on. But the drive was surprisingly competitive thanks to the use of high-density platters that weren’t yet available on full-fat 7,200-RPM models. The GP also highlighted the fact that only certain applications really benefit from extremely fast storage. Despite its spindle speed disadvantage, the drive was still plenty quick for closet file servers, home theater PCs, external drives, and secondary mass storage. Subsequent members of the Caviar Green family have only gotten faster thanks to rising areal densities, solidifying this new class of power-efficient storage as a viable option.

Given the Caviar Green’s success, the fact that other manufacturers are starting to get in on the action should come as no surprise. The Barracuda LP is Seagate’s first take on the formula, and at least on paper, the 2TB model compares quite favorably with Western Digital’s range-topping Caviar Green. Plus, with a street price hovering around $190, the LP’s a good $10 cheaper. Naturally, we had to find out whether this new Barracuda is quieter, more power-efficient, and, of course, faster than the Caviar Green.

Before getting into our test results, I should take a moment to introduce this latest member of the Barracuda family. Seagate has slowly reorganized its ‘cuda line into three tiers, with the LP occupying the bottom rung on the ladder. Above it lie the Barracuda 7200.12 and the Barracuda XT, both of which have 7,200-RPM spindle speeds. The LP, by contrast, rotates its platters at a mere 5,900 RPM.

That’s right; Seagate actually publishes the LP’s spindle speed. Western Digital has been reticent to divulge the rotational speeds of its Caviar Greens, saying only that they’re closer to 5,400 RPM than 7,200 RPM and that actual speeds can vary slightly from one model to the next. I’ve never understood the need for such secrecy, so it’s refreshing to see Seagate be more forthcoming with the Barracuda LP.

Like the Caviar Green, the Barracuda LP reaches the two-terabyte mark using four 500GB platters. Seagate’s platters don’t pack data as densely as Western Digital’s, though. The Barracuda has an areal density of 341.5 Gbit/in², while the Caviar squeezes 400 gigabits into each square inch. Higher areal densities usually enable faster sequential transfers by making more data available over shorter physical distances, which puts the ‘cuda at a bit of a disadvantage. Indeed, according to its published specifications, the LP’s maximum sustained data rate is only 95MB/s—5MB/s shy of the Green’s purported 100MB/s data rate. Of course, we’ll test the sequential throughput of each drive with both synthetic tests and real-world file transfers in a moment. I wouldn’t put too much stock in manufacturer-published performance ratings, although we have summarized the drive’s official specs in a handy chart below:

Maximum external transfer rate 300MB/s
Maximum sustained data rate 95MB/s
Average rotational latency 5.5 ms
Seek time
Spindle speed 5,900 RPM

Cache size
32MB
Platter size 500GB
Available capacities 1, 1.5, 2TB
Idle power 5.5W
Operating power 6.8W
Idle acoustics 2.5 bels
Seek acoustics 2.6 bels
Warranty length Three years

Interestingly, Seagate and Western Digital both appear to be using their low-power hard drive families to ease new platters into higher capacity points. The Barracuda LP and Caviar Green are the first implementations from each company to stack four 500GB platters. Western Digital didn’t start shipping a 7,200-RPM Caviar Black 2TB with four 500GB platters until more than six months after the Green’s debut. Seagate trotted out the 2TB Barracuda LP back in April, some four months before announcing the 7,200-RPM Barracuda XT 2TB. I imagine it’s much easier to, ahem, spin up denser platters at lower speeds before cranking up the RPMs for high-performance drives.

Despite the fact that the Barracuda LP isn’t being pushed as a high-performance offering, it still sports a substantial 32MB cache. I suppose even 32MB caches look a little pedestrian when one considers that some solid-state drives have as much as 128MB, though.

Like most of Seagate’s desktop drives, the Barracuda LP is covered by a three-year warranty. That length of coverage is pretty standard for a hard drive targeted at mainstream markets, but Seagate doesn’t have an unblemished reputation for reliability. The firmware fiasco that plagued the 7200.11 nearly a year ago soured many on the Barracuda line, and I’ve had two relatively new ‘cudas exhibit issues since, including a 7200.12 that was only briefly used for benchmarking. A troubling number of Newegg user reviews of the Barracuda LP also report premature failures, some of which are preceded by a “click of death.” To be fair, though, the Newegg user reviews of the Caviar Green aren’t much more positive.

Seagate says it hasn’t observed higher return or failure rates with the Barracuda LP or any of its other recent models. However, it may take some time for the company’s reputation to rebound, at least among notoriously fickle enthusiasts. Some folks still chide IBM, and by some bizarre extension Hitachi, for the infamous Deathstar GXP drives of oh-so-many years ago.

Our testing methods

The best way to find out whether the Barracuda LP is a better alternative to the Caviar Green is to pit the two drives against each other. And so we have, using the following test system:

Processor

Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 2.66GHz
System bus 1066MHz (266MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard

Gigabyte EP45-DS3R
Bios revision F10
North bridge
Intel
P45 Express
South bridge Intel ICH10R
Chipset drivers
Chipset 9.0.0.1008
AHCI/RAID 8.8.0.1009
Memory size 4GB
(2 DIMMs)
Memory type

OCZ PC2-6400 Platinum Edition
at 800MHz
CAS latency (CL)
5
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 4
RAS precharge (tRP) 4
Cycle time (tRAS) 15

Audio

Realtek ALC889A with 2.24 drivers
Graphics

Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GT 256MB
with ForceWare 185.85 drivers
Hard drives

Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB


Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB
OS

Windows Vista Ultimate x64
OS updates Service Pack 2

Our test system was powered by an OCZ GameXStream power supply unit.

With the exception of our power consumption and noise levels, all tests were run at least three times, with the results averaged. 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.

The Barracuda LP gets off to a good start, besting the Caviar’s overall score by a few points. Let’s see which individual application tests made the difference.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Caviar delivers better performance in the Photoshop test. Completion times are pretty even across the rest of WorldBench’s multimedia editing and encoding tests, though.

The Caviar and ‘cuda are closely matched in WorldBench’s office and multitasking tests, too.

However, the Barracuda is substantially faster in the Nero test.

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

I wouldn’t get too worked up about fractions of a second here. Any differences in load times between the two drives are minute at best.

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. We’ve converted those completion times to MB/s to make the results easier to interpret.

Vista’s intelligent caching schemes make obtaining consistent and repeatable performance results rather difficult with FC-Test. To get reliable results, we had to drop back to an older 0.3 revision of the application and create or own custom test patterns. During our initial testing, we noticed that larger test patterns tended to generate more consistent file creation, read, and copy times. That makes sense, because with 4GB of system memory, our test rig has plenty of free RAM available to be filled by Vista’s caching and pre-fetching mojo.

For our tests, we created custom MP3, video, and program files test patterns weighing in at roughly 10GB each. The MP3 test pattern was created from a chunk of my own archive of ultra-high-quality MP3s, while the video test pattern was built from a mix of video files ranging from 360MB to 1.4GB in size. The program files test pattern was derived from, you guessed it, the contents of our test system’s Program Files directory.

Even with these changes, we noticed obviously erroneous results pop up every so often. Additional test runs were performed to replace those scores.

The Barracuda LP races out to an impressive lead in our file creation tests. With each test pattern, it’s close to 20MB/s faster than the Caviar Green.

Seagate maintains the ‘cuda’s nearly 20MB/s advantage through the read tests. The transfer rates are higher here, making the Caviar Green proportionally more competitive.

Our copy tests combine read and write operations, but that doesn’t faze the Barracuda. The Seagate drive continues to lead the Caviar Green by sizable margins.

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

Each of our IOMeter workloads uses highly randomized access patterns. The file server, workstation, and database patterns mix read and write operations, while web server pattern is exclusively made up of read ops. Based on the transaction rates we observed with the web server test pattern, the Barracuda’s random read performance doesn’t appear to scale as well as the Caviar’s. At least the scaling with that pattern is relatively linear.

With the other test patterns, the Barracuda’s transaction rates flatline between two and 32 outstanding I/O requests. The maximum queue depth for Native Command Queuing just happens to be 32, suggesting that the ‘cuda may be adjusting its command queuing behavior when writes are involved.

As the load climbs beyond 32 I/O requests, the Barracuda’s transaction rates jump dramatically, eventually eclipsing those of the Caviar. Overall, though, this one goes to the Green.

There’s little difference in IOMeter CPU utilization between the two drives.

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

In HD Tach’s sequential transfer rate tests, the Barracuda LP has a 12MB/s edge over the Caviar Green.

The Caviar’s burst speed is slightly higher, though.

The ‘cuda and Caviar are evenly matched in HD Tach’s random access time and CPU utilization tests.

Noise levels

Noise levels were measured with a TES-52 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.

Although the Barracuda is only half a decibel quieter than Caviar at idle, it’s a full three decibels quieter while seeking. The difference in seek noise levels is noticeable, although I’d hardly call the Caviar loud.

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. We were able to calculate the power draw from each voltage rail and add them together for the total power draw of the drive. Drives were tested while idling and under an IOMeter load consisting of 256 outstanding I/O requests using the workstation access pattern.

At idle, the Barracuda LP draws a couple of watts less than the Caviar Green. However, under our demanding IOMeter load, the Western Digital drive has slightly lower power consumption.

Conclusions

On paper, the Barracuda LP is a good match for the Caviar Green. Both drives sport four 500GB platters, 32MB caches, sub-7,200-RPM spindle speeds, three-year warranties, and price tags hovering around $200. The two drives even offer comparable performance in a number of our tests. However, the Barracuda boasts faster sequential transfer rates, whether in synthetic tests like HD Tach or in simulated real-world file operations like File Copy Test.

The ‘cuda does fall behind the Caviar in IOMeter, though, and its transaction rate doesn’t scale well at all with workloads that involve random write requests. I suspect we’re seeing the result of command queuing optimizations that sacrifice performance with random I/O requests in favor of faster sequential transfers. That sort of bias makes perfect sense for a low-power desktop drive like the Barracuda LP, though it’s obviously less attractive for enterprise and multi-user environments.

Of course, for low-power drives like the Barracuda LP, performance is secondary to power consumption and noise levels. The Barracuda does well on both fronts, offering comparable power consumption to the Caviar Green alongside lower noise levels. There isn’t much difference in idle noise levels between the two drives, but the Barracuda is audibly quieter when seeking, which is when hard drives are at their loudest and most annoying.

You can currently snag a Barracuda 2TB for $10 less than a Caviar Green, so value’s on Seagate’s side, too. That’s good enough to vault the drive into TR Recommended territory, but would I buy a Barracuda LP over a Caviar Green for one of my own systems? Maybe. I’d certainly want to, not so much because the LP is faster, but because it’s quieter. Still, I haven’t been impressed with Barracuda reliability of late, and that might stop me from pulling the trigger.

At the very least, Seagate has crafted a compelling alternative to the Caviar Green. Only time will tell which is better to entrust with two terabytes of your precious data.

Comments closed
    • Pax-UX
    • 10 years ago

    Would love to see an article on external enclosures, as they’re starting to make sense now, well as a backup solution to large quantities of data. 500GB HDs are going for peanuts so to be able to swap them around quick & easily is something that’s very useful.

    I’ve got an ICY BOX Docking Station for HDD 2½” or 3½” SATA HDD, USB 2.0 & eSATA Interface. Here’s a picture §[<http://www.wizartar.com/articles/122/f/000CS4BackupSolution.jpg<]§

    • internetsandman
    • 10 years ago

    I have to say that seagate’s reliability issues would steer me off their products as well, even if, like here, they perform better than the competition in nearly every category. What’s the point of a better performing drive if you’re constantly worried about failure, especially if it does fail? And if not failure, but at least go wrong in some way or another. I’ll stick with WD, there’s nothing wrong with them, they make quality products, and have a history of doing so.

      • just brew it!
      • 10 years ago

      It depends on your definition of “history”. Every hard drive maker out there — WD included! — has had drives that suffered from excessive failures at some point. As of today, WD just happens to be the one that has gone the longest since their last run of lemons. Does this mean they’re really better, or does this mean they’re due for a train wreck?

      I actually agree with you, insofar as I’d probably put WD at the top of my hard drive short list today (I like Hitachi too, FWIW). But as they say in the investment industry, “past performance is no guarantee of future results”!

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 10 years ago

    Those’d work great in my WHS.

    • shank15217
    • 10 years ago

    I disagree with tech report about the I/O meter results. Random small I/O with small loads doesn’t make much sense. In systems where there is a lot of random small I/O the load is usually fairly large, so the seagate drives outperform the WDs at the loads which really count, high load.

    • pragma
    • 10 years ago

    Good looking noise and power figures.

    Btw, has TR retested any HDDs after two months or more of everyday use, with noise/vibration characteristics in mind?

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 10 years ago

    Lol well…that’s quite the plethora of options to compare to. 🙁

    • Krogoth
    • 10 years ago

    To those who are complaining about its lackluster enterprise-level performance. This drive is meant to be a customer-grade storage-[

      • MadManOriginal
      • 10 years ago

      Yeah ‘green’ branding in HDs is a crock, or a marketer’s wet dream, maybe those are the same thing 😉 Save a few watts whoopdeedoo, even 24/7 that’s a small fraction of a computer’s power draw and nothing compared to other household devices. It’s on the level of ‘vampire power’ for consumer electronics or hours and hours of even a power-saving lightbulb. Most case fans draw the difference in power. You’d have to have an absolutely massive array for it to be significant.

        • OneArmedScissor
        • 10 years ago

        Sometimes people make the point that it could be of importance in a large data farm, but the trouble is that these are always marketed as something that will somehow cut down the electricity bill at your house…meanwhile, their power use is higher than a run of the mill laptop drive or Velociraptor. FAIL ON A STICK.

      • Meadows
      • 10 years ago

      “Storagepr0n” is not a word, you’re doing the strikethrough joke wrong.

          • Meadows
          • 10 years ago

          You’re still doing it wrong.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 10 years ago

            It’s consumer-grade -[

            • Meadows
            • 10 years ago

            Observe, Krogoth.

            • DrDillyBar
            • 10 years ago

            poor Meadows.

            • Meadows
            • 10 years ago

            Something wrong?

            • Pax-UX
            • 10 years ago

            Cool this place should be called 4Tech!

            • no51
            • 10 years ago

            coolface.jpg

            • Krogoth
            • 10 years ago

            I cannot believe that one flew over your head.

            Here is a hint, nobody besides nitpickers with a personal vendetta give a damm.

            • Meadows
            • 10 years ago

            Read comment #39.

      • stdRaichu
      • 10 years ago

      The power consumption of my home server (used to be WD, now WD GP) and the power bill for the company SANs and VTLs (now all GP) would tend to disagree with you. Agreed, for one or two discs the difference is negligible, but stack that up over ten or twenty (or two thousand) discs and buying the “green” brand makes economic sense.

    • Homerr
    • 10 years ago

    I’ve put together a comparison of LP/GP drive wattages here:

    §[<http://www.hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1442303<]§

    • oldDummy
    • 10 years ago

    Have two of the WD 2TB drives in raid1 for storage and they work well. The Seagate name has some warts but I would give them a try if needed in the future. The way I see it they will be very careful with new products. Another problem would be damaging to the brand.

    • flip-mode
    • 10 years ago

    Is that cat hair in the photo of the underside of the drive, or Geoff hair?

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 10 years ago

      Looks like a cat hair to me. Probably a standard feature.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 10 years ago

    Interesting, looks like it outdoes the GP almost all around and certainly for any home consumer use. I would have loved to see the graphs with at least one top performing 7200RPM drive for reference.

    Too bad about the sadow that still hangs over Seagate. If their name didn’t already have the word in it we could have called it Seagategate.

      • continuum
      • 10 years ago

      Yep, very interesting! Has Seagate finally undone their trend of massively underperforming drives for desktop use??

      (the IOMeter scores are pretty concerning, but hey, from Seagate, this is an improvement!)

        • MadManOriginal
        • 10 years ago

        I’d say it’s more that they’ve gone and balanced the firmware out between reads and writes aside from just outperforming the WD GPs…they do have 10% higher spindle speed after all. Previous reviews showed Seagate drives had great reads but poor writes, I’d rather see a drive be balanced all around.

        • d0g_p00p
        • 10 years ago

        Yeah, the Barracuda name used to mean something. I remember when the ‘cuda name was just for their SCSI line. Crazy fast drives.

          • Krogoth
          • 10 years ago

          No, Barracudas were always Seagate’s mainstream brand, since the brand name’s introducion.

          Cheetahs where the fast-RPM SCSI HDDs that you recall from memory.

            • PFarkas
            • 10 years ago

            I’ve got a 2gig Barracuda (ST12550N) from I think around ’96.

            Initially the Barracuda line exclusively designated high performance 7200rpm SCSI drives.

            When the designation was introduced, there were no 7200rpm IDE drives, nor was there a Cheetah line.

            /nitpick

    • Meadows
    • 10 years ago

    Looks quite good to me, but those server/workstation load graphs are a bit too angular on the Seagate side.

    • DrDillyBar
    • 10 years ago

    Maybe when 2TB is available for $100 I’ll pull the trigger again.

    • flip-mode
    • 10 years ago

    Would make a nice drive to host back-ups. I might be able to back-up every machine on the network to one of these.

    • adisor19
    • 10 years ago

    Yeah ok, bring back 5 year warranty Seagate and i might reconsider your products again, ’till then, WD Black drives it is.

    Adi

      • ChronoReverse
      • 10 years ago

      This doesn’t compete with the WD Black drives. If was looking for this sort of drive (I was until recently when I got WD GP drive) then it mostly beats out the WD equivalent. Not a bad alternative especially considering it’s a bit cheaper.

      The warranties are equal so I don’t see what the issue is.

      • UberGerbil
      • 10 years ago

      If you’re comparing this to a “Black” you’re doing it wrong.

        • flip-mode
        • 10 years ago

        Well, realistically, he can make that comparison if he likes. I think he’s just saying he won’t consider a drive until it has a 5 year warranty. Personally, I don’t see much point in 5 year warranties.

          • l33t-g4m3r
          • 10 years ago

          Agreed.
          5 year warranties don’t mean your drive won’t fail under 5 years, and they don’t cover data restoration fees.
          IMO, they’re a completely useless gimmick, good only to attract suckers.

          side note:
          The firmware bug had nothing to do with physical reliability.
          People were using the drives in situations it was not designed for.
          Linux, raid, etc.
          That’s what caused it to lock up, combined with the bug.
          The stock drive worked fine with casual desktop use.
          Then the drive was covered under the warranty, and raid users should have had backups.
          Not only that, but seagate released a firmware update that fixed it.
          The drive works fine now. I know because I have two.
          Case closed. STFU Whiners.
          You people are making a mountain out of a molehill.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 10 years ago

            On other items I can agree that a 5 year or even lifetime warranty is overhyped, I’m thinking graphics cards in particular here. But for a HD I think the extra 2 years is more significant. They’re mechanical devices and may be more prone to failure plus when you get a replacement toward the end chances are good you’ll get a free upgrade.

            • Waco
            • 10 years ago

            Linux is a desktop OS. If a drive series fails prematurely running any OS then something is wrong with the series.

            • l33t-g4m3r
            • 10 years ago

            No, just because a linksys router can be flashed to linux, doesn’t mean linksys is accountable for you bricking it.
            Or cooling your PC in liquid, and something shorts. Your fault.
            Same difference. Seagate said the drive was not to be used in those situations, and people did so against the recommendations.
            Their fault.
            Linux was probably using an incompatible driver.

            Either way, the issue is non-existant now.
            You could have one of the original drives, like me, and as long as you flashed it, you’re fine.
            The level of paranoia and FUD, is ridiculous.
            Totally unjustified.

            • flip-mode
            • 10 years ago

            Wait, wait, Seagate said the drive was not compatible with Linux? FAIL. Linux, FreeBSD, any Unix, Mac OS X are all common operating systems – if a drive is “not compatible” with any of those then *[

            • MadManOriginal
            • 10 years ago

            They said it was unsupported in Linux or that they don’t provide Linux support ie use at your own risk. It ought to have worked certainly and the fact that the defect was across OSes shows that it wasn’t a Linux-only issue though.

            RAID is a different issue, if they say it’s not supported for RAID that’s it, period.

            • Freon
            • 10 years ago

            I would tend to agree more in industries where warranties are huge hassle issues, like automobiles. But drives–they pretty much just take your drive and ship another one out, I’ve never had a fuss, never even needed a receipt (serial # implies manufacture date), etc.

            It offers them incentive to produce reliable drives. They at least have to balance cost of returns versus spending more on R&D or materials to produce more reliable drives. There isn’t much possibility of the third option, cheap out on returns.

            • just brew it!
            • 10 years ago

            q[

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 10 years ago

    God damn it. I gotta go to class.

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