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Seagate's Barracuda 7200.8 hard drive

Barra, Barracuda

ModelBarracuda 7200.8
Price (400GB)

AT FIRST GLANCE, having 400GB of storage capacity on a desktop hard drive seems a little ridiculous. It raises the question: do everyday users or even enthusiasts really need that much storage? They just might. With PCs increasingly becoming entertainment hubs tasked with storing audio and video in the highest possible quality, gigabytes can get eaten up pretty quickly. Gone are the days when 128KB MP3s were enough; lossless audio formats that take up much more space are all the rage these days. PCs that double as PVRs also need extra capacity, with high quality recordings consuming more than 2GB per hour. And that's not even high definition content.

Maybe 400GB isn't so ridiculous after all.

Seagate's Barracuda 7200.8 is the latest hard drive to offer 400GB of storage, but the drive offers more than just a capacity boost. By packing more data per platter than Seagate's previous Barracuda 7200.7, the 7200.8 also promises superior performance to its predecessor. Does it deliver? To find out we've run the 7200.8 through a punishing gauntlet of benchmarks and real world performance tests against competition from Maxtor and Western Digital.

Drive specs
Since the Barracuda 7200.8 succeeds the 7200.7 NCQ, let's quickly compare the specs of the two drives.

  Barracuda 7200.8 Barracuda 7200.7 NCQ
Maximum external transfer rate150MB/sec
Internal transfer rate95MB/sec85.4MB/sec
Average sustained transfer rate65MB/sec58MB/sec
Average seek time8ms8.5ms
Average rotational latency4.16ms
Spindle speed7,200-RPM
Cache size8MB
Platter size133GB80GB
Available capacities200, 250, 300, 400GB80, 120, 160GB
Idle acoustics2.8 bels2.5 bels
Quiet seek acoustics3.2 bels2.5-2.8 bels
Performance seek acoustics3.7 bels3.1-3.4 bels
Idle power consumption7.2W9.0-9.3W
Seek  power consumption12.4W12.5-13.5W
Service lifeFive years
Warranty lengthFive years

The Barracuda 7200.8 doesn't support Serial ATA II transfer rates, but that shouldn't constrain the drive's performance. Even its 95MB/sec internal transfer rate is a long way from saturating Serial ATA's 150MB/sec pipe, and its average sustained transfer rate is even lower. Note that 7200.8's internal and sustained transfer rates are both higher than the 7200.7's. The new Barracuda's seek time is also half a millisecond faster, despite the fact that both drives spin at 7,200 RPM.

Increased platter density is the secret behind the 7200.8's higher transfer rates and lower seek times. With access to an additional 53GB per platter, the 7200.8's drive head can access the same amount of data while moving a shorter physical distance.

Higher density platters allow Seagate to offer the 7200.8 in four sizes between 200 and 400GB. Interestingly, the entire family of drives has only 8MB of cache. That's a little disappointing given the fact that some of Maxtor's new DiamondMax 10 drives offer 16MB of cache.

Unfortunately, the 7200.8's acoustics aren't quite as low as its predecessor's. However, the difference is only a couple of bels and may not show up in our noise testing. The new Barracuda does claim to offer lower power consumption, particularly at idle. That's something we'll be testing, as well.

While it's easy to break out our noise level and watt meters to test the 7200.8's acoustics and power consumption, it would take considerably more time to test the drive's service life, which Seagate defines as the useful life of the drive. Seagate's five-year warranty, which covers the entire service life of the drive, definitely stands out, though. Other 7,200-RPM drives, including those with five-year service lives, typically carry one- or three- year warranties. A longer warranty period doesn't necessarily mean that the 7200.8 will be more reliable than drives covered by shorter warranties, but in the event of a drive failure, you'll be entitled to a replacement for longer.

As expected, the Barracuda 7200.8 doesn't offer much in the way of visual appeal. Hard drives are perhaps the only PC component category to successfully resist the trend towards flashy colors, blinking lights, and otherwise gaudy fashion accessories, which doesn't make for a particularly interesting photo spread.