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.
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 rate||150MB/sec|
|Internal transfer rate||95MB/sec||85.4MB/sec|
|Average sustained transfer rate||65MB/sec||58MB/sec|
|Average seek time||8ms||8.5ms|
|Average rotational latency||4.16ms|
|Available capacities||200, 250, 300, 400GB||80, 120, 160GB|
|Idle acoustics||2.8 bels||2.5 bels|
|Quiet seek acoustics||3.2 bels||2.5-2.8 bels|
|Performance seek acoustics||3.7 bels||3.1-3.4 bels|
|Idle power consumption||7.2W||9.0-9.3W|
|Seek power consumption||12.4W||12.5-13.5W|
|Service life||Five years|
|Warranty length||Five 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.