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

Geoff Gasior Former Managing Editor Author expertise
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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.

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Geoff Gasior Former Managing Editor

Geoff Gasior Former Managing Editor

Geoff Gasior, a seasoned tech marketing expert with over 20 years of experience, specializes in crafting engaging narratives that connect people with technology. At Tech Report, he excelled in editorial management, covering all aspects of computer hardware and software and much more.

Gasior's deep expertise in this field allows him to effectively communicate complex concepts to a wide range of audiences, making technology accessible and engaging for everyone

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