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Seagate’s Barracuda 7200.7 Serial ATA hard drive

Geoff Gasior Former Managing Editor Author expertise
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Manufacturer Seagate
Model Barracuda 7200.7
Price (120GB) US$95
Availability Now

IT SEEMS like only yesterday Serial ATA drives were little more than an unfulfilled promise. A year ago, SATA drives were rare in retail, and tracking down something as simple as a SATA power adapter was nearly impossible. Fortunately, Serial ATA drives have come a long way in a relatively short period of time. Today, SATA drives are widely available on retail shelves and inside OEM systems, and it’s almost impossible to buy a new mid-range or high-end motherboard that doesn’t come with at least a couple of SATA ports, cables, and power adapters.

Seagate’s Barracuda V was the first Serial ATA drive to see widespread retail availability. Despite also being the first drive to provide native rather than bridged Serial ATA support, the Barracuda V’s platter technology was a little behind the competition, and performance suffered.

Since releasing the Barracuda V, Seagate has been hard at work on its second generation Serial ATA drive, the Barracuda 7200.7. The 7200.7 is now widely available in retail, and we’ve managed to snag one for testing.

The drive
Before I start throwing graphs at you, let’s take a quick look at the drive.

As you might expect, the Barracuda 7200.7 isn’t much to look at. For whatever reason, hard drive manufacturers continue to ignore aesthetics completely and build drives that all pretty much look the same. This cosmetic restraint seems a little out of place in a world where wild colors permeate everything from motherboards to memory sticks, but not even the drives Apple uses have any sort of visual flair.

Unlike the Serial ATA offerings from Maxtor and Western Digital, which offer standard four-pin MOLEX power connectors in addition to Serial ATA power plugs, the Barracuda 7200.7 only accepts Serial ATA power connectors. Thankfully, Serial ATA power adapters are shipping with most new motherboards and power supplies, so powering the drive shouldn’t be a problem for most.

The Barracuda’s lack of a four-pin MOLEX connector may have something to do with the fact that the drive has a native rather than bridged Serial ATA implementation. Bridged Serial ATA implementations have to translate “parallel” to Serial ATA, so they suffer from an overhead penalty not present in native SATA implementations. However, current hard disk technology isn’t anywhere near as fast the Serial ATA spec’s maximum transfer rate of 150MB/sec, so there should be a room for a little bridge overhead.

Here’s a quick summary of the drive’s more notable specs:

Maximum internal transfer rate 683Mbits/sec
Maximum external transfer rate 150MB/sec
Average sustained transfer rate 58MB/sec
Average seek time 8.5ms
Average rotational latency 4.16ms
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Cache size 8MB
Platter size 80GB
Available capacities 80GB, 120GB, 160GB, 200GB
Serial ATA interface Agere native SATA
Warranty length Three years

Overall, the 7200.7’s specs are pretty much what you’d expect from a new 7,200RPM hard drive. What is a little unexpected, however, is that 7200.7 SATA drives with 8MB of cache carry a three-year warranty. One-year warranties have become a new standard for consumer-level hard drives, so it’s nice to see Seagate offering three years on some of the 7200.7s.

In addition to a longer than average warranty, the Barracuda 7200.7 can apparently withstand 350Gs of non-operational shock, which should help the drive survive even the most abusive UPS employees. Seagate also claims the ‘cuda has the lowest idle acoustics in the industry, which we’ll be putting to the test. Unfortunately, exerting 350Gs of force is a little beyond the capabilities of my Benchmarking Sweatshop, so we’ll have to take Seagate on its word there.

 

A note on the testing
Product reps have a habit of freaking out whenever we throw an orange into an apples-to-apples comparison, but that’s not going to stop me from benching the Barracuda 7200.7 against Maxtor’s DiamondMax Plus 9 7,200RPM drive and Western Digital’s 10K RPM Raptor WD360GD.

It’s important to understand that the Raptor and Barracuda aren’t direct competitors; the Barracuda is designed for desktop PCs, while the Raptor was built for high-end workstations and servers. The Raptor has a 2,800RPM spindle speed advantage over our 7,200RPM drives, which means it should be faster in the majority of our tests. The Raptor is also limited to 36 and 74GB capacities, and it’s quite a bit more expensive than Seagate and Maxtor’s 7,200RPM offerings.

Since enthusiasts have never been shy about using workstation gear in their personal systems, it doesn’t seem right to exclude the Raptor because marketing managers define the drive’s target market differently. Just keep in mind that it’s an enterprise-class product with an enterprise-worthy price tag.

Our testing methods
All tests were run three times, and their results were averaged, using the following test system.

  System
Processor Intel Pentium 4 2.26GHz
Front-side bus 533MHz (4x133MHz)
Motherboard Tyan Trinity GC-SL
Chipset ServerWorks Grand Champion SL
North bridge ServerWorks CMIC-SL
South bridge ServerWorks CSB5
Memory size 512MB (1 DIMM)
Memory type CAS 2.5 PC2100 ECC DDR SDRAM
Graphics ATI Rage XL
Storage Controllers

SIIG Serial ATA PCI

Storage Driver

Silicon Image 1.0.0.47

Storage

Western Digital Raptor WD360GD 37GB
Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 120GB
Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 120GB

Operating System Windows XP Professional SP1

The SIIG Serial ATA RAID card was used in the motherboard’s PCI-X slot and had the entire PCI-X bus to itself throughout testing. Though the board’s PCI-X slots support 64-bit cards at speeds up to 133MHz, the SIIG card tops out at 32 bits and 66MHz, which should be more than adequate for our single-disk tests.

A special thanks goes out to the Computer Repair Shop for kicking in the Western Digital Raptor WD360GD we used for testing

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1024×768 in 32-bit color at a 75Hz 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.

 

Winbench

The 7200.7 wins a close battle for second place in Winbench’s Business Diskmark, but the drive finishes a distant third in the High-End test.

The 7200.7 redeems itself in Winbench’s transfer rate tests, where it’s even a little faster than the Raptor at the beginning of the disk.

With a spindle speed that’s over 25% slower than the Raptor, the 7200.7’s disk access times can’t hold a candle to Western Digital’s enterprise drive. However, the 7200.7’s access times are definitely quicker than the DiamondMax Plus 9, which shares the Barracuda’s 7,200RPM spindle speed.

 

HD Tach

The 7200.7 turns in an impressive performance in HD Tach’s read and write speed tests, and it’s ahead of the DiamondMax Plus 9 across the board.

The DiamondMax plays second fiddle to the Barracuda in HD Tach’s random access time tests, too.

However, the Maxtor offers significantly faster burst speeds than our other Serial ATA drives, including the Raptor. The Barracuda’s relatively low burst speeds are a little disappointing, especially since I have old 7,200RPM, 2MB Cache Maxtor 740X-6L “parallel” ATA drives that regularly burst at over 120MB/sec.

The 7200.7’s CPU utilization is also a little high, but it’s at least in good company next to the Raptor.

 

HD Tach – continued
Because we can, let’s check out some nifty graphs of HD Tach’s transfer rate tests across the entire length of our disks.

The 7200.7’s write speeds are a little flaky, but the drive’s read speeds fall off much more consistently as we move from the beginning to the end of the drive. Compared with the DiamondMax Plus 9’s violently erratic transfer rates, the Barracuda looks pretty good. However, the Raptor’s transfer rates are positively serene by comparison. [Ed: There is some debate here over the real-world value of a less squiggly line. Take the results as you will.]

 

ATTO

It’s a little slow out of the gate, but the 7200.7 manages higher read speeds than the DiamondMax Plus 9 in ATTO’s 1MB transfer rate test.

When it comes to 1MB writes, the 7200.7 is out ahead of the DiamondMax again, and this time the ‘cuda even edges out Western Digital’s Raptor.

As we move to a 32MB transfer size, the 7200.7’s read speeds are right up with the Raptor.

All the drives have similar write speeds in ATTO’s 32MB transfer rate test.

 

Business and Content Creation Winstone

The 7200.7 stays ahead of the DiamondMax Plus 9 in both Winstone tests, though the scores are pretty close for all three drives.

Media encoding

The CPU is likely the bottleneck in our media encoding tests, where all the drives offer comparable performance.

 

File Copy Test

Although it’s largely been ahead of the DiamondMax Plus 9 so far, the 7200.7 is slower in all of File Copy Test’s file creation tests.

The Barracuda is, however, faster throughout the read tests.

In File Copy Test’s copy tests (which seem a little redundant to say), the ‘cuda beats the DiamondMax in only two of five test patterns.

 

IOMeter – Transaction rate

Among our Serial ATA drives, the Raptor owns IOMeter, but who will win between the 7,200RPM DiamondMax and Barracuda? In the transaction rate tests, Seagate starts things off in front across all test patterns.

 

IOMeter – MBps

IOMeter’s MBps scores are a function of our transaction rate results, so the Barracuda’s relative position is unchanged.

 

IOMeter – Response time

The 7200.7’s IOMeter response times are quicker than the DiamondMax, but again, neither 7,200RPM drive can catch the Raptor.

 

IOMeter – CPU utilization

All the drives exhibit low CPU utilization in IOMeter, and the 7200.7 is right in the middle of the pack.

 

Boot times

The 7200.7 leads the pack in our boot time tests, but only by a fraction of a second. All the drives score well within the margin of error associated with our hand-timed boot-up tests.

Noise levels
Noise levels were measured using an Extech 407727 Digital Sound Level Meter placed one inch from the drive. The test system’s CPU fan was also disabled to further isolate noise created by the drives.

The 7200.7 delivers on Seagate’s promise of low idle acoustics and turns in an idle noise level more than a decibel better than Maxtor’s DiamondMax. The Barracuda does, however, have slightly louder load acoustics than Maxtor’s drive.

Heat levels
In our always-scientific heat output tests, touching the Barracuda 7200.7 after a few hours of IOMeter testing didn’t burn my fingers any more or less than Maxtor or Western Digital’s Serial ATA drives. Under that kind of consistent load, you could probably cook an egg on any of the drives.

 

Conclusions
At only $95 online for a 120GB drive, the Barracuda 7200.7 is one of the cheapest Serial ATA drives around. “Parallel” ATA versions of the drive are available online for as little as $85, but I’d pay the price premium to get my hands on thin and flexible Serial ATA cables any day. The Serial ATA Barracuda 7200.7’s price also looks good when compared with the DiamondMax Plus 9, which sells for as low as $102 online. Considering that the ‘cuda outperforms the DiamondMax in the vast majority of our tests, Seagate’s drive looks like a pretty good deal.

While we’re talking about prices, I should mention that Western Digital’s 36GB Raptor WD360GD sells for $111 online. That’s a lot to pay for only 36GB of storage, but if performance comes before capacity on your list of priorities, it’s hard to go wrong with the Raptor’s stellar performance and five-year warranty.

At the end of the day, the Barracuda 7200.7 is a fast, quiet, and very affordable hard drive that’s perfect for enthusiasts and mainstream users who have been eyeing Serial ATA and holding out for three-year warranties. Bravo, Seagate. 

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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