The biggest HDDs compared

Eleven SATA hard drives with 640 to 1,500 Gigabyte reviewed

Hard drive space is cheap as never before. But what besides a lot of free space do hard drives of the Terabyte generation have to offer? PCGH does the test.
Last year Hitachi was the first producer to reach the Terabyte limit and Seagate recently exceeded it with the first 1.5 Terabyte model. The capacity is rising while the price per Gigabyte is falling and already dropped below 10 Euro cents. But which hard drive is the best? PCGH compares the (theoretical) performance of eleven desktop drives from Samsung, Seagate and Western Digital. Hitachi's latest desktop versions are a long time coming.
Samsung Spinpoint F1
Samsung Spinpoint F1 [Source: view picture gallery]

The following hard drives have been reviewed - from the popular (since fast) 640 GB devices to the 1.5 TB top size model from Seagate:

• Samsung Spinpoint F1, 640 GB/596 GiByte
• Samsung Spinpoint F1, 750 GB/699 GiByte
• Samsung Spinpoint F1, 1,000 GB/931 GiByte
• Seagate Barracuda 7200.11, 640 GB/596 GiByte
• Seagate Barracuda 7200.11, 750 GB/699 GiByte
• Seagate Barracuda 7200.11, 1,000 GB/931 GiByte
• Seagate Barracuda 7200.11, 1,500 GB/1,397 GiByte
• WD Caviar Blue, 640 GB/596 GiByte
• WD Caviar Blue, 750 GB/699 GiByte
• WD Caviar Green, 1,000 GB/931 GiByte
• WD Caviar Black, 1,000 GB/931 GiByte

We recorded our results with an Intel P35 board at the ICH9 controller in AHCO mode running Windows Vista x86 SP1 as operating system.

Transfer rates
The transfer rate is important for handling big files. Here the number of revolutions and the data density are the most important factors: Western Digital's Caviar Green is far behind with its 250 GB per platter and only 5,400 rpm, but on the other hand it is very quiet and energy efficient. Above that come the other devices with the same data density but more speed (7,200 rpm): The three 750 GB models and Seagate's Terabyte drive which are beaten by the smaller 640 GB versions. Solely on first place: Seagate's 1.5 TB monster (375 GB/platter), that on average reaches almost 100 MB/s - only Western Digital's Velociraptor (not part of this review) is better.
Average transfer rate; more is better
Average transfer rate; more is better [Source: view picture gallery]

Access times
Low access times are crucial for applications and operating systems, since they have to access many little files as fast as possible. In this category the high-speed Velociraptor and SSDs are far ahead. Among the classical hard drives especially WD's Black Caviar looks good though: The second writing time is combined with the far best reading time. But nevertheless all competitors are rather close.
Average access time; less is better
Average access time; less is better [Source: view picture gallery]

Someone who never seems to have enough free space available should take Seagate's 1,500 GB drive, which isn't just comparatively low-priced, but also fast. If you want to spent less than 100 Euros and only need an efficient and silent storage for data, should think about Western Digital's Caviar Green with 1 TB. The reasonably priced all-rounder is Seagate's fast and quiet F1 with 1,000 GB. If you don't need that much space, you actually can choose any of the three 640 GB versions: The Samsung model is a little slower than the devices from Seagate and Western Digital, but more quiet, too.

Author: Henner Schröder (Nov 26, 2008)

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