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5900rpm Seagate Hard Drives: Barracuda LP, Pipeline HD .2

Seagate’s Barracuda LP and Pipeline HD .2 series hard drives sport 500GB platters and a rotational speed of 5900rpm, giving them a slight edge in performance over Western Digital Caviar Green and Samsung EcoGreen lines: Is there a cost?

October 11, 2009 by Lawrence Lee

Products
Barracuda LP
ST32000542AS
2TB 3.5″ HDD
Pipeline HD .2
ST31000424CS
1TB 3.5″ HDD
Pipeline HD .2
ST3500414CS
500GB 3.5″ HDD
Manufacturer
Market Price
US$175~200 US$?? US$??

Like Western Digital’s Caviar Green and Samsung’s EcoGreen lines, the three
Seagate drives under review here have reduced rotation speeds compared
to the 7200rpm “standard.” WD and Samsung’s energy efficient drives
spin at 5400rpm to reduce power consumption and noise. Seagate has chosen 5900rpm for their standard, perhaps betting that the slightly higher speed
will provide a performance advantage without sacrificing noise or energy efficiency.


Three 5900rpm Seagates.

Two of these drives are from the second generation of the Pipeline HD
line, marketed for multimedia/DVR type applications.
The Pipeline HD .2‘s have twice the cache (16MB vs. 8MB) and platter
size (500GB vs. 250GB) compared to their ancestors. We have a 2-platter 1TB
model and a single-platter 500GB model. The smaller of the two is also physically
smaller, slimmer by 5.9 mm, and lighter by 220 grams.


Pipeline HD .2 casings (singe-platter on the left).

Seagate’s first 2TB desktop drive, the Barracuda LP also sports 500GB platters,
but has 32MB of cache to put it on even footing with Western Digital’s flagship
drive, the 2TB WD20EADS.

Seagate Barracuda LP: Key Features & Benefits
(from Seagate product
web page
)
FEATURE & BRIEF Our Comment
Super-low power consumption reduces power
costs over the life of the system up to 50% over those of standard desktop
drives
Okay.
Leading performance in the low power category That remains to be seen.
Cool drives provide long-lasting benefits
to the PC or external drive, reducing some component and maintenance costs.
Lower temperatures are always welcome.
Delivers true greenness without a performance
trade-off
Does an extra 500rpm compared to the
competition, may give it a slight edge.
Built to exacting Seagate green standards:
o Complies with RoHS directive
o Typically 70 percent or more of the materials used to build the drive
can be recycled.
o Designed, built and delivered using best-in-class, environmentally friendly
processes
Good on them.
Engineered by the world leader in desktop
hard drives with 13 generations of technology advances
We don’t know if each generation truly
represents a “technology advance” but okay.

 

Seagate Pipeline HD .2: Key Features & Benefits
(from Seagate product
web page
)
FEATURE & BRIEF Our Comment
Sweet spot capacities points of 160GB, 250GB
320GB, 500GB and 1TB, meet the needs of entry level systems as well as high
definition media center applications
The 1TB limit is not particularly big
these days.
Tuned to balance high-performance with low
power consumption, Pipeline HD drives can support a minimum of 10 simultaneous
streams of HD content
Okay.
Eco-friendly, best in class power performance
is easy on the environment while also enabling strict energy conservation
programs such as Energy Star
Good on them.
Seagate Soft Sonic™ motor technology
enables years of ultra-quiet, worry free operation with acoustic performance
as low as 1.9bels
Like every other Seagate produced in
the past 8-9 years.
Designed for cool, quiet, worry free, 24×7
operations 365 days a year. Always on, always reliable
Okay.
Seagate Think Green certified, Pipeline
HD drives are more than green – with improved reliability, low power consumption,
leading recycling programs, RoHS compliance, PVC free and available andlow- halogen designs
Okay, now they’re just repeating themselves.

 


Specifications
Model Number ST32000542AS ST31000424CS ST3500414CS
Capacity 2TB 1TB 500GB
Cache 32MB 16MB 16MB
Disks / Heads 4 / 8 2 / 4 1 / 2
Interface SATA 3Gb/s SATA 3Gb/s SATA 3GB/s
Spindle Speed 5,900 rpm 5,900 rpm 5,900 rpm
Sustained Data Transfer Rate 95 MB/s 120 MB/s 120 MB/s
Average Seek <16.0 msec <14.0 msec <14.0 msec
Average Latency 5.5 msec 5.1 msec 5.1 msec
Weight 655 grams
(1.444 lb)
600 grams
(1.323 lb)
380 grams
(0.838 lb)
Power: Idle / Operating 5.5W / 6.8W
3.8W / 4.1W (no published data for individual models)
Acoustics: idle / max in bels 2.5 / 2.8 2.1 / 2.3 1.9 / 2.1

TESTING

Our samples were tested according to our standard
hard drive testing methodology
. A significant change in our testing procedure is that as of mid-2008, we’re conducting most acoustics tests in our own 10~11 dBA anechoic chamber, which results in more accurate, lower SPL readings than before, especially as the SPL approaches 20 dBA and below, which is the territory of laptop drives. Our methodology focuses specifically on
noise, and great effort is taken to ensure it is comprehensively measured
and described. Performance is covered only lightly, for reasons discussed in detail in the methodology article.

Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:

  1. Airborne acoustics
  2. Vibration-induced noise.

These two types of noise impact the subjective
perception of hard drive noise differently depending on how and where the drive
is mounted.

Both forms of noise are evaluated objectively and
subjectively. Airborne acoustics are measured in our anechoic chamber using a lab reference
microphone and computer audio measurement system
. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter from the top
of the drive using an A-weighted filter. Vibration noise is rated on a scale
of 1-10 by comparing against our standard reference drives.

Summary of primary HDD testing tools:

A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments
are relevant to the samples we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There
are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without
telling everyone.


Our 2TB Barracuda LP sample was made in June 2009.
Our Pipeline HD .2 1TB sample was made in April 2009.
Our 500GB Pipeline HD .2 sample was made in March 2009.

Ambient conditions at time of testing were 10.5 dBA and 23°C.

ACOUSTICS

2TB Barracuda LP

At idle, the 2TB Barracuda LP produced very little noise, and its character was very smooth, with only a soft ‘whoosh’ escaping from its casing.
The sharp ticks that typically accompany seek activity were also well-subdued.


Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB at idle.
During seek.

Our analysis shows a low frequency peak at just under 100Hz in idle, which is as it should be (5900rpm = 98.3 Hz).
The slightly higher peak during seek is the result of some extraneous low frequency artifact from outside the chamber, as our anechoic chamber is not very sound proof below ~150 Hz.

1TB Pipeline HD .2

The 1TB Pipeline HD .2, being a 2-platter model idled at only 12 dBA@1m, matching
the 500GB Samsung EcoGreen. The noise character was mostly smooth with a bit
of metallic twinge which was only noticeable close up. During seek, the drive
measured 16 dBA — seeking was soft with only slight audible chatter.


Seagate 1TB Pipeline HD .2 at idle.
During seek.

 

500GB Pipeline HD .2

The 1-platter 500GB Pipeline HD .2 was the best of the bunch, delivering some
of the best acoustic results ever. It measured 13 dBA@1m when idle
(only 2 dBA above our noise floor) and just about half a dB higher when seeking.
The overall noise character was similar to the other two drives.


Seagate 500GB Pipeline HD .2 at idle. Ambient noise in red.
During seek.

POWER CONSUMPTION & VIBRATION

DRIVE NOISE TEST SUMMARY
Drive
Mfg date
firmware version
Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics
(dBA@1m)

Measured
Power
Seagate Pipeline HD .2 500GB ST3500414CS
March 2009
firmware SC13
8
Idle
13
3.0 W
Seek
13~14
7.0 W
Seagate Pipeline HD .2 1TB ST31000424CS
April 2009
firmware SC13
7
Idle
12
3.4W
Seek
16
8.0W
Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB ST32000542AS
June 2009
firmware CC32
6
Idle
15
4.4W
Seek
17
8.6W

Our vibration and power consumption tests suggest that the differences were
a direct result of the number of platters in each drive. The level of vibration
was better than average on the 2TB LP, good on the 1TB Pipeline HD .2 and almost
non-existent on its 500GB brother. In this regard, they are all considerably better than Seagate’s 7200rpm drives. Noise and power draw all scaled with the size of
the drive.

Power consumption during seeking activity was lower than 7200rpm drives, but
idle power was particularly impressive with the 500GB Pipeline HD .2 setting
a new record for 3.5″ drives. The 1TB version was not far off.

COMPETITIVE COMPARISON

When it comes to noise related properties, the 500GB Pipeline HD .2 is more
or less comparable to the Samsung 500GB EcoGreen. Both have only a single
platter; the EcoGreen uses less power during seek, but
the Pipeline generates 2~3 dBA less noise in seek.

The 2TB Barracuda LP does not match the 2TB WD Green drive. It is
louder, vibrates slightly more, and uses more power unless you disable the Green
drive’s head parking feature.

DRIVE NOISE TEST SUMMARY
Drive
Mfg date
firmware version
Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics
(dBA@1m)

Measured
Power
Seagate Pipeline HD .2 500GB ST3500414CS
March 2009
firmware SC13
8
Idle
13
3.0 W
Seek
13~14
7.0 W
Seagate Pipeline HD .2 1TB ST31000424CS
April 2009
firmware SC13
7
Idle
12
3.4W
Seek
16
8.0W
Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB ST32000542AS
June 2009
firmware CC32
6
Idle
14
4.4W
Seek
17
8.6W
PREVIOUSLY TESTED DESKTOP DRIVES
Samsung F2 EcoGreen 500GB HD502HL
February 2009
firmware 1AG01114
8
Idle
12
3.2 W
Seek (AAM)
15
5.3 W
Seek (Normal)
16
6.1 W
WD Caviar Green
2TB WD20EADS

February 2009
firmware 01.00A01
7
Idle
13
6.4 W (4.0W heads unloaded)
Seek (AAM)
13
6.5 W
Seek (Normal)
13~14
6.5 W
Seagate Pipeline HD
500GB ST3500321CS

July 2008
firmware SC14
6
Idle
14
4.8 W
Seek
15
6.9 W
Seagate Pipeline HD Pro
1TB ST31000533CS

September 2008
firmware SC15
4
Idle
15
7.1 W
Seek
16
10.1 W
WD VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS
300GB, 10K RPM
15 May 2008
firmware 03.03V01
8
[w/o frame]
Idle
15
8.2 W
Seek (AAM)
20
12.2 W
Seek (Normal)
22
12.2 W
WD Caviar SE16
640GB WD6400AAKS
February 2008
firmware 01.03B01
7
Idle
16
6.8 W
Seek (AAM)
16~17
8.1 W
Seek (Normal)
18~19
9.3 W
Samsung F1
750GB HD753LJ

February 2008
firmware 1AA01109
6
Idle
16
6.9 W
Seek (AAM)
18~19
8.9 W
Seek (Normal)
20~21
10.2 W
Seagate 7200.11
1.5TB ST31500341AS

October 2008
firmware SD17
4
Idle
17
8.8 W
Seek
19
10.7 W
WD Caviar Black
1TB WD1001FALS

July 2008
firmware 05.00K05
4
Idle
21
8.5 W
Seek (AAM)
21
10.9 W
Seek (Normal)
25
11.0 W

HD TACH RESULTS


HD Tach results for our 1TB Pipeline HD .2. The other drives performed
similarly.

All three Seagates performed similarly in HD Tach. Like most quiet drives,
random access time was higher than usual, but the 2TB and 1TB models managed
to edge out the competition in this regard by 2-3ms, while the 500GB Pipeline
was 1-2ms slower. Average read speeds were excellent though, with all three
drives measuring about 95MB/s, on par with 7200rpm models.

HD TACH RESULTS COMPARISON
Drive
Random Access
Avg Read
Samsung Pipeline HD Pro 1TB
17.0ms
102MB/s
Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB
14.9ms
97MB/s
Seagate Pipeline HD .2 500GB
18.6ms
96MB/s
Seagate Pipeline HD .2 1TB
15.0ms
95MB/s
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB
12.4ms
88MB/s
Samsung EcoGreen F2 500GB
16.7ms
87MB/s
WD Green WD20EADS 2TB
17.9ms
82MB/s
Seagate Pipeline HD 500GB
17.7ms
75MB/s
5400/5900rpm drives in green, 7200rpm drives in blue.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11
dBA ambient anechoic chamber
, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s.
We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from
the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what
we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn’t hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn’t record it either!

The recording starts with 5 to 10 seconds of ambient noise, then 10 second
segments of the drive in the following states: idle, seek with AAM enabled (if
applicable), and seek with AAM disabled (if applicable).

  • Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB ST32000542ASIdle: 15 / Seek:
    17 dBA@1m
    One
    Meter
  • Seagate Pipeline HD .2 1TB ST31000424CSIdle: 12 / Seek:
    16 dBA@1m
    One
    Meter
  • Seagate Pipeline HD .2 500GB ST3500414CSIdle: 13 / Seek:
    13~14 dBA@1m
    One
    Meter

Comparatives:

  • Samsung F2 EcoGreen 500GB HD502HIIdle: 12 / Seek (AAM):
    15 / Seek (Normal): 16 dBA@1m
    One
    Meter
  • Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB WD20EADSIdle: 13 / Seek
    (AAM): 13 / Seek (Normal): 13~14 dBA@1m
    One
    Meter
  • Seagate Pipeline HD 500GB ST3500321CSIdle: 14 / Seek: 15
    dBA@1m
    One
    Meter
  • Seagate Pipeline HD Pro 1TB ST31000533CSIdle: 15 / Seek:
    16
    dBA@1mOne
    Meter
  • Western Digital Caviar Blue 640GB WD6400AAKSIdle: 16 /
    Seek (AAM): 16~17
    / Seek (Normal): 18~19 dBA@1mOne
    Meter
  • Samsung F1 750GB HD753LJIdle: 16 / Seek (AAM): 18~19
    / Seek (Normal): 20~21 dBA@1mOne
    Meter
  • Seagate 7200.11 1.5TB ST31500341ASIdle: 17 / Seek: 19
    dBA@1m
    One
    Meter
  • Seagate 7200.11 1TB ST31000340ASIdle: 18 / Seek: 19 dBA@1m
    One
    Meter
  • Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB WD1001FALSIdle: 21 /
    Seek (AAM): 21
    / Seek (Normal): 25 dBA@1mOne
    Meter

CONCLUSIONS

With the LP and the second generation Pipeline HD drives,
Seagate offers a solid third choice to consumers looking for quiet, energy
efficient hard disks. The three models tested here shine in two areas in particular.
Compared to the WD Caviar Green and Samsung EcoGreen series, the Seagates drives
run a bit snappier with noticeably higher read speeds and lower random access
times (except for the 500GB Pipeline HD .2). They also excel when idle —
more or less matching the noise level of the competition, while consuming less
energy. These drives are less desirable when they’re seeking however —
in that state, our 2TB Caviar Green sample proved to be quieter than both the
2TB Barracuda LP and 1TB Pipeline HD .2.

If noise is important, but capacity is not, the 1-platter 500GB
2nd generation Pipeline is a clear winner. Compared to the 500GB Samsung
EcoGreen, idle noise is slightly higher as is seek power usage, but
it sports higher read speeds and the seek noise is much softer. In a very quiet
system, a seeking hard drive may be the only audible noise, so this can be a
significant factor to consider. Obviously in such a situation a solid state
drive would be ideal, but for many users SSDs are simply too expensive and don’t
offer enough capacity. Unfortunately, the distribution of Seagate Pipeline HD drives does not appear great at the moment. Hopefully, they will become more widely available in time.

The 2TB Barracuda LP also has faster read speeds than its main
competitor, the 2TB Caviar Green, but can’t meet its lofty noise, vibration,
and energy usage levels. However, its lower
price could be compelling. At $175 it comes close to 1TB drives in terms of cost per byte, and $30
less than the WD Green. If you require multiple 2TB drives, the total savings
could be substantial. It’s not the best drive acoustically, but still very quiet, and in a file server
or NAS far away from your ears, the noise characteristics make little difference.

Many thanks Seagate
for the review samples.

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR’s Hard Drive Testing
Methodology

SPCR’s Recommended Hard Drives
Samsung
F2 EcoGreen HD502HI: Silent 500GB 3.5″ HDD

WD
Caviar Green 2TB & Seagate Pipeline HD 500GB

Momentus
5400.6 & Scorpio Blue: Seagate & WD 2.5″ HDDs at 500GB

Seagate Pipeline HD Pro 1TB
Hard Drive

Seagate 7200.11 1.5TB: The Perfect
Balance?

WD and Seagate take steps to fix
terabyte drives

* * *

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