Perpendicular recording technology has trickled down to a desktop drive… and what a difference it makes. Seagate’s new 7200.10 boasts 750 GB of space — 50% more than any other drive currently on the market. The drive has already begun collecting accolades for its performance, but how does it do for noise and power? Find out in our review.
June 5, 2006 by Devon
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3750640AS
750GB, 7,200 RPM Hard Drive
Seagate keeps churning out new drives with ever-higher capacity. It’s been
only half a year since we reviewed
the massive 500 GB Barracuda 7200.9, but even that milestone has now passed
to make room for the Barracuda 7200.10. Seagate has boosted capacity
by 50% in just six short months. The result is a drive that boasts 750 GB of
capacity (698 GB when the operating system is counting) and increased performance
The basis for this surge in capacity is a technology called perpendicular
recording that increases data density. Seagate has already debuted a notebook
drive that uses perpendicular recording; the Momentus 5400.3 pushed the record
capacity for notebook drives to 160 GB when we
reviewed it in February. A more complete description of perpendicular recording
can be found in that review.
The 7200.10 encompasses a wide range of models for the retail market. Aside from
the flagship 750 GB drive, there are five other capacities available, down to
a minimum of 200 GB. With a variety of cache sizes in both SATA and PATA flavors,
the number of different models adds up quickly: There are a total of 14 different
7200.10 models. Unfortunately, none of the 14 models is a single platter design,
so the 160 GB Barracuda 7200.9
is still the largest single platter drive that we know of.
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (quoted from Seagate’s
|FEATURE & BRIEF||COMMENT|
|The highest available |
capacity — up to 750GB — reduces system repairs and storage
|A new high |
water mark… but for how long?
shopping” with a broad range of capacity, cache and interface options
|The world’s |
biggest drive company can afford to produce lots of different variations.
environmental specification and reliability features
|New perpendicular |
recording technology enables higher areal density, fewer moving parts
and increased dependability.
Fly Height offers consistent read/write performance from the beginning
to the end of your computing workload.
|They’ve had |
this feature on trousers for ages <ahem>.
|Clean Sweep |
automatically calibrates your drive.
|Exactly what |
it does is not clear, but the feature has been around since at least the
Offline Scan runs diagnostics when storage access is not needed.
potentially bad sectors to improve reliability.
|RoHS Directive-compliant |
design assures you an environmentally conscious product.
and environmentally friendly. And approved for sale in the EU.
|Enhanced G-Force |
Protection defends against handling damage.
|Exact details |
are hard to come by.
|Seagate SoftSonic |
motor enables whisper-quiet operation.
|Another long-time |
Seagate feature; this one since the Barracuda IV.
|Backed by an |
unprecedented five-year warranty.
only by Seagate’s own drives.
The specifications below are specific to model that we examined. Capacity,
cache size, platter number, interface, and even performance vary from model
to model even within a single product line. Acoustics and power dissipation
also vary depending on the number of platters in the drive; smaller capacity
drives tend to have fewer platters, and tend to produce less noise and use less
Specifications: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (from
|Spindle Rotation Speed|| |
SATA 3.0 Gb/s NCQ
|Annualized Failure Rate (AFR)|| |
|Operating Temperature|| |
0 – 60°C
|Power Dissipation: Idle / Seek / |
9.3 / 12.6 / 13.0 W
|Acoustics: Idle / Seek|| |
2.7 / 3.0 Bels
Seagate’s specifications keep the actual performance of the drive a bit of
a mystery. Only the most basic, easily verifiable performance attributes are
specified, such as the interface speed, cache size and rotation speed. More
variable characteristics, such as average seek times and average media transfer
speed are conspicuously absent.
Although it is hard to imagine, withholding the performance information may
actually be the most truthful way of putting things. Although easy to understand
and compare, examining “average” performance is a very simplistic
way of looking at drive performance. Actual seek times and transfer speeds vary
widely even within a single drive depending on where the data is located and
how it is being accessed.
By not declaring the usual performance specifications, Seagate is doing three
- They are making it impossible to directly compare the 7200.10 with other
drives on the basis of specifications alone. This is a good thing, as it means
that those who are interested are more likely to dig a little
deeper when trying to gauge performance.
- They are discounting the relative importance of drive performance. Noise
and power dissipation are considered important enough to declare publicly;
average seek time is not.
- They may be hiding the information because the precise numbers would make
the 7200.10 look bad. However, other early reviews of the 750 GB model suggest that
this is probably not the case.
Only the label marks it as a 7200.10.
The logic board is almost identical to Seagate’s earlier drives.
Physically, there is very little to distinguish the 7200.10 from Seagate’s
other desktop drives. Seagate has decided to differentiate it in other ways. For
example, the marketing brochure for the 7200.10 makes reference to three unfamiliar
technologies that are designed to improve reliability: Clean Sweep, Adaptive
Fly Height, and Directed Offline Scan.
Unfortunately, Seagate does not provide more than a two line description for
any of them, and technical information is difficult to find. We were a little
concerned about Directed Offline Scan, which “runs diagnostics when storage
access is not required”. This poses an obvious question to for low noise
enthusiasts: Are the diagnostics audible? A disc-wide scan in particular could
produce seek noise when the drive should otherwise be idling.
To answer this question, we contacted Michael Hall at Seagate, who responded
that the feature did not affect drive noise. Furthermore, the feature has been
included on Seagate drives for about four years, which means his claim is quite
simple to confirm. Unfortunately, a
number of SPCR forum dwellers have noticed this feature making noise
in the past, decribing the sound as a buzz that occurs when after the drive
has been idle for a while. We did not encounter this noise on our sample during
Clean Sweep is no better explained, but is unlikely to cause undue noise. It
is intended to reduce wear on the discs and head crashes, and functions by sweeping
the read/write head across the discs when the drive is spinning up. It has been
a feature of Seagate’s drives since at least the 7200.8, as attested by several
Adaptive Fly Height seems like an odd feature to advertise, since fly height
is adaptive by its very nature: The drive’s read/write heads float on a cushion
of air that keeps them at a constant distance from the surface of the disc regardless
of any imperfections. Perhaps the feature is similar to Hitachi’s
Thermal Fly-Height Control technology, which adjusts the fly height on the
basis of temperature.
Our samples were tested according to our standard
hard drive testing methodology. Our methodology focuses specifically on
noise, and great effort is taken to ensure it is comprehensively measured and
described. Performance is not tested, for reasons discussed in detail in the
methodology article. For comprehensive HDD performance testing results, we recommend
who have established a long reputation as the specialist in this field.
Our test drives were compared against our reference drives, the Seagate Barracuda
IV and Samsung Spinpoint P80, which are profiled in our methodology article.
To get a good idea of where the drives in this review stand, it is important
to read the methodology article thoroughly. It was also compared against several
high-capacity drives: A 500
GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.9, and 400 and 500 GB models from Hitachi,
the 7K400 and 7K500
Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:
- Airborne acoustics
- Vibration-induced noise
These 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.
Both the subjective and objective analyses are essential to understanding the
acoustics of the drives. Airborne acoustics are measured using a professional
caliber SLM. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter above 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.
Unfortunately, AAM (Automatic Acoustic Management) is not supported as a user-configurable
option on the Barracuda 7200.10, which means that our standard means of generating
seek noise via the AAM test function in Hitachi’s
HDD Feature Tool could not be used. Instead, seek noise was generated
by copying a large file set within the drive. Unfortunately, this task does
not require as much random seeking as the AAM test, so seek noise was not as
constant as usual. To compensate, we spent more time than usual listening to
and measuring the seek noise.
A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments are relevant
to the sample we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There are always
some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without telling everyone.
Ambient noise at the time of testing was 18 dBA. For the record, room temperature
DRIVE NOISE EVALUATION
(10 = no vibration)
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3750640AS
Hitachi Deskstar 7K500 HDS725050KLA360
Hitachi Deskstar 7K400 HDS724040KLSA80
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 ST3500641AS
Samsung Spinpoint P80 (Nidec motor)
June 04 – firmware TK100-24
Samsung Spinpoint P80 (JVC motor)
Feb 05 – firmware TK200-04
n / a
Seagate Barracuda IV
ST340016A – firmware 3.10
All four of the high capacity drives were relatively loud at idle. Subjectively,
the 7200.10 sounded the nicest of the bunch, but it was still significantly
louder than our quiet but out of date reference drive, the Seagate Barracuda
IV. The noise character had the smooth white noise quality that we have come
to expect from Seagate, but without the nasty pure tone that affected the 7200.9.
However, given how variable the reports of the 7200.9 have proved to be, we
cannot conclusively say that it has escaped altogether. Our sample was fine;
yours may not be.
Seek noise was quite a different story. The 7200.9 sample had sharp, abrupt seeks, and this aspect was even more in this 7200.10.
In fact, the peaks measured 34 dBA@1m, making it the first drive we’ve
measured above 30 dBA@1m. The implementation of Automatic Acoustic Management
(AAM) to reduce the seek noise is sorely missed.
To be fair, the average seek noise was much more pleasant than the worst-case
peaks. Perhaps because of its enormous capacity, it was more difficult than
usual to find a combination of tasks that would produce consistently loud seeks.
After all, our installation of Windows occupied less less than one percent of
the drive’s capacity. The density of data was so high that there seemed to be
comparatively few long-stroke seeks.
It is difficult to know how this would affect noise in an actual system. Much
depends on how the drive is used and the specific types of noise that the listener
is sensitive to. Those who can live with the occasional crackle of a long-stroke
seek if the average noise level is quite low could find the 7200.10 to be perfectly
acceptable. On the other hand, those who find seek noise annoying will not like the 7200.10.
A new record was set for the amount of power consumed at idle: The 7200.10
is the first drive we’ve seen that consumes more than 9 watts at idle. As this
would suggest, the drive ran quite hot; by the end of the acoustic testing,
during which the drive was resting on a nonconductive piece of foam, I was unable
to touch the drive for more than a second or two. (Editor’s Note: Wimp! —) According
to the internal thermal sensor, the drive temperature at this time was 53°C
The power consumed when the drive was seeking seemed unusually low, especially
considering that Seagate specified power consumption a couple of watts higher
than we measured. Given how high the power consumption at idle was, it seems
unlikely that our measurements were completely accurate. Perhaps the difficulties
with maximizing seek noise also apply to power consumption.
Even though the internal temperature did not exceed the maximum operating temperature
of 60°C, this does not bode well for the drive’s longevity when soft-mounted
inside a case. The 7200.10 needs metal-to-metal contact to conduct heat away,
as can be attested by the ~15°C drop in temperature shortly after the drive
was placed on our aluminum “resonance box”.
Unfortunately, soft-mounting is exactly what is needed to counteract the high
vibration coming from the 7200.10. Past Seagate drives have tended to be quite
good in this area, so we were disappointed to find that the vibration level
of this drive was higher than most of the other drives in our collection.
Audio recordings were made of the drives and are presented here
in MP3 format. The recordings below contains ten seconds of idle noise followed
by ten seconds of seek noise with AAM enabled and ten seconds more with AAM
disabled. Because Seagate does not support AAM on any of their current drives,
recordings for the 7200.9 and 7200.10 omit the section with AAM enabled and
are therefore only twenty seconds long.
Keep in mind that the recordings paint only part of the acoustic
picture; vibration noise is not recorded, and drives often sound different depending
on the angle from which they are heard.
HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE
These recordings were made
To set the volume to a realistic level (similar to the
Seagate has done it again. The Barracuda 7200.10 is an exceptionally
large drive with exceptionally loud seeks. Its suitability for a low noise system
depends on how much those 750 GB are needed within a single drive. If huge capacity is not an absolute
necessity, there are undoubtedly quieter and cheaper alternatives. If it is
needed, a pair of 300~400 GB drives might prove to be quieter in the long run,
especially if you consider seek noise the biggest issue. On the other hand,
if idle noise is more important, a single 7200.10 is probably a quieter choice
than any other combination of drives.
Although the 7200.10 does not allow seek noise to be reduced with
AAM, the immensely high areal density made possible by perpendicular recording
may be able to help make up some of the difference. Our real life testing showed
that, on the whole, the loudest seeks were few and far between. We cautiously
attribute this to the reduced number of long-stroke seeks on such a large drive.
Although this cannot compensate entirely for the lack of AAM — loud seeks
are loud seeks, no matter how infrequent — the 7200.10 rarely hit its 34
dBA@1m peak when accessing large contiguous pieces of data.
Even more than usual, whether or not a 750 GB Barracuda 7200.10
is in your future depends on your specific sensitivities and usage patterns. It is always a compromise between noise and capacity, but deciding
whether or not this one is a good compromise is up to you.
Many thanks to Seagate
for the Barracuda 7200.10 sample.
SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR’s Hard Drive Testing Methodology
SPCR’s Recommended Hard Drives
Seagate Momentus 5400.3: 160 GB Notebook
Drive & Introduction to Perpendicular Recording
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9, 500 GB
Hitachi Deskstar 7K500, 500 GB
Hitachi Deskstar 7K400, 400 GB
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