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Seagate Pipeline HD Pro 1TB Hard Drive

Seagate’s Pipeline series of hard drives are aimed at DVRs, HTPCs and other devices designed to serve up media. Since performance is not critical for these types of applications, we assume that such a drive would be power efficient and quiet, two qualities that are right up our alley.

Feb 15, 2009 by Lawrence Lee

Seagate Pipeline HD Pro ST31000533CS
1.0TB, 7200 RPM Desktop Hard Drive
Sample Supplier
Market Price

Seagate’s Pipeline series of hard drives are aimed at DVRs, HTPCs and other
devices designed to serve up media. Since performance is not critical for these
types of applications, we assume that such a drive would be power efficient
and quiet, two qualities that are right up our alley. The Pipeline HD series
are available in 160GB, 320GB, and 500GB capacities, while the 1TB drive we’ll
be looking at today is designated as the only Pipeline HD Pro.

(Editor’s Note: What’s fascinating is that the smaller models run at the unique spindle speed of 5900 RPM. See my Postcript at the end of this article, on page 3.)

The Pipeline HD Pro is a 3-platter drive, but spins at the standard 7200 RPM,
so we doubt it will be a threat to Western
Digital’s Green Power
drive where it counts: power consumption, vibration,
and overall noise level. However, Seagate has made some nice strides reducing
the noise level of their drives as of late though so we have high hopes for
the 1TB Pipeline HD Pro — if the drive has been tweaked for multimedia,
it has the potential to be one of the quietest 7200 RPM desktop drives.

The Pipeline HD Pro housing is virtually indentical to the Barracuda 7200.11’s.


Seagate Pipeline HD Pro ST31000533CS: Key Features
& Benefits
(from Seagate’s product
web page
* High capacity enables new television
services, such as video on demand, high-definition DVRs and home media centers.
Can hold more porn than you can throw
a stick at.
* 1 TB delivers capacity for up to 200
hours of high-definition or up to 1,000 hours of standard-definition TV.
See above.
* PVR acoustic profile as low as 29 dB
supports bedroom and living room system usage models.
29 dB is poor in our opinion… though
standards for media devices are lower with regards to noise.
* Capable of operating at drive case temperatures
of up to 75°C
Great for DVRs and other thermally challenging
* Proven Seagate reliability—designed
for worry-free DVR operation with segment-leading 0.62% AFR
With the recent firmware
afflicting their 7200.11 drives and the reduction of their standard
warranty from 5 years to 3, Seagate’s reliability has come into question.
* Low-current spin-up for ease of integration
and power supply design
Taken with a grain of salt. Measuring
spin-up power consumption is very difficult.
* Supports up to 12 simultaneous high-definition
or standard-definition video streams
We’ll take their word for it.
* Available Seagate Secure™ technology
improves content security as part of a system digital rights management
A run-down of Seagate Secure technology
can be found here.
* Seagate SoftSonic™ motor technology
and optimized seek profiles enable years of quiet, worry-free operation.
We’ve found that recent Seagate samples
have had very low seek noise.


Specifications: Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 vs. Pipeline HD Pro (1TB)
vs. ST31000533CS
1 TB
1 TB
32 MB
32 MB
Disks / Heads
4 / 8
3 / 6
Interface SATA 3Gb/s SATA 3Gb/s
Spindle Rotation Speed
7,200 RPM
7,200 RPM
Sustained Data Rate OD 105 MB/s 120 MB/s
Average Latency
4.16 ms
4.16 ms
0.64 kg
0.63 kg
Power: Idle/Seek
8.0/11.6 W
6.9/8.8 W
Acoustics: Idle/Seek (bels)
2.9/3.1 (typical)
3.1/3.2 (max)

A run-down of the published specification tables for the Pipeline HD Pro versus
the 7200.11 (1TB models) shows that the Pipeline drive is claimed to have a
higher sustained transfer rate and lower power consumption. Despite the fact
it one less platter than the 7200.11, the rated acoustics are higher — this
seems counter-intuitive.


Our sample was tested according to our standard
hard drive testing methodology
(though testing now takes place inside
our anechoic chamber). The test drive sample was compared against a few other
drives. Our methodology focuses specifically on HDD 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.
For comprehensive HDD performance testing results, we recommend Storage
, who have established a long reputation as the specialist in
this field.

Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:

  1. Airborne acoustics
  2. 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.

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.

The date code indicates our sample was manufactuered approximately
5 months ago.

Ambient conditions at time of testing were 11 dBA and 20°C.


Mfg date
firmware version
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics

Seagate Pipeline
HD Pro 1TB

September 2008
firmware SC15
7.1 W
10.1 W
WD Caviar SE16 640GB
February 2008
firmware 01.03B01
6.8 W
Seek (AAM)
8.1 W
Seek (Normal)
9.3 W
Samsung F1 750GB

February 2008
firmware 1AA01109
6.9 W
Seek (AAM)
8.9 W
Seek (Normal)
10.2 W
Seagate 7200.11 1.5TB

October 2008
firmware SD17
8.8 W
10.7 W
Seagate 7200.11 1TB

July 2008
firmware SD1A
7.7 W
11.5 W
WD Caviar SE16 500GB WD5000KS
March 2006
firmware 07.02E07
8.5 W
Seek (AAM)
8.6 W
Seek (Normal)
10.7 W
WD Caviar Black 1TB

July 2008
firmware 05.00K05
8.5 W
Seek (AAM)
10.9 W
Seek (Normal)
11.0 W
WD Raptor 150GB

March 2006
firmware 20.07P20
8.2 W
Seek (AAM)
12.2 W
Seek (Normal)
12.2 W
* These drives are references in the sense of previously
tested and known entitities to which newly tested products can be compared
and contrasted against.

Acoustically, our Seagate Pipeline HD Pro sample was a significantly quieter
than both our 4-platter 7200.11 1TB and 1.5TB units. We measured a 2-3 dBA@1m
improvement at idle, and 3 dBA@1m during seek. The overall sound was broadband,
except for a 120Hz fundamental tone of its motor spinning at 7200 RPM. The noise
character was similar to previous the 7200.11 Seagates, but noticeably softer
with less humming when placed on a soft surface. It was the quietest 7200 RPM
desktop drive we’ve ever tested in our anechoic chamber.

Despite the excellent overall noise level, the vibrations it generated were
quite strong, on par with the 1.5TB
Seagate 7200.11
and Western Digital
Caviar Black 1TB
model. Seagate is pushing the Pipelines as the ideal choice
for DVRs, and such devices would benefit from the drive’s low motor and seek
noise. However, the vibrations produced by a Pipeline HD Pro hard-mounted in
a DVR-type device or a PC would be very noticeable if the rest of the components
were adequately quiet. Once again, soft-mounting is highly recommended.

Power consumption was excellent — just above 7W idle and 10W during seek.
It is a fair improvement over 4-platter drives like the Seagate 7200.11’s, and
performance-oriented drives like the WD Black.

Seagate Pipeline HD Pro vs. Western Digital Caviar
Green Power
Mfg date
firmware version
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics

Seagate Pipeline
HD Pro 1TB

September 2008
firmware SC15
7.1 W
10.1 W
December 2007
firmware 01.01B01
Idle (heads unloaded)
5.7 W
Seek (AAM)
6.7 W
Seek (Normal)
7.5 W

Subjectively, the overall noise level of the Pipeline HD Pro was very close
to that of Western Digital’s
1TB Green Power
. We never had the opportunity to measure a GP in our anechoic
chamber, but our vibration and power consumption figures are still valid. The
Pipeline was very quiet, but as a 7200 RPM drive, it simply could not compete
with a GP running at 5400 RPM when it came to vibration and power efficiency.


The Pipeline HD Pro posted an impressive average read speed of 101.8 MB/s,
beating our 1TB 7200.11 sample by 14MB/s. On the down-side, CPU utilization
was unusually high at 10% and random access time was very poor at 17 ms.

We are used to seeing high random access times on drives that have AAM (Automatic
Acoustic Management) enabled to reduce seek noise. Seagates do not support AAM,
but it’s fairly clear that they’ve done the equivalent of setting AAM to the
quietest setting. As the drive is geared toward serving media, it is logical
to sacrifice some speed for quieter operation.

Pipeline HD Pro HD Tach results. 

1.0TB 7200.11
Tach results.



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 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 Pipeline HD Pro ST31000533CSIdle: 15 / Seek: 16


  • Western Digital Caviar Blue WD6400AAKSIdle: 16 / Seek
    (AAM): 16~17
    / Seek (Normal): 18~19 dBA@1mOne
  • Samsung F1 3D HD753LJIdle: 16 / Seek (AAM): 18~19
    / Seek (Normal): 20~21 dBA@1mOne
  • Seagate 7200.11 ST31500341ASIdle: 17 / Seek: 19
  • Seagate 7200.11 ST31000340ASIdle: 18 / Seek: 19 dBA@1m
  • Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000KSIdle: 19 / Seek (AAM):
    / Seek (Normal): 22 dBA@1mOne
  • Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALSIdle: 21 / Seek
    (AAM): 21
    / Seek (Normal): 25 dBA@1mOne
  • Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFDIdle: 16 / Seek
    (AAM): 26~27
    / Seek (Normal): 26~27 dBA@1mOne


If our 1TB sample was any indication, Seagates entire Pipeline
series would be a fine fit for any system where quiet operation is valued. It
was significantly quieter than Seagate’s other high capacity drives, both idle
and during seek. It is unfortunate we no longer have a Western Digital Green
Power sample to compare it to in our anechoic chamber — we expect the results
would have been close. It should be noted that the overall noise the drive generates
alone does not reflect how quiet it will be in a typical PC with a hard-mounting
system. Our sample had a high level of vibration — this is one area where
the Pipeline HD Pro cannot compete against the Green Power. A good suspension
system would level the playing field in this regard.

The drive’s read speeds were excellent, but random access time
was very poor at 17 ms. This is one of the reasons for its low noise level,
especially during seek. For media-type applications, it does not need to be
blazing fast so Seagate decided to trade away some performance for quieter operation.
The Pipeline HD Pro, being a 3-platter drive, was also fairly power efficient,
at least for a 7200 RPM model.

Seagate claims it would make a better media drive, but assessing
whether that is true leads us into a grey area. The specification sheet does
list an unusually high maximum operating temperature of 75°C which would
be beneficial in a cramped DVR or HTPC that lacks airflow and is left running 24/7. The drive also “supports
up to 12 simultaneous high-definition or standard-definition video streams”
though we have no reason to believe a regular hard drive wouldn’t be just as
capable. You could say Seagate has not wholly sold us on the idea of a “HTPC-optimized” drive. You may wish to give them the benefit of the doubt, however, and make the Pipelines your preferred drives for HTPC applications.

As a consumer drive, the Pipeline HD Pro is in an awkward position.
For high performance, the Western Digital Black is
a better option, as is the Green
for quiet efficient operation. If you require high capacity, there’s
Seagate’s 7200.11 1.5TB
drive. All three of these models are less expensive and more widely available
than the Pipeline HD Pro. The drive does not excel enough in any one area to
distinguish itself enough from the rest of the pack. Combined with the high
sticker-price, it’s a tough sell for the average end-user. Still, for some, the Pipeline’s high temperature tolerance and long continuous use design may make it worthwhile.

Many thanks Seagate
for the review sample.

* * *

Feb 19, 2009 by Mike Chin
The single most salient property which drew my attention to the Pipeline series some months ago was a news leak about a new line of drives from Seagate sporting the unheard-of spindle speed of 5900 RPM. When I first inquired about this product, my primary contact at Seagate was annoyed that he hadn’t heard of it yet.

The Pipeline models are divided into two series: The Pro consists of just one model, the terabyte capacity reviewed here, and it has a spindle speed of 7200. The standard Pipeline series is composed of three models, at 500, 320 and 160 GB capacities. These run at 5900 RPM.

You won’t find mention of the 5900 RPM spindle speed in the Pipeline datasheet, however. Like Western Digital with their Green Power series, Seagate seems reluctant to admit that these drives run at slower than the standard 7200 RPM speed. An earlier version of the datasheet did contain this data, but now, it is only found in a Seagate white paper entitled Energy Efficient Electronics Gain Momentum in the Home (pdf). The paper cites reduced “friction-induced heat” and reduced power — “as little as 4.7 watts of electricity” — as key benefits of the slower spindle speed.

The following summary of Pipeline HDD power and acoustics characteristics shows a marked difference between the 7200 RPM terabyte model and the others.

1000 GB
500 GB
320/160 GB
Consumer Storage Profile (W)
Idle Average (W)
Acoustics (typical/max, bels)

The data in the above table will probably make you feel disappointed that Seagate did not send us any of the 5900 RPM drive samples. The 320 GB model would certain vie for top spot among quiet HDDs, and the spindle speed would probably give it a performance edge over 5400 RPM drives from WD and Samsung. I will point out this PS to Seagate to persuade them to send over some lower capacity Pipeline samples in the future.


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

SPCR’s Recommended Hard Drives
Seagate 7200.11 1.5TB: The
Perfect Balance?

WD and Seagate take steps to fix
terabyte drives

Black: WD’s Performance 1TB HDD

SE16 Caviar 640GB is now Blue

WD VelociRaptor: A Triple Crown
Samsung F1 750GB & 1TB Drives: Fast… and

Terabyte Round II: Seagate Barracuda

* * *

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