MetkuMods
Author: Antti Valkeinen
Published: 24.08.2003
Manufacturer: Seagate
Product group: Hard drives

Seagate Barracuda 7200.7


Seagate Barracuda 7200.7

Hard drive is one the slowest parts of modern computer. It is not a surprise that when memory speed is counted on gigabytes per second and video & audio is handled at real time, hard disk performance is crucial. Even today’s fastest network solutions are faster than any hard drive. It is surprise how little hard disk performance has been growing on last few years, although hard disk capacity has been increasing at very rapid speed. On last autumn Serial ATA was introduced and today it is replacing old and slow Parallel ATA. Little by little Serial ATA controllers has been found their ways to new motherboards and I suppose it is good time to check how Serial ATA is working and how well these new Serial ATA hard drives perform.

SATA vs. PATA:

Biggest difference between Serial ATA and Parallel ATA is that data transmission is now serial instead of parallel. Parallel interface was originally used because of its speed compared to serial interface. However signal handling has improved a lot since Parallel ATA was introduced and now it is very well possible to use serial interface at these speeds. Benefit of using serial interface is lower pin count and easier installing.


Serial ATA

It is possible to use only one device per SATA channel so Parallel ATAs unpleasant master/slave settings are no longer problem. Almost everyone remember how difficult it is sometimes to set hard disk jumpers to their right positions so that all devices work as they should, with Serial ATA all jumper problems are gone. One device per channel sounds odd at first but when you think it in detail there is only very few drawbacks. Two Serial ATA cables are still easier than one Parallel ATA cable and if you are concerned about speed, don’t be.

So SATA is easier to use and prettier than PATA but how is the speed? Current SATA 1.0 standards maximum transfer rate is 1.5Gb/sec (187MB/sec), which is about a 55MB/sec more than in fastest PATA solution UDMA 133. So speed hasn’t increased enormously but it should be remembered that PCI bus is limited to 133MB/sec and majority of SATA controllers still use that instead of faster busses which are very few. Next version of SATA standard is currently in development and it should be twice as fast as SATA 1.0 and released in 2004. At the latest that time we should be able to leave PCI bus in peace and move to the better and faster connections.

Seagate Barracuda 7200.7:


Seagate Barracuda 7200.7

New Barracuda is fine looking drive. Mirror finished cover plate gives interesting first impression. Seagate has been covering their most IDE hard drives long time and they actually call it “SeaShield” but there is no cover protecting Barracuda 7200.7’s electronics. For some reason Seagate has decided to leave PCB clearly visible like other manufacturers does. Biggest reason for such action is probably heat that could damage covered components. Normal user could notice 8MB 6ns buffer which is manufactured by Samsung.

Biggest difference between PATA and SATA drives are the connectors. Power and data connectors are located at the back panel as usual but they look very different than we are used to. I have no idea why SATA drives uses this type of connectors, but at least they seem to work well.


PCB

SATA power connector differs from regular Molex quite a few ways. First of all it has been designed different objectives in mind than normal Molex and as a result there is several differences: New power connector provides 3.3V, 5V and 12V lines each in three pins. In addition to that there is six ground pins and one of them is reserved for future use. Secondly SATA drives are hotpluggable, which in practice means that contacting surface of pins, are not at the same level. Ground and precharge voltage pins are connected first and after that come remaining voltage pins. Total number of the pins is 15.


Connectors

Data connector differs from old connector even more than power connector from each other. New connector has only three ground pins instead of over 40. Data transfer is now handled on two signal pairs same way as in normal RJ-45 network. Ground pins are also same way located nearer edge as in power connector. Total count of pins is seven, which is actually less than on, power adapter. SATA cable could be one meter long, which is almost twice as much as maximum length of UDMA 133 cable.


SATA power adapter

New connectors are easier to install and use than PATA connectors and they are definitely step ahead. Problem is that most power supply units don’t have SATA power connectors at all and SATA power adapters are needed. There is however one drawback because with adapter there is no 3.3V supply at all, luckily I haven’t encountered any drive which need that. One might suspect that that new connector could get loose too easily. You don’t need to worry because all connector are so stiff that only direct pull can remove them.


Connectors in use

Technical information:

Capacity:160GB
Interface:Serial ATA

Performance:

Internal Transfer Rate:683 Mb/s
Max. External Transfer Rate:100 MB/s
Avg. Sustained Transfer Rate:>58 MB/s
Average Seek:8.5 ms
Average Latency:4.16 ms
Cache:8196 kb
Spindle Speed:7200 RPM

Configuration/Reliability:

Discs/Heads:2/4
S.M.A.R.T:on
Limited Warranty:1 year

Power Requirements:

+12 VDC +/-10% (amps):2.8 A
Power Management:
Seek:12.5 W
Read/Write:12 W
Idle:7.5 W

Environmental:

Operating Temperature:0-60°C
Nonoperating Temperature:-40-70°C
Operating Shock:63 Gs
Non Operating Shock:350 Gs
Acoustics,Idle:2.5 Bel

PATA version of this hard drive is identical except of interface. Seagate informs that maximum external transfer rate is only 100MB/s (0.8Gb/s) that are about a half of maximum transfer rate of SATA interface. This clearly indicates that for the time being SATA standard is quite sufficient and when hard drives achieve 1.5GB/s limit there is already SATA II ready for them. As one can easily conclude Barracuda 7200.7 spins about 7200RPM. It is actually a little miracle that although fastest SCSI drives spindle speed is 15000RPM; SATA drives are still just striving to 10000RPM. Trend seems to be manufacturing denser data disk and increase read and write speed that way. That unfortunately doesn’t speed up seek time at all and Barracuda 7200.7’s seek time is still normal 8.5ms.

Power consumption is one thing that has been going down for sometime now and that is generally good thing; Seagate Barracuda consumes only 12W at full load. Hard drives are ought to be reliable devices because they actually store all that data that you use but Seagate among many other manufacturers have been cut warranty time to 1 year. This warranty policy gives a picture of unreliable product.

Using experiences:

Installing SATA drives to ready system is easy. Just plug cables and drive is recognized and ready to use. Installing fresh OS is however a little more difficult task. Most SATA controllers need driver to work and depending you OS some preparations have to be made. Good thing was also that every SATA controller which I tested seemed to recognize Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 and even get it to work almost flawlessly.

First thing that I paid attention was very silent operating noise. Difference compared to other 7200RPM drives is very large. Other thing that surprised me was heat; drive was so hot that touching it was very painful. I measured surface temperature and it was above 50C even thought my thermometer contact to drive wasn’t nowhere near perfect.

Tests:

Hardware:
ProcessorIntel Pentium 4 2.40GHz 800MHz HT
MemoryKingston HyperX PC3000 2x256MB
MotherboardEpox 4PDA2+ & Albatron PX865ProII
SATA-controllersIntel ICH5R & Silicon Image 3112A

I drove tests using two different SATA controllers: Silicon Image 3112A and Intel ICH5R chipsets integrated SATA RAID controller. Reason to this was clarify if used controller make any performance and compatibility difference. Seagate delivered two drives so I drove RAID test too. Benchmark programs were this time HDTach 2.61, SiSoft Sandra MAX3 and Futuremark’s PCMark2002. I also included many quite new and widely used SATA and PATA drives to comparison charts.

I drove tests on my 2.4GHz P4 system using integrated ICH5R SATA controller, except Hitachi 180GXP 120 GB and Samsung Spinpoint V40 60 GB drives which was tested on AMD system.


HDTach 2.61

Barracuda 7200.7 shows very promising result on this test. Although average read speed is little lower than on Western Digital, write speed is clearly superior. Access time and CPU utilization were also best on this test. According to HDTach average access time was 12.5ms that is 0.1ms better than datasheets tell us (8.5ms + 4.16ms = 12.66ms).

Compared to PATA drives it is easy to notice that Hitachi 180GXP is almost as fast as Barracuda even though it uses older interface. Write test were not driven in all drives because that test could be only driven in unpartitioned disk and this time it was not possible to do that. One can notice that few drives have unusual high CPU utilization, but this is most likely bug which occurred in AMD system.


SiSoft Sandra MAX3

On SiSoft Sandra MAX3 three drives shows better result than rest of the pack, both SATA drives and Hitachi 180GXP. Overall result indicates that Seagate is fastest. Write test shows different results compared to HDTach 2.61, even though Seagate get almost same result other drives get much better. This indicates possibly problem on HDTach 2.61 or test methods cause problems to most of drives.

Slowest 5400RPM drives and Seagate Barracuda 7200.7’s speed difference is very impressive: 200-300%. This something that is easy to notice on every day use.


PCMark2002

Seagate takes lead again on PCMark 2002’s HDD test and Hitachi and Western Digital follow very closely. Seagate gets superior result on read test although write test result almost same as on Hitachi and Western Digital. Cached tests indicate lower performance than uncached tests, which is very odd. There could be problem on test software itself or somewhere else, in any case cached results are not trustworthy.

It is clear that Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 is one of the fastest SATA hard drives and fastest hard drive of this test group. Difference between slowest and fastest hard drive is very large and performance wise Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 is best choice if you are thinking of buying new hard drive.

RAID 0 -tests:

RAID tests are driven on Silicon Image 3112A as well as on ICH5R RAID controller. On the charts there is results of one drive and RAID 0 results with both controllers. RAID 0 strip size was 16kb.


HDTach 2.61

Results are quite interesting. Read test is not working or there is some big compatibility and performance problems. I tested Western Digital Caviar drives on same setup and they seemed to work normally so this is likely Seagate’s problem. ICH5R was however little better than Silicon Image. CPU utilization increased greatly compared to single drive setup, which was anticipatable.


SiSoft Sandra MAX3

SiSoft Sandra MAX3 surprisingly didn’t indicated any performance and compatibility problems at all. Both read and write test run just fine and results are very good. Silicon image was again little slower than ICH5R. Silicon image uses PCI bus and ICH5R don’t use it at all so that is obvious reason to performance difference.


PCMark2002

Pcmark 2002 results seemed to be at the level where they should be. ICH5R is fastest.

SATA RAID seems to have a few little problems. Result between controllers and programs varied a lot and I even found few drives which didn’t work at all on all controllers. Barracuda 7200.7 however at least worked on every controller. Unfortunately it looks like all drive and controller combos won’t work very well. There might be compatibility problems; performance problems or everything could work flawlessly. I also found during test that SATA controller BIOS version could make very big difference as I had to change whole motherboard during tests to get newer ICH5R BIOS which solved compatibility problem with Western Digital.

 

Conclusion

Seagate Barracuda 7200.7

 
+ Performance
+ Silent
+ Cheap

- RAID problems
- Heat

Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 is a stunning product. Although biggest available storage capacity is only 160GB when some other manufacturers have 250GB drives, performance and silent operation noise raise this new Seagate absolutely one of the best SATA drives available. Especially to basic use and -machine this fast, silent and rather cheap SATA drive is excellent choice.

Only problems that I encountered were quite big heat production and a little objectionable compatibility with different RAID controllers. I can’t recommend Seagate for RAID 0 use but with any luck they will work very well and give a noticeable performance boost.

Questions or comments? Visit MetkuMods forum.

 

Additional information

Seagate

 
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