Seagate ST3160023AS Barracuda 7200.7
The Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 actually comes in several favors, but the NCQ enabled model marked ST3160023AS, with 160GB of storage capacity is the one we'll be investigating today.
The Barracuda 7200.7 is a native 3.5" SATA drive, and not a bridged solution. It accepts standard SATA power and data connections, so you won't find any 4-pin molex connections here. As the name implies, it spins at 7200rpm, armed with 8MB of cache and access times are rated at 8.5ms.
Through testing, the drive ran very quiet, and would be a suitable choice if you're putting together a silent power system. Note that slower drives would be quieter, but we're not believers you should sacrifice too much speed for noise. Seagate also offers their 3D Defense System which is comprised of their Drive Defense, Data Defense and Diagnostic Defense. Full details , but in a nutshell, the 3D Defense System is Seagate's solution in protecting your data.
In order for NCQ to actually work, there are a couple steps you'll need to do. In terms of Intel boards, NCQ is enabled by either setting the SATA controller to AHCI or RAID (if you have two NCQ drives). The problem here is that if you installed Windows prior to this, you will need to reinstall it. That, or if your board has another controller, you can enable it, install those drivers, and move the drives there and repeat the process for the ICH6R. If you do this from scratch, you'll need to press F6 during Windows installation or slipstream it ahead of time into your install CD. Once Windows recognizes the drive(s), install the and you're good to go.
ASUS P5AD2 Premium: Intel P4 560, 2 x 512MB Corsair TWINX PC5400 Pro, ASUS AX800XT, Windows XP SP1, ATI Catalyst 4.9, Intel Application Accelerator 4.0.
Our comparison drives will be a couple 36GB Raptor drives from Western Digital, and the Seagate Barracuda SATA V which has been a mainstay for all our motherboard SATA tests. While we should point out that all the tests were done with NCQ enabled for the Barracuda 7200.7, turning NCQ off resulted in a performance penalty, but not as much as we would expect as we'll explain at the end of the review. Performance was slightly below the Raptor with NCQ off, and slightly ahead of the Barracuda V.
For RAID testing, the drives were configured to RAID-0, with 16kb stripe sizes. There was almost no difference in our tests moving up to 32kb or 64kb, but that will have to be something you'll need to experiment with depending on the type of data you crunch.
Be it RAID or as a standalone, all tests were run five times with the average scores displayed in the review. During testing, all drives were configured as one root partition, and defragged between tests.
Testing software will consist of the following:
IPEAK Storage Performance Toolkit w/Business Winstone & Content Creation - Using Intel's utility, we recorded all the IO operations needed in a typical run of Winstone 2004. We then played it back through IPEAK, averaging the scores of all the drives. This test is purely synthetic, but it will give us an idea of the drive's performance.
Business & Content Creation Winstone 2004 - A standard benchmark here at VL, we test if there is any improvement with the different drives during a Winstone 2004 batch process. Although this is a scripted batch run, the results are close to real-world.
SYSMark 2004 Office - Another scripted benchmark using real-world applications. Like the previous tests, higher numbers are better.
Multitasking with Business Winstone 2004 - Using a multitasking test included with the Winstone suite, which runs the test in the background while performing other tasks.
Game level load tests w/Doom 3, Far Cry, Unreal Tournament 2004 - We'll be timing the load times of three games currently on the market. These results are real-world, and lower times are better.
Doom 3 Performance Test - Does a faster drive mean faster framerates? We'll soon see.
Business Winstone IPEAK
Out of the gate, the Barracuda 7200.7 came ready for a fight. The drive outperformed the Raptor as a standalone and in RAID-0, and left the Barracuda V a fair way behind. With NCQ disabled, the Barracuda 7200.7 RAID-0 numbers fell to 723. Standalone speeds dropped to 702.
Content Creation IPEAK
Much as we saw with the Business IPEAK, the Barracuda 7200.7 has another strong showing here. With NCQ disabled, RAID-0 dropped to 576, while standalone speeds fell to 416.