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Seagate Barracuda 400GB 7200.8 Seagate Barracuda 400GB 7200.8: Games, applications, and media files are using up more space than ever. We look at Seagate's answer to that problem.
Date: May 19, 2005
Manufacturer:
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Today we'll be checking out Seagate's newest monster, the Barracuda 400GB 7200.8. As the name implies, the drive sports a massive 400GB capacity and if that sounds like overkill, think about it for a second. The average Windows XP install, with Service Pack 2, as well as a typical installation of Office 2003 and some productivity apps will use anywhere from six to ten Gigabytes. Add ten modern games with multiple installation discs, and you'll eat up at least 50GB more.

It doesn't stop there though, as the majority of us probably download various media files, such as MP3s and pr0n... entertainment. Let's just assume 10GB per month, with no backups (tsk, tsk). What this means is a 200GB hard drive you've purchased in January will be overloaded by the time the holidays roll around at the end of the year. That's a lot of adult entertainment. :P

While having a massive hard drive doesn't eliminate the need for backups, it does give people more headroom for storage (along with making many of us lazy about backups, but that's a subject for another day). Apps and games are getting more bloated so the drive you have now may be fine for your purposes, but you may hit a roadblock before you know it.

Storage isn't everything though, especially for those who require speed. One of the problems with large capacity drives is higher seek times as the heads need to travel across the discs. How much longer will depend on the number of platters and the density, but it's basic physics as the common hard drive is still a mechanical device. We'll look into this later on as we examine the Barracuda 7200.8's features and performance.

The Seagate Barracuda 400GB 7200.8

Despite the large capacity, the Barracuda 7200.8 is what we would label as a "standard" sized hard drive, so it should fit just fine in the majority of 3.5" internal drive bays. Below is a quick cheat sheet comparing the 7200.8 to the 7200.7 which we looked at last year:

7200.8
7200.7
Speed (RPM)
7200
7200
Cache (MB)
8
8
Max Transfer Rate (MB/Sec)
150
150
Ave. Sustained Transfer Rate (MB/Sec)
65
58
Ave. Seek Time (ms)
8
8.5
Platter Size (GB)
133
80

There are a few differences between the two, but the main improvement is the increase in platter size from 80GB to 133GB, hence the greater capacity options. The extra capacity enables the Barracuda 7200.8 to lower the seek times and increase the transfer rate as the drive head travels a much shorter distance on the new drive.

The Barracuda 7200.8 is a native SATA product and supports speeds of SATA 1.5Gb/s. Unlike some of the first batches of SATA drives, a native drive will bypass the legacy Task File reads and writes, as well as avoiding the limitation of 133 Mbytes/sec for Ultra DMA Mode 6 transfers. While the 7200.8 has some features of the Serial ATA II specification, the drive does not support SATA 3Gb/s transfer speeds. There tends to be some confusion that Serial ATA II = SATA 3Gb/s, but that is not necessarily true.

As with the Barracuda 7200.7, the Barracuda 7200.8 fully supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ). Introduced with the Serial ATA II spec, this is a feature that can only be found in native SATA hard drives. Unlike LCQ, NCQ works by allowing a drive to process multiple commands at the same time. These commands can be rescheduled or reordered on a whim, and can also issue new requests while the drive is retrieving data from the previous request. While NCQ support is present on the drive, the controller used will also need to support NCQ in order to take advantage of it. Don't worry though, as the drive will work fine without an NCQ controller.

Other features of note is their SoftSonic motor, which reduces some of the "whine" typical in high speed drives, as well as a 5-year warranty which is the best in the hard drive business.

Test Setup

NVIDIA nForce 4 SLI: Intel 3.73GHz Extreme Edition, 2 x 512MB Corsair TWIN2X PC5400, 2 x NVIDIA 6800GT, Windows XP SP1.

Going up against the Barracuda 7200.8 will be the following drives; Western Digital Raptor 74GB 10k, Western Digital Raptor 36GB 10k, and Seagate's Barracuda 7200.7. We'll be testing single drive performance for all the hard drives, as well as RAID-0 for all except the Western Digital Raptor 74GB as we were not able to secure a second drive for testing.

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.

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.

SYSMark 2004 Office - A scripted benchmark using real-world applications. For these tests, higher numbers are better.

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.

File copies to internal IDE drive - We did a couple real-world tests, copying the contents of our UT2004 folder (~4GB) located on the test drives to an IDE Western Digital SE. Two tests were done where in one it's a straight copy from drive to drive, and the second test where we run a virus scan on the test drive while copying to simulate a load on it.

Business Winstone IPEAK

Compared to the previous Barracuda and the Raptor drives, the Barracuda 7200.8 does quite well here. In a single drive environment, the 7200.8 almost matches the 74GB Raptor, though still trails by a small margin. In a RAID0 configuration, the 7200.8 finishes on top.

Content Creation IPEAK

Much as we saw with the Business IPEAK, the Barracuda 7200.8 has another strong showing here. The results are similar, with RAID0 providing the best numbers here.

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