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500GB HDD Shootout

Date: 2006-11-2

   Time is unstoppable, but lately it has been going on at such a rate that we seem unable to catch up with it. But it's even worse for those who are not trying to. Let's make an attempt t...

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Time is unstoppable, but lately it has been going on at such a rate that we seem unable to catch up with it. But it's even worse for those who are not trying to. Let's make an attempt then? Let's first try to recall what has been going on in the hard disk drive market these days. Quite a lot has happened there indeed.

Upon acquiring Read-Rite, a manufacturer of read-write heads, Western Digital has bucked up and is now approaching the industry leader Seagate in terms of market share. It yet cannot beat Seagate in the average price of sold drives because Western Digital doesn't produce high-profit SCSI drives. However, Western Digital is promoting its very high-performing Raptor drives into the desktop market sector and is quite successfully exploring the notebook drive market with its Scorpio series. Although Western Digital doesn't use perpendicular recording in its hard disk drives, the capacity of the company's senior products has reached an impressive 500GB!

Samsung claimed it would become a leader in HDD sales, but they don't seem to be so confident now. Considering for how long we had to wait for Samsung's 300GB and 400GB drives to appear, the company has decided to take time and become a leader in the new “perpendicular?world instead.

Hitachi happily digested IBM's HDD division and released rather successful models of hard drives, but was somewhat wary, just like Samsung, about increasing the areal density per platter. It is only recently that drives on 125GB platters were announced. Until that, Hitachi had only had to do with 80GB and 100GB platters (we mean platters for “desktop?3.5?drives, of course).

Things of the greatest importance occurred between the two remaining market players, Seagate and Maxtor. In view of the transition to perpendicular recording, Seagate stretched its model range out to the limit. It's financially burdensome to be putting out three generations of hard disk drives (even four generations if you count in the Barracuda 7200.10 series!) at once especially considering the gigantic production volumes and Maxtor's dumping on the OEM market. Seagate solved the problem straightforwardly by just buying the rioter. Luckily, Maxtor's stock had fallen heavily in price after a few unprofitable quarters in a row. With Maxtor acquired, Seagate not only got an opportunity to increase the average price per each sold disk, but also get access to all of Maxtor's innovations (Maxtor's SCSI drives are especially fine!) and to Maxtor's contract for glass platters. Without that contract, Seagate wouldn't have been able to transfer too many disks to perpendicular recording technology. The problem is that glass platters aren't being produced in large quantities as yet because there hasn't been much demand for them. Most companies have been using aluminum substrates.

So, having bought Maxtor, Seagate claimed to have started living in a new, perpendicular world and announced a few products that featured perpendicular recording technology. We've already reported to you about the Momentus 5400.3, and today we’re going to check out Barracuda 7200.10.

As for Maxtor, it remained forever in the parallel world. Even the record-breaking areal density of 160GB per platter achieved on DiamondMax 17 drives couldn't draw the investors back. The dead must be respected, so we’re going to praise Maxtor throughout this article. After all, there are quite a few things it should indeed be praised for.

But the main subject matter of this review is the 750GB model from Seagate's Barracuda 7200.10 series. Its capacity matters as much as never before.

A long time ago we published a review of the Barracuda 180 drive in which we quoted a funny example from Seagate's advertising materials: if printed out, the documents stored on the drive would require a pile of paper comparable in height to a skyscraper. We wonder if any skyscrapers five times that height have been built since then? In magnetic data storage, such progress is a reality as you’ll see right now.

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