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500GB Per Platter: Three Next-Gen 7,200 RPM Hard Drives

500GB Per Platter: Three Next-Gen 7,200 RPM Hard Drives

The hard drive industry’s next major node is the prized 2TB capacity point for 7,200 RPM models. Samsung sent us the first ambassador of such upcoming drives, and WD is already shipping two different 2TB desktop hard drives that deliver optimal performance. We’re still waiting for the Hitachi and Seagate equivalents, but we decided to take these first drives and conduct an initial comparison.

More Speed, More Efficiency

Since most of the industry decided to approach the 2TB capacity point with low-power, high-efficiency hard drives, now is the time for vendors to jump from power savings into raw performance and enjoy minimal competition. All four key players—Hitachi, Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital—still consider this market to be extremely important, despite increasing competition from flash SSDs.

The reason is simple: hard drive capacities will continue to grow at a significant pace. While this is also the case for flash-based SSDs, the cost for hard drives remains comparatively low. Of course, that means top-of-the-line disk products will continue to be in the $150 to $200 price range, while the latest and greatest SSDs still don’t have a chance of coming close to that.

In addition, high capacity hard drives at decent performance levels are increasingly important for servers and data centers. There’s no alternative to the good ol’ hard drive when it comes to storing huge amounts of data at fast speeds. In the end, the difference between a 110 MB/s "green" drive and a 140 MB/s performance hard drive is still significant. WD’s RE4 drive (RAID Edition), which you’ll find on the following pages, is a perfect example. Hitachi will follow with its A7K2000 and Seagate has its Constellation ES.

More Capacity?

You can expect per-platter capacities to soon leap from 500GB to 640GB or 750GB, allowing the drive makers to create 1.5TB and 2.0TB hard drives with fewer platters and higher capacity points for entry-level models. Today, though, drives larger than 2TB would only make sense in business and enterprise environments, where systems can actually handle such large volumes on bootable partitions larger than 2TB. Intel-based Apple Macs, modern RAID controllers, and fast HBAs are capable of working with GPT (GUID Partition Table) instead of the traditional Master Boot Record (MBR) to achieve this. But most PC platforms available today cannot boot from such a large partition because GPT requires EFI, rather than the conventional BIOS. Sadly enough, while most platforms are stuffed with useful and sometimes useless features, most lack the EFI and GPT support needed to take full advantage of future hard drives larger than 2TB.

So the 2TB capacity barrier will remain with us for a while. We’ll now look at the two new drives by WD and Samsung’s first hard drive to utilize 500GB per platter.

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  • 0 Hide
    tinnerdxp , 29 October 2009 17:42
    am I missing something here? Where is Samsung 2TB on the Access Time and IO perf graphs?
  • 0 Hide
    tinnerdxp , 29 October 2009 17:53
    Right... it's the Samsung 500GB not 2TB... my bad... sorry
  • 0 Hide
    unknownsock , 29 October 2009 19:49
    I do partially feel these results are either just a bad sample or their is some bias here.
    I have 2 500gb Samsung F3's, and they performance significantly better than these reults.
  • 0 Hide
    shaman83 , 30 October 2009 13:49
    It would be quite interesting to see the results of 2 of those drives in RAID 0 compared to some SSD's
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 30 October 2009 15:03
    Why did they use the 500gb Samsung F3? Why not the 1tb version? The 500gb model only has 16mb cache compared to the 32mb of the terabyte model. It seems like a very strange oversight.
  • 0 Hide
    Reynod , 1 November 2009 20:58
    The WD drives look very good.

  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 3 November 2009 02:39
    You really need to compare these acoustic readings with a truly quiet drive. All the newer, larger drives seem to be getting louder and if you want peace and quiet its intolerable. Please put up for comparison (for instance) a Deskstar P7K500 which is MUCH quieter than any of these.
  • 0 Hide
    phcahill , 5 November 2009 18:32
    At the other end of the scale. Can anyone recommend a fast, low cost, lowish capacity boot drive? Even with W7/Vista winsxs folder I like to keep my boot/programs partition fairly small.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 9 February 2010 17:59
    Here's an interesting question: Tom's reviewed both the RE4 and the RE4-GP. The difference: the GP version consumes less power. Is there a big difference between the two drives, or is "going green" costing you a tiny performance difference in RAID format? I would LOVE to see a side-by-side of all of the 2TB drives in such a case!