Roundup: twelve 1 TB hard drives! - BeHardware
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Written by Marc Prieur

Published on August 20, 2010


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The test

After publishing our report on 2 TB drives, we’re throwing ourselves back into the breach with a selection of 1 TB drives! More common, these drives have been on the market since 2007, the first manufacturer to sell a drive at this capacity being Hitachi with the 7K1000. At the time the 7K1000 1 TB used no less than five 200 GB platters. Things have changed somewhat since then and the 1 TB drives in 2010 have three 333 GB or even two 500 GB platters.

The test
Here’s the list of drives tested:

- Samsung EcoGreen F3 (HD105SI)
- Samsung SpinPoint F3 (HD103SJ)
- Hitachi 7K1000.C (HDS721010CLA33)
- Seagate Barracuda LP (ST31000520AS)
- Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 (ST31000528A)
- Western Caviar Green (WD10EAVS)
- Western Caviar Green (WD10EADS)
- Western Caviar Green (WD10EARS, version 00Y5B1, made 12/2009)
- Western Caviar Green (WD10EARS, version 22Y5B1, made 05/2010)
- Western Caviar Blue (WD10EALS)
- Western Caviar Black (WD1001FALS)
- Western Caviar Black (WD1002FAEX)

Several of these drives have a 7200 rpm rotation speed: the SpinPoint F3, the 7K1000.C, the 7200.12 and both Caviar Blacks. The other models are 5400 rpm, or even 5900 rpm for the Seagate Barracuda LP. The Samsung, Hitachi and Seagate drives use 500 GB platters.

Note there are no fewer than seven Western Digital drives out of the 12 tested! Plus, we weren’t able to get our hands on the WD10EACS! A range that could do with some simplification perhaps.

No fewer than 4 drives in the Green range have beeen tested, with the official differences being in terms of cache and the use of 4 KB sectors. The WD10EAVS, WD10EADS and WD10EARS have 8, 32 and 64 MB of cache respectively, the WD10EARS being alone in using 4 KB sectors (see detailed explanation). Western has developed the bad habit of not making it easy to clearly distinguish between drives in terms of the number of platters used and here we had a nasty surprise when we discovered that though the WD10EAVS and WD10EARS use 500 GB platters, the WD10EADS tested uses 333 GB platters – this in spite of the fact that the WD20EADS has 500 GB platters… simple isn’t it?

During our test of 2 TB drives, we noticed that the WD20EARS four platter version performed very poorly on writes of small files while the more recent three platter version wasn’t as badly affected. This is why we tested a relatively old WD10EARS, made in December 2009, and another relatively recent one, made in May 2010. Both drives have 500 GB platters and the same 80.00A80 firmware, but as you’ll see later, their performance levels differ greatly.

Next come three 7200 rpm drives from Western, with first of all the WD10EALS and its 32 MB of cache. The Caviar Black range differs from this Caviar Blue with the use of a more powerful dual-core controller, with 32 MB of cache for the WD1001FALS and 64 MB of cache for the WD1002FAEX which also supports SATA 6 Gbits. Although the WD10EALS and the WD1002FAEX tested had two 500 GB platters, 333 GB platters are used for the WD1001FALS in spite of a recent manufacture date (May 2010).

The test protocol is the the same as the one used for the 2TB hard drive test. You can consult it here.

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Sequential throughput

Sequential throughput
We began with sequential throughput, measured using h2bench.

The 7200 rpm drives dominate the competition, with the best results going to the Samsung SpinPoint F3. A notch down are drives such as the WD1002FAEX, the WD10EALS and the 7K1000.C. In spite of its 7200 rpm rotation, the WD1001FALS struggles with its 333 GB platters and the Barracuda LP 5900 rpm just about edges in front of it.

The EcoGreen F3 is just behind, which confirms Samsung’s ability to conserve throughput at equal density. The 5400 rpm Westerns are under 80 MB/s on average, the WD10EADS bringing up the rear with its 333 GB platters with just 58.9 MB/s!

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Access times

Access times
We measured average access time with IOMeter, using random 4 KB accesses. So as to view the potential gains linked to NCQ, these accesses were carried out with 1, 2, 4 and 8 simultaneous commands.

In contrast to the 2 TB models, the 1 TB drives have pretty good access times. At worst we were at 15.5ms on the EcoGreen F3, against 15.1 ms on the Barracuda LP and 14.5 to 14.7ms on the Caviar Greens. With 12ms the Caviar Black WD1001FALS had the best score, closely followed by the WD1002FAEX at 12.4ms. The Barracuda 7200.12 is the slowest of the 7200 rpm drives with an access time of 13.8ms.

NCQ does a good job with reads but we noted that the Samsung drives didn’t optimise accesses with two simultaneous commands, in contrast to the competition. To put this in context, with 8 commands a very good SSD such as the Crucial C300 128 GB is around 280 times faster!

We carried out the same test for writes. The scores we got were much better for hard drives because of the fact that they have a write cache, which however renders NCQ useless. The Caviar Blacks are at the head of the field, followed by the 7K1000.C. The Seagate drives lag here with the 7200.12 behind the LP!

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File copying

File copying
This brings us to file copying. We measured read and writes speeds when copying various groups of files via Robocopy. These groups were composed of:

- A collection of large files: average of 6.8 GB
- Medium-sized files: average of 796 KB
- Small files: average of 44 KB

The source or the target when reading or writing to the drive is a RAID of six 150 GB VelociRaptor drives mounted on an ARECA ARC1280ML PCI-Express x8 card with a strip size of 8 KB. The files were read and written on a partition beginning halfway into the drive.

When it comes to reads it’s no surprise to see that the SpinPoint F3 is fastest with large and medium-sized files and is only beaten by the 7200.12 for small files. For large files it is followed by the 7K1000.C and then by a threesome made up of the 7200.12/ Caviar Blue / WD1002FAEX. Because of its 333 GB platters, the WD1001FALS is a good way behind these drives and only a little ahead of the EcoGreen F3. The Caviar Greens are the slowest of the 5400 rpm drives, with special mention for the WD10EADS which is scraping the barrel with its lower density.

For writes, the Samsung SpinPoint F3 outdoes the competition, whatever the size of files. Samsung’s efficiency means the EcoGreen F3 comes in second on small and medium-sized files, only beaten by the Caviar Blue and Black WD1002FAEX on large files.

The Western Digital Advanced Format 512e models, the WD10EARS, show their limitations here. Our drive that was made in December 2009 gives catastrophic performance levels in writes of small files and quite poor throughput for medium-sized files. The drive made in May, which nevertheless uses the same firmware and equivalent density platters, gives better performance, as we saw in our tests of the 2 TB drives with the more recent three platter model. It’s difficult to say exactly what the source of the problem is, though it has obviously been partially corrected.

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Practical tests

Practical tests
After raw performance levels and file copying, we now move on to some slightly more meaningful numbers, the practical tests. While for the other tests, the hard drive was set up as a secondary drive, here it becomes the primary drive. After installing Windows 7 64-bit we time various tasks:

- Windows 7 start-up
We measure how long it takes to start up Windows 7, from initialising the load to the appearance of the Windows desktop.

- Windows 7 start-up + various applications:
This is the time required to start up Windows 7, Adobe Photoshop CS 5, Excel 2010, Word 2010, PowerPoint 2010 and Outlook 2010.

- Launch of a Crysis level:
We measure how long it takes to launch Crysis and a game level launched straight from a command line.

- Installation of Photoshop CS5:
This is the time required to install Photoshop CS5 from the Adobe site download archive to the hard drive. Installation is broken down into two stages, the extraction of files from the archive, then the actual installation.

- Installation of Office 2010:
Here we measure the time required to install Office 2010 from an image on the hard drive.

For information, we have also included the results obtained for a VelociRaptor 150 GB (HDD 10K rpm) and Crucial C300 128 GB (SSD) so as to give a basis for comparison with other storage device ranges.

Even if we aren’t on a par with SSDs here, performances obtained by the 7200 rpm models are almost all very good, with the exception of the SpinPoint F3, and manage to carry out Windows 7 start-up faster than the VelociRaptor 150 GB. The WD Caviar Black and Blue are fastest here. For start-up of Crysis, the different 7200 rpms are all very close to one another with scores of 57 to 58 seconds, except the 7K1000.C which takes 61.5 seconds.

Start-up of Windows with five applications simultaneously shows the 7200.12 and 7K1000.C moving ahead of the Caviar Black and Blue once again: this test only extends the boot by 43 and 44.5 seconds for the 7200.12 and the 7K1000.C respectively, against 52 to 53 seconds for the Caviars. Here the SpinPoint comes back into things as it only takes 53.5 more seconds on this complex start-up than a simple start-up. It is nevertheless far behind the extra 6.1 seconds needed for the Crucial C300! Among the 5400/5900 rpm drives, the Barracuda LP does relatively well, but the others confirm that they aren’t apt for use as system disks when too many demands are put on them.

Here the differences are much smaller. The first stage of installation of Photoshop shows similar results on all the storage devices – extraction from an archive is mainly limited by decompression speed, which depends on CPU and memory. You do however get bigger gains on the second part of the installation process and on the installation of Office 2010. Here, it’s the “old” WD10EARS which is dragging its feet, because of the problems we’ve already pointed out in its processing of small files. The more recent version does better and, though trailing, is less far back.

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Energy consumption, noise, temperature

Energy consumption
Here is the data for energy consumption for each of the drives that we were able to read with a clip-on ammeter, by reading voltages used on the 5V and 12V lines.

In rotation the most economical drive is the 5900 rpm Barracuda LP. It is followed by the WD10EAVS, the EcoGreen F3 and the WD10EADS. The WD10EARS models aren’t very well placed and the 7K1000.C does better. The highest energy consumption models are the Caviar Blacks, first place going to the WD1001FALS.
We then measured the temperature of the drive after 1 hour of intensive use in IOMeter. These measurements were taken with the HDD outside of the casing, with room temperature at 25°C without the fan, each of the drives slightly raised. The temperature was measured in two places using an infrared thermometrer, above the middle of the drive and at the hottest point on the left side. We also read the temperature on the internal drive sensor (SMART).

The drive that stays coolest is the Seagate Barracuda LP, followed by the EcoGreen F3 and – more surprising – by the 7200.12. The WD1001FALS is the hottest drive among those tested, a full 9°C hotter than the Barracuda LP.
To take this we placed each drive so as to avoid all vibrations (seeing as they were placed on the desk). A sonometer was placed 10 cm above the drive so as to measure noise pollution, the PC used being without any fan so as to isolate the sound of the drive.

The Barracuda LP is the quiest 1 TB drive, whether in rotation or during random accesses. The EcoGreen F3 is in second place when in rotation but accesses are noisier than with the Western Digital Caviar Green models. Among the 7200 rpm drives, the 7K1000.C is quietest in rotation with the SpinPoint F3 second and these positions are reversed during accesses. Next comes the 7200.12, followed by the Caviar Blue and finally the two Caviar Blacks, which are very audible in rotation and downright noisy during accesses. Remember, however, that they are also fastest when it comes to random accesses.

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The first thing that comes to mind here is the complexity of the Western Digital range. It includes no fewer than seven 1 TB drives, not counting the enterprise range! This range is all the more complex as Western doesn’t give information on how many platters a drive has, so much so that even though 500 GB platters are now widely accepted as the best solution, you can still find yourself with a three x 333GB platter WD drive, such as with the WD10EADS and WD1001FALS that we’ve tested here. In the EADS range however, the 2 TB version uses 500 GB platters, as does the Caviar Black 2 TB and the Caviar Black 1 TB but in the WD1002FAEX version. Seeing as the range lacks simplicity, a bit more transparency would be a help!

Another problem, which has already come up on the 2 TB drives, is that the EARS series suffers from quite poor write performance when writing small and even medium-sized files. Remember, these drives are the first, among all manufacturers’ products, to adopt the Advanced Format 512e standard and its 4 KB sectors. This transition has clearly not been made without some difficulty. The latest versions of these drives resolve the problem to a great extent, with throughput for small files increasing x5, but it is regrettable that WD went to market with the first versions given their performance and, indeed, we apologise for not testing them earlier in order to alert you to the problem.

Apart from these two complaints, you have to say that the 7200 rpm Western Digital drives are the fastest on the market if you want to use them for your disk system. The Black models don’t give much more than the Blue and we would therefore recommend this drive (the WD10EALS) as it's cheaper and quieter during accesses.

When it comes to pure storage, the drive that stands out is the Samsung SpinPoint F3. However, because of its rotation speed, it won’t be right for you if you’re looking for a very quiet configuration, in which case two other choices should be considered from among the 5400/5900 rpm drives: the EcoGreen F3, which is fastest for file copying, or the Barracuda LP, which is the quietest. It is also the drive with lowest energy consumption and which stays coolest, though only slightly more so than the other models tested. More importantly, in spite of its 5900 rpm rotation, it gives pretty good performance as a system disk and can represent a good choice for use as such.

To finish with, the Western Caviar Green range offers no significant advantage over the competition and the same goes for the Hitachi 7K1000.C. Neither of these are necessarily models we would recommend on the strength of our tests.

Of course it's impossible for us to give our own data on reliability. We do however have access to the stats of a large French etailer. The Hitachi 7K1000.C is the least reliable according to its figures, with a returns rate of 4.89% on drives sold in the first half of the year. It is closely followed by the Barracuda LP with 2.63% and the WD10EADS with 2.43%. Next comes the Seagate 7200.12 at 1.82% returns, and the WD1001FALS and WD1002FAEX (Caviar Black) which are both at 1.09%. The SpinPoint F3 has a returns rate of 0.93%. Next come the Western drives with 0.86% for the WD10EARS and 0.83% for the WD10EALS. Surprise! In the short term at least, a 7200 rpm drive has the lowest returns rate. Note that we don’t have enough data about the WD10EAVS and EcoGreen F3, as they didn’t sell well enough over the period analysed.

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