HDD roundup: eight 2 TB hard drives! - BeHardware
>> Hard Disks

Written by Marc Prieur

Published on June 7, 2011

URL: http://www.behardware.com/art/lire/835/

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The hard drives

Since our last hard drive report published in August 2010 and updated earlier this year, several manufacturers have introduced new models to their ranges. Hitachi have brought in the Deskstar 5K3000 and 7K3000 and Seagate's 5900 rpm range (previously Barracuda LPs) are now listed as ĎGreení.

7 models, but 8 disk drives
We tested the following HDDs for this comparative:

From Hitachi, we have the Deskstar 7K3000 (HDS723020BLA642) and the Deskstar 5K3000 (HDS5C3020ALA632). These two drives run at 7200 and 5700 rpm and have 64 and 32 MB of cache. They both have an SATA 6G interface and three platters each with a density of 667 GB.

Samsung have one drive only at this capacity, the EcoGreen F4 (H204UI). With an SATA 3G interface, which isnít problematic given that hard drives are far from saturating it, it has 32 MB of cache and is equipped with three 667 GB platters.

From Seagate, we have the Barracuda XT (ST32000641AS) and Barracuda Green (ST2000DL003). Here both drives have an SATA 6G interface and a 64 MB cache. They run at 7200 and 5900 rpm respectively and while the XT has four 500 GB platters, the Green has three platters at 667 GB.

We also tested three drives from Western Digital. The WD Caviar Black (WD2002FAEX) has an SATA 3G interface and 64 MB of cache. It has four 500 GB platters with a rotation speed of 7200 rpm. There are two versions of the WD Caviar Green WD20EARS: the WD20EARS-00MVWB0 and WD20EARS-00J2GB0, which have three 667 GB and four 500 GB platters respectively.

Though the second of these models is less widely available, it is still found on sale and we decided to test it in view of the fact that Western hasnít bothered to give it a separate reference. These drives have an SATA 3G interface and a 64 MB cache. A new Caviar Green model has also recently appeared, the WD20EARX. According to Westernís website, it only differs by its SATA 6G interface and itís to be hoped that this means it will use three platters.
The test
For this report we used the test protocol we put into place for our 2011 SSD comparative, though with a couple of changes. We used h2bench for sequential speeds however, so as to take our readings according to where the read head is positioned on the drive. In addition we carried out fewer practical tests, limiting ourselves to launching 3D Studio Max, launching a level in Crysis and installing Photoshop CS 5. All the tests were carried out on a P67 with an SATA 6G interface. The drives are however far from saturating this interface and moving over to 3G has virtually no impact on the performance of models that support 6G.

Of course we added specific hard drive tests, namely temperature and noise level measurements. Noise levels were measured with a Cirrus Optimus CR152A Class 2 sonometer, which can measure levels as low as 21 dBA, the lowest level valid in the room used for testing. This is the second time we have used this high-end sonometer, having first used it in our cooler comparative.

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Sequential throughputs

Sequential throughputs
We started the tests with sequential throughputs, measured using h2bench.

[ Reads ]  [ Writes ]

Itís no surprise to see the 7200 rpm drives in the lead here, with the Hitachi 7K3000, the only 7200 rpm model that uses 667 GB platters, at the head of the field. Next comes the Caviar Black, while the Hitachi 5K3000 is on a par with the Barracuda XT (higher density making up for the lower rotation speed).

Next, just behind, come the EcoGreenF4 and the Barracuda Green. The WD Caviar Green is further back at just 89.6 MB/s and the four platter version does even worse at 79.6 MB/s. The write performance breakdown is similar overall to that measured for reads.

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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. We have also given the results in the form of IO/s for those who want to compare HDD performance with SSDs, which are unrivalled in this domain. We have only given access times for reads, as access times for writes are partly masked by the hard drive cache.

[ Milliseconds ]  [ IOs / second ]

Standard access times, obtained with a single command, are quite high on these drives, with the four platter Caviar Green holding an unwanted record of 20.5ms, followed by the 5K3000 at 19.3ms! The Caviar Black does best here. Running at 7200 rpm doesnít necessarily guarantee you better access times than when youíre at 5400 rpm, with the Barracuda XT not doing much better than the Barracuda Green and slower than the EcoGreen F4 and Caviar Green. NCQ does its job in reads and reduces average access time with multiple simultaneous accesses.

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Practical tests: Files

Practical tests: Files
Moving onto the practical tests, we started by looking at write and read speeds for various groups of files. These groups were composed as follows:

- Extra large: 731.17 MB on average
- Large files: 5.2 MB on average
- Medium sized files: 800.88 KB on average
- Small files: 48.78 KB on average

We used a RamDisk as the source or the target for reads or writes on the hard drive. Given the speed of recent hard drives and so as to obtain results that are less subject to variation, we used Robocopy with some in-house software that allows us to carry the tests out continuously. The files were read and written on a partition that begins halfway into the drive.

[ Reads ]  [ Writes ]

In reads, with the exception of small files with which the Barracuda Green dominates, the 7200 rpm drives are fastest. The 7K3000 heads the field, followed by the Caviar Black and the Barracuda XT. The 5x00 rpm drives are however not too far behind, with the exception of the Caviar Green which didnít manage to get over 100 MB/s even in the three platter version, whatever the size of the files.

In writes, note the very weak showing by the four platter Caviar Green and the Barracuda Green with small files. These poor performances are linked to a badly managed Advanced Format 512e. At 7200 rpm, the Hitachi 7K3000 is fastest overall, followed by the Caviar Black, then the Barracuda XT but these two drives also struggle with (very) small files even if they don't drop to 2 MB/s. Among the 5400 rpm drives, the fastest are the Hitachi 5K3000 and the Samsung EcoGreen F4.

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Practical tests: Applications

Practical tests: Applications
Next we carried out the purely practical tests, namely various timed operations after installation of Windows 7 64-bit on each of the HDDs:

- Start-up of 3D Studio Max
- Launch of a Crysis 2 level
- Installation of Photoshop CS 5

Launching 3d Studio Max is a good deal faster on a 7200 rpm drive, though SSDs are faster still (able to take this operation under 20 seconds). The Hitachi 7K3000 is faster than the Caviar Black, but is 0.2 seconds slower when launching a Crysis 2 level. In both cases the Barracuda XT is slowest. Among the 5x00 rpm drives, the Barracuda Green carries the day for the launch of 3ds while the Hitachi 5K3000 is fastest for the launch of Crysis 2. The EcoGreen F4 is slowest with Crysis 2, while the Caviar Green 4P brings up the rear for 3ds.

In our last test we time the installation of Photoshop CS5 from the archive downloaded from the Adobe website. This installation is split into two stages, decompression of the archive and then the installation itself. Thereís little difference between the drives for the first stage but on the second the Caviar Black proves much faster than the other 7200 rpm drives, with the Barracuda XT the slowest. The four platter Caviar Green gives a very weak performance in the second stage and although the three platter version does better, the competitor 5x00 rpm drives are still faster, with the fastest being the 5K3000.

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Energy consumption, temperature

Energy consumption
We measured energy consumption for each of the drives with a clip-on ammeter, by reading voltages used on the 5V and 12V lines. We measured this during simple rotation and then in load during sequential writes.

As expected, the 7200 rpm drives draw the most power, the Caviar Black most of all. The 7K3000, with just 3 platters, does a good deal better, though of course the 5x00 rpm drives do better still. The 3 platter Caviar Green is the most economical model in simple rotation, while the EcoGreen F4 does best in load.
We then measured the temperature of the drives after 1 hour of intensive random accesses in IOMeter. These readings were taken with the HDD outside of the casing, with room temperature at 25įC without the fan, each of the drives slightly raised. The temperature was measured in two places using an infrared thermometer, 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), but note that on the EcoGreen F4 the SMART showed a value 2-3įC lower than the temperature surrounding the drive connection.

The Caviar Black gets hottest by far and youíll have to make sure youíre using it in a correctly ventilated casing. The Barracuda Green was also rather disappointing here, not managing to keep heat levels much lower than the 7200 rpm drives.

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Noise levels

Noise levels were measured with a Cirrus Optimus CR152A Class 2 sonometer, which can measure levels as low as 21 dBA, the lowest level valid in the room used for testing. This is the second time we have used this high-end sonometer, the first time being in our cooler comparative.

We placed the drives at ground level, on foam with the sonometer 50cm away at a height of 25cm, ie. the same distance away as in test for the cooler comparative.

With a best of 25 dBA, these drives are far from being silent (21 and 22 dBA under our test conditions). If youíre looking for silence, youíre best off going for an SSD. In rotation, the EcoGreen F4 is the quietest but the 3 platter Caviar Green is only a hairsbreadth behind and is a lot quieter during accesses. At 27 dBA in rotation (the same as the Caviar Black), the Barracuda Green and the 5K3000 are quite disappointing. During accesses however, the Caviar Black is much noisier, which will make it too loud for many people. The Barracuda XT does better here, while the 7K3000 is rather noisy in rotation.

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Unfortunately there's no such thing as the perfect hard drive and you'll have to choose your drive according to your priorities. If youíre looking for performance, for a model that will also be serving as a primary drive for example, youíll want to go for a 7200 rpm drive.

Unfortunately, while the WD Caviar Black (WD2002FAEX) and the Hitachi 7K3000 (HDS723020BLA642) are fighting it out for top spot in terms of performance, the first is noisy during accesses and the second isnít quiet enough in rotation. If you have relatively sensitive ears, youíll be better off going for the Barracuda XT (ST32000641AS). The 7K300 can however be found at under Ä100, which may well be an argument in its favour. In comparison the Western and Seagate drives come in at over Ä120.

Price differences are less of a factor when it comes to choosing a 5x00 rpm drive, as they all cost around Ä70. In terms of performance, our preference is for the Hitachi 5K3000 (HDS5C3020ALA632) as it holds up better during writes of small files. The four platter Western Digital Caviar Green (WD20EARS-00J2GB0) is to be avoided for its weak performance here however, as is the Seagate Barracuda Green (ST2000DL003).

Performance and price considerations apart however, if youíre going to be influenced by energy consumption and noise levels, youíll want to go for a 5x00 rpm model. The best of these drives are the three platter WD Caviar Green (WD20EARS-00MVWB0) and the Samsung EcoGreen F4 (HD204UI). The WD has the advantage of being more economical in simple rotation and quieter during accesses and is therefore our preference.

The main problem with Western, however, is that when you buy the WD20EARS, you donít necessarily know which version youíre getting. The four platter version is becoming extremely scarce but it can't be guaranteed that you won't come across one. The WD20EARX should be a welcome arrival on this score as itís an SATA 6G model, which it is to be hoped will only come in a three platter version.

One unknown when it comes to these models is how reliable they are. Overall, the returns rate for 2 TB hard drives has fallen over the last few months and this trend is set to continue. As some of the drives tested have only come onto the market recently, we donít yet have any conclusive stats for them. On the previous generation, the 7K2000ís werenít exactly models of reliability but this isnít to say that the 5k3000/7K3000 models will follow suit.

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