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Hitachi Deskstar terabyte drive makes competition look like dogs

First INQpressions The Woof and the Warp
Fri Jul 20 2007, 19:50

Product: Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000
Website 'ere
System Requirements A place to bung it in your system
Price: €400, £250, $399

HARD DRIVES and similar components are never the easiest products to review, if they only have one function to do they do just that and that's about it.

If something performs a single role in a computer it doesn't always make for an interesting or exciting review. This is doubly so when there's only one of them in existence with no other competition around to really compare them to. We can still however theoretically discuss the technology, mechanics and even draw some conclusions for your viewing pleasure. With all that in mind the Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000 1TB hard disk drive is out there on its own right now, with no one else around at the moment - standing tall with its 1TB storage capacity.

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Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000

Hitachi was the first to announced and produce its 1 Terabyte HDD, with Samsung and Seagate offerings soon to follow. Dates for those to hit the market are late August and end of September, respectively, leaving the Deskstar 7K1000 a few months to steal the limelight. Although all still seems quiet on the western front with Western Digital being rather silent about its drives.

How these all differ is interesting and gives an idea of how it all progressed, if you read between the lines.

The Hitachi desktop offering that we reviewed is the second-generation of Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) hard drives - this goes some way to explain the decision on the platters, density and heads of the drive. It could also highlight why it was the first to market. Although it was first to gather arms in the terabyte wars it might not become the champions when the dust settles.

The Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000 weighs in at five platters with ten heads, whereas Seagate's offering is its second generation too of PMR drives and hits the four platters and eight heads mark. What's surprising, to even the competition is Samsung's monster drive. This comes in at three platters and six heads, on its third gen too - perhaps being the one to watch here. As with more working parts, more chance of failure, wear and tear and greater heat output too. Then again, there's always the argument to be made about more platters, less density per disc, less chance of errors and then higher performance. People all know this and are aware they're deciding factors. They can make their own well informed minds up, without being led astray by marketing waffle. Early prices on all of these seem to be much of a muchness, so perhaps the tech will decide the matter.

Most manufacturers have other 1TB offerings in their range too - PVR aimed quieter drives and enterprise orientated - with SAS being a favourable connector here. Samsung has also announced one in the enterprise, it will be interesting to see how it fares.

With all that out the way, let's look at the hard drive itself along with the benchmarking.

The Deskstar 7K1000 is a 3.5-inch form factor, 7200 RPM, 32MB Buffer, S-ATA based 3.0 Gb/s - of course it wouldn't be anything else. The documentation says the seek times to be 8.5 ms read and 9.2 ms write and Silent-seek time 14 ms read, 15 ms write - we'll just see about that.

Its patented "ramp load/unload" design for the disk heads are used in this model, where in idle states the heads shift outside the disk and are dormant. It claims to reduce power by up to 50 per cent, that's a nice idea in today's greener world. This tech also cuts down on possible shock damage from heads on the disk, along with reducing overall wear. Other manufacturers have tech unique to them and their drives, so trying to stand out from their competitors.

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Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000

In this drive comes Hitachi's latest effort to reduce power consumption by up to 20 per cent - so we've been told. This is based around three low-power idle modes in the drive - active, upload and low-power. All of these are designed to extend the drives life by using non-operational modes.

After installation we opted out of the quick format in Vista and went with standard formatting. That took a little shy of four hours to complete. This took us back a bit, but it makes perfect sense considering the capacity.

Revving up the drive during the computers power up, the HDD activity noise was noticeable over the Seagate drive already in the system. With only two platters and three heads compared to the Hitachi, this seems reasonable.

The heat in high operational mode seems acceptable, almost the same as we found in the 250GB. This could be down to the fact that the Seagate drive was the main OS HDD.

We used a Chillblast system on hand to test the drive, as for one it was the highest-specced pc in the labs available - not that that's a factor, but we do like using big toys. The PC itself, just for your info is an Intel Core 2 duo 2.13Ghz, overclocked at 2.7Ghz, with 2GB of RAM running on an ASUS P5B-E motherboard. We compared, in the tests below, the Hitachi drive against a Seagate 250GB 7200RPM S-ATA drive for no real reason other than it was in the Chillblast system we were using. Also the 1TB HDD looks mighty impressive against it.

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HD Tune results - Hitachi

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HD Tune results - Seagate

The HD Tune tests showed a good access time, decent transfer and burst rate in relation to the Seagate drive - taking into account the drives size, platters and heads. The real show of force will be when we have the other two 1TB drives in the labs in the near future.

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PC Mark 05 results - Hitachi

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PC Mark 05 results - Seagate

Once again, good overall speeds - considering the beast it is compared to the Seagate drive. Nothing surprising or out of the ordinary here and it's looking like a worthwhile drive at this point.

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HD Tach results - Hitachi

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HD Tach results - Seagate

A nice set of results here for the Hitachi in burst speed and random access. Let's bring on the others now, to see if platters, heads and density really have an effect at the end of the day.

Now, the 66 gazillion dollar question is who would buy a 1TB hard drive?

Hitachi believes that digital media and more so high-definition digital content will be a deciding factor in the need for such a beast. We agree in part, but let's not forget all those who use bittorrent or Usenet to download highly dubious material.

The cost on a per gigabyte basis does seem quite high when you do the sums. But to recoup the initial costs, nearly all new products hit the high mark first off and the tech trend setters will pay that anyway. So why not? Here's what we conclude.

In Short
There are still some from the school of computing that think they'll wait until service pack 1 arrived before deploying a new OS, those consumers might be put-off by the first 1TB manufacture on the block. There's really no need to be, with good read and write times it's a good hard drive with the enormous capacity.

The Good
A one terabyte hard drive - what more can I say?

The Bad
Early to market, could put off potential buyers. Only second generation PMR, seen in the platters and head amounts

The Ugly
Cost, as compared to two times 500GB HDD

Bartender's Report
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