Single Disc 3.5" HDDs, Round One: Seagate & Hitachi

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December 23, 2005 by Devon Cooke

Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 ST3160812AS
160GB, single platter hard drive
Hitachi Deskstar 7K80 HDS728080PLA380
80GB, single platter hard drive
Seagate Hitachi Global Storage Technology
Market Price
~US$90 ~US$50

It's no secret that the quietest desktop hard drives tend to be low capacity models that use only a single platter. There's a simple reason for this: Fewer platters have fewer read/write heads, and thus produce less air turbulence. They also have less inertia and are less taxing to keep spinning.

In spite of this advantage, quality reviews of single platter drives are few and far between, SPCR included. The reason for this is... somewhat political. Review sites like SPCR depend on manufacturers to supply samples, which means we get products that they want reviewed. These usually are the flagship products that draw lots of attention and drive sales for the rest of the line. But this time around, we went on the hunt specifically for quiet, 3.5" single platter drives.

Why? Well, some of you might recall that the Seagate Barracuda IV of quiet fame, the quietest 3.5" HDD to date (by a small margin) was available in single and dual disc models. The single disc 40G is long discontinued, and we have not come across any single disc HDDs from any brand that matches it for low noise. The Samsung P80 series are very quiet, just a hair louder than the B-IV but audibly better than the newer, higher capacity P120 models. This is a hunt, then, for a new quiet 3.5" drive. Our reference is the Seagate Barracuda IV 40GB single disc model, of which we still have several good working samples on hand.


This is the largest single platter drive on the market: The 160 GB Barracuda 7200.9. This drive represents quite an accomplishment for Seagate. It's not easy cramming that much capacity onto a single platter. In fact, it's so difficult that they still haven't perfected the process. According to Storage Review, none of the higher capacity 7200.9 models use platters of this high a density because of problems "implementing these disks with larger associated head counts".

SEAGATE BARRACUDA 7200.9 ST3160812AS (from Seagate's marketing brochure)
SATA 3Gb/s with NCQ enables fast data transfer rates for high performance.
Supports the latest SATA 2.5 standard.
SATA click connectors and thin cables for easier integration and better cooling airflow
Much more secure when used with SATA-Click cables.
Drives automatically configure to either new 3-Gbit/second or legacy 1.5-Gbit/second SATA systems for ease of integration and highest performance.
Backwards compatible with older versions of SATA.
Seagate SoftSonic motor enables whisper-quiet operation.
Your basic FDB motor. Standard issue on all modern drives.
RoHS-compliant?environmentally conscious product
Lead-free manufacturing, in compliance with this EU directive.
A proven design and industry?s most comprehensive compatibility, integration and benchmark testing for shorter qualification times, easier integration and top reliability Seagate is proud of its R&D.
Enhanced G-Force protection defends against handling damage.
Entire product line backed by a five-year warranty Best in the business.


Hitachi also stepped up to the plate with a Deskstar 7K80. Here, the capacity is a bit more modest: At 80 GB, it can only store half as much as the Seagate. Of course, capacity isn't everything, and the 7K80 delivers a number of features not found in the Barracuda. The 7K80 supports both Automatic Acoustic Management (AAM) and Automatic Power Management (APM), both of which are useful in the context of quiet computing.

HITACHI DESKSTAR 7K80 HDS728080PLA380 (from Hitachi's product page)
SATA 3.0 Gb/s and Native Command Queuing for maximum data speeds
Increasingly common in SATA-based drives.
80 GB and 40 GB capacities with either Serial ATA or Parallel ATA interface
Glad to see PATA isn't dead yet.
ECC and CRC protection within drive circuitry
All drives use error checking algorithms. Hitachi uses these ones.
Low-power design reduces system costs and drives high reliability
Low power also means low heat.
Quiet operating modes for easy integration into noise sensitive environments Our primary interest in this drive.


The specifications below are specific to the models that we examined. Capacity, cache size, platter number, interface, and even performance vary from model to model even within a single product line. Acoustics and power dissipation also vary depending on the number of platters in the drive; smaller capacity drives tend to have fewer platters, and tend to produce less noise and use less power.

HDD Model
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 ST3160812AS
Seagate's datasheet)
Hitachi Deskstar 7K80 HDS728080PLA380
Hitachi's datasheet)
160 GB
80 GB
8 MB
8 MB
Spindle Speed
7,200 RPM
7,200 RPM
SATA 2.5 (3.0 Gbps w/ NCQ)
SATA 3.0 Gbps
4.16 ms
4.16 ms
Average Seek
11 ms
8.8 ms
580 g
560 g
Operating Temperature
0 - 60°C
5 - 55°C
Power Dissipation
7.2W (Idle) / 12.4W (Seek)
5.7W (Idle)
2.5 Bels (Idle) / 2.8 Bels (Seek)
2.6 Bels (Idle)

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