Hitachi DeskStar 7K500 500GB Hard Drive

Storage
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March 3, 2006 by Devon Cooke

Product
Hitachi Deskstar 7K500 HDS725050KLA360
500GB, 7,200 RPM Hard Drive
Manufacturer
Market Price
~US$360

High capacity storage is a strong point for Hitachi. For a long time, they were the only manufacturer selling a 400 GB model and they were also the first to release a half-terabyte model, the 7K500. Most of the other manufacturers have now caught up, but the early start still gives Hitachi an advantage: Most of the other 500 GB models are still more expensive and harder to find.

The extra capacity is achieved with a large number of disc platters, not an increase in data density, which may explain why it came to the market so early; its competitors use fewer platters with higher areal density to reach thesame capacity. Unfortunately, the higher number of platters goes hand in hand with higher weight and greater heat and power consumption. The lower areal density may also lower the data throughput.

The question is, how badly do these disadvantages affect the 7K500, and do the advantages in price and availability make up for them? Are there any other features that give the 7K500 an advantage over the competition?


A large box for a small drive!

Our sample 7K500 came in a fancy retail box with an inch of soft red foam to surround the drive. Ordinarily, this would seem like a waste of packaging material and unnecessary burden on the environment, but hard drives are so fragile that the oversized box is probably well worth it.

Aside from the drive itself, the retail package contains mounting screws, a SATA cable, a detailed, well written installation guide, and a CD with some basic configuration software.


Inside, the drive is well padded in eye-catching red foam.

HITACHI DESKSTAR 7K500 HDS725050KLA360 (quoted from Hitachi's datasheet)
FEATURE & BRIEF COMMENT
500 GB of capacity with either SATA or Parallel ATA interface
The highest capacity on the market.
Rotational Vibration Safeguard
Seeks compensate for vibration.
All SATA 3Gb/s features supported
This suggests full SATA 2.5 compliance.
“Smooth Stream” technology for enhanced video streaming
Also known as the ATA-7 instruction extensions.
Native Command Queuing for extreme performance
One of the "SATA 3 Gb/s" features mentioned above.
Optional low-power mode
Power consumption is reduced by unloading the heads and spinning down the drive when not in use.

The 7K500 has a lot in common with the 7K400. Both are heavy, five-platter designs that had unmatched capacity when they were first released. We happened to have a sample of the 7K400 on hand, so we were able to compare them side by side.


A few minor cosmetic changes separate the 7K500 (left) from the 7K400 (right).


The 7K500 gets away with a smaller PCB and two fewer logic chips.

Cosmetically, very little has changed compared to the 7K400. A rubber bladder around the breather hole is now exposed on the top face of the drive, but whether it functions any differently from before is debatable. A tiny RoHS logo indicates that the newer drive is manufactured in a lead-free environment, but any differences that this may have caused are not visible externally.

The biggest change is the circuit board on the back, which is smaller and uses two fewer logic chips. Could this mean that less power is required to run the logic board?


Both SATA and IDE power connectors can be used... but only one at a time.

We were glad to see that one thing hadn't changed: The "Legacy" Molex power connector hasn't disappeared yet as it has on many other SATA drives. Not only does this maintain compatibility with older systems that do not have SATA power connectors, but it also allows more drives to be used. Although most power supplies now ship with at least two SATA power connectors, some have no more than that. By contrast, most power supplies ship with at least six Molex connectors.

SPECIFICATIONS

The specifications below are specific to the model 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.

Specifications: Hitachi Deskstar 7K500 ST9160821A
Capacity
500 GB
Cache
16 MB
Platters
5
Heads
10
Spindle Rotation Speed
7,200 RPM
Interface
SATA 3.0 Gbps
Average Seek
8.5 ms
Media Transfer Rate
817 Mbits / second
Weight
700 g
Operating Temperature
5 - 55°C
Power Dissipation: Idle / Startup
9.6 / 30 W
Acoustics: Idle
3.1 Bels

Hitachi's specifications for the drive are quite complete. Compared to Hitachi's other drives, the 7K500 is heavier (700 g), louder (3.1 Bels), and requires more power (9.6W). It's not all bad news though; the SATA version of the 7K500 boasts a hefty 16 MB cache. This amount of cache is still the domain of performance drives, although it has become much more common since the 7K500 was introduced. As with other Hitachi drives, not all of the 16 MB is available as cache; a small amount of memory is reserved for the firmware. In practice, the ~400 KB or so will not be missed — it's only a tiny fraction of the total cache size.



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