Seagate Barracuda 7200.10: Desktop Drives go Perpendicular

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TEST RESULTS


Our samples were tested according to our standard hard drive testing methodology. Our methodology focuses specifically on noise, and great effort is taken to ensure it is comprehensively measured and described. Performance is not tested, for reasons discussed in detail in the methodology article. For comprehensive HDD performance testing results, we recommend Storage Review, who have established a long reputation as the specialist in this field.

Our test drives were compared against our reference drives, the Seagate Barracuda IV and Samsung Spinpoint P80, which are profiled in our methodology article. To get a good idea of where the drives in this review stand, it is important to read the methodology article thoroughly. It was also compared against several high-capacity drives: A 500 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.9, and 400 and 500 GB models from Hitachi, the 7K400 and 7K500 respectively.

Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:

  1. Airborne acoustics
  2. Vibration-induced noise

These types of noise impact the subjective perception of hard drive noise differently depending on how and where the drive is mounted.

Both forms of noise are evaluated objectively and subjectively. Both the subjective and objective analyses are essential to understanding the acoustics of the drives. Airborne acoustics are measured using a professional caliber SLM. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter above the top of the drive using an A-weighted filter. Vibration noise is rated on a scale of 1-10 by comparing against our standard reference drives.

Unfortunately, AAM (Automatic Acoustic Management) is not supported as a user-configurable option on the Barracuda 7200.10, which means that our standard means of generating seek noise via the AAM test function in Hitachi's HDD Feature Tool could not be used. Instead, seek noise was generated by copying a large file set within the drive. Unfortunately, this task does not require as much random seeking as the AAM test, so seek noise was not as constant as usual. To compensate, we spent more time than usual listening to and measuring the seek noise.

A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments are relevant to the sample we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without telling everyone.

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 18 dBA. For the record, room temperature was 20¬įC.

DRIVE NOISE EVALUATION
Drive
Mfg date
firmware version
Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State
Airborne Acoustics
Measured Power
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3750640AS
April 2006
firmware 3.AAC
4
Idle
24 dBA@1m
9.2 W
Seek (Normal)
28-34 dBA@1m
11.7 W
REFERENCE DRIVES
Hitachi Deskstar 7K500 HDS725050KLA360
December 2005
firmware K2AOAB0AACCB
5
Idle
26 dBA@1m
8.5 W
Seek (AAM)
26 dBA@1m
11.5 W
Seek (Normal)
28 dBA@1m
15.1 W
Hitachi Deskstar 7K400 HDS724040KLSA80
March 2004
firmware KFAOA46A
5
Idle
25 dBA@1m
8.6 W
Seek (AAM)
27 dBA@1m
11.9 W
Seek (Normal)
27-28 dBA@1m
15.5 W
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 ST3500641AS
October 2005
firmware 3.AAB
7
Idle
24 dBA@1m
8.3 W
Seek (Normal)
26-29 dBA@1m
11.7 W
Samsung Spinpoint P80 (Nidec motor)
June 04 - firmware TK100-24
4
Idle
21 dBA@1m
6.3 W
Seek (AAM)
23-24 dBA@1m
8.3 W
Seek (Normal)
25-26 dBA@1m
9.1 W
Samsung Spinpoint P80 (JVC motor)
Feb 05 - firmware TK200-04
6
Idle
21 dBA@1m
6.2 W
Seek (AAM)
25 dBA@1m
n / a
Seek (Normal)
27 dBA@1m
9.3 W
Seagate Barracuda IV
ST340016A - firmware 3.10
6
Idle
20 dBA@1m
6.7 W
Seek (AAM)
23 dBA@1m
11.3 W
Seek (Normal)
25-26 dBA@1m
11.6 W

All four of the high capacity drives were relatively loud at idle. Subjectively, the 7200.10 sounded the nicest of the bunch, but it was still significantly louder than our quiet but out of date reference drive, the Seagate Barracuda IV. The noise character had the smooth white noise quality that we have come to expect from Seagate, but without the nasty pure tone that affected the 7200.9. However, given how variable the reports of the 7200.9 have proved to be, we cannot conclusively say that it has escaped altogether. Our sample was fine; yours may not be.

Seek noise was quite a different story. The 7200.9 sample had sharp, abrupt seeks, and this aspect was even more in this 7200.10. In fact, the peaks measured 34 dBA@1m, making it the first drive we've measured above 30 dBA@1m. The implementation of Automatic Acoustic Management (AAM) to reduce the seek noise is sorely missed.

To be fair, the average seek noise was much more pleasant than the worst-case peaks. Perhaps because of its enormous capacity, it was more difficult than usual to find a combination of tasks that would produce consistently loud seeks. After all, our installation of Windows occupied less less than one percent of the drive's capacity. The density of data was so high that there seemed to be comparatively few long-stroke seeks.

It is difficult to know how this would affect noise in an actual system. Much depends on how the drive is used and the specific types of noise that the listener is sensitive to. Those who can live with the occasional crackle of a long-stroke seek if the average noise level is quite low could find the 7200.10 to be perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, those who find seek noise annoying will not like the 7200.10.

A new record was set for the amount of power consumed at idle: The 7200.10 is the first drive we've seen that consumes more than 9 watts at idle. As this would suggest, the drive ran quite hot; by the end of the acoustic testing, during which the drive was resting on a nonconductive piece of foam, I was unable to touch the drive for more than a second or two. (Editor's Note: Wimp! —) According to the internal thermal sensor, the drive temperature at this time was 53°C and climbing.

The power consumed when the drive was seeking seemed unusually low, especially considering that Seagate specified power consumption a couple of watts higher than we measured. Given how high the power consumption at idle was, it seems unlikely that our measurements were completely accurate. Perhaps the difficulties with maximizing seek noise also apply to power consumption.

Even though the internal temperature did not exceed the maximum operating temperature of 60°C, this does not bode well for the drive's longevity when soft-mounted inside a case. The 7200.10 needs metal-to-metal contact to conduct heat away, as can be attested by the ~15°C drop in temperature shortly after the drive was placed on our aluminum "resonance box".

Unfortunately, soft-mounting is exactly what is needed to counteract the high vibration coming from the 7200.10. Past Seagate drives have tended to be quite good in this area, so we were disappointed to find that the vibration level of this drive was higher than most of the other drives in our collection.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

Audio recordings were made of the drives and are presented here in MP3 format. The recordings below contains ten seconds of idle noise followed by ten seconds of seek noise with AAM enabled and ten seconds more with AAM disabled. Because Seagate does not support AAM on any of their current drives, recordings for the 7200.9 and 7200.10 omit the section with AAM enabled and are therefore only twenty seconds long.

Keep in mind that the recordings paint only part of the acoustic picture; vibration noise is not recorded, and drives often sound different depending on the angle from which they are heard.

Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3750640AS (Idle: 24 / Seek: 28-34 dBA@1m)

Reference Comparatives:

Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 ST3500641AS (Idle: 24 / Seek: 26-29 dBA@1m)

Hitachi Deskstar 7K500 HDS725050KLA360 (Idle: 26 / AAM: 26 / Seek: 28 dBA@1m)

Hitachi Deskstar 7K400 HDS724040KLSA80 (Idle: 25 / AAM: 27 / Seek: 27-28 dBA@1m)

Seagate Barracuda IV ST340016A (Idle: 21 / AAM: 23 / Seek: 25-26 dBA@1m)

Nexus 92mm case fan @ 5V (17 dBA@1m) Reference

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution studio quality digital recording system. The hard drive was placed on soft foam to isolate the airborne noise that it produces; recordings do not take into account the vibration noise that hard drives produce. The microphone was centered 3" above the top face of the hard drive. The ambient noise during most recordings is 18 dBA or lower.

To set the volume to a realistic level (similar to the original), try playing the Nexus 92 fan reference recording and setting the volume so that it is barely audible. Then don't reset the volume and play the other sound files. Of course, tone controls or other effects should all be turned off or set to neutral. For full details on how to calibrate your sound system to get the most valid listening comparison, please see the yellow text box entitled Listen to the Fans on page four of the article SPCR's Test / Sound Lab: A Short Tour.

CONCLUSIONS

Seagate has done it again. The Barracuda 7200.10 is an exceptionally large drive with exceptionally loud seeks. Its suitability for a low noise system depends on how much those 750 GB are needed within a single drive. If huge capacity is not an absolute necessity, there are undoubtedly quieter and cheaper alternatives. If it is needed, a pair of 300~400 GB drives might prove to be quieter in the long run, especially if you consider seek noise the biggest issue. On the other hand, if idle noise is more important, a single 7200.10 is probably a quieter choice than any other combination of drives.

Although the 7200.10 does not allow seek noise to be reduced with AAM, the immensely high areal density made possible by perpendicular recording may be able to help make up some of the difference. Our real life testing showed that, on the whole, the loudest seeks were few and far between. We cautiously attribute this to the reduced number of long-stroke seeks on such a large drive. Although this cannot compensate entirely for the lack of AAM — loud seeks are loud seeks, no matter how infrequent — the 7200.10 rarely hit its 34 dBA@1m peak when accessing large contiguous pieces of data.

Even more than usual, whether or not a 750 GB Barracuda 7200.10 is in your future depends on your specific sensitivities and usage patterns. It is always a compromise between noise and capacity, but deciding whether or not this one is a good compromise is up to you.

Many thanks to Seagate for the Barracuda 7200.10 sample.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR's Hard Drive Testing Methodology
SPCR's Recommended Hard Drives
Seagate Momentus 5400.3: 160 GB Notebook Drive & Introduction to Perpendicular Recording
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9, 500 GB
Hitachi Deskstar 7K500, 500 GB
Hitachi Deskstar 7K400, 400 GB

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