The Terabyte Landmark: Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000

Storage
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TEST RESULTS

Our sample was tested according to our standard hard drive testing methodology. Our methodology focuses specifically on HDD 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. They reviewed the Hitachi 7K1000 in May 2007.

Our test drive was 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 its previous incarnations, the 7K500 and the 7K400, as well as current champions from our recommended list, the Samsung Spinpoint T and the Western Digital Caviar GP.

Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:

  1. Airborne acoustics
  2. Vibration-induced noise.

These two 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.

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 conditions at the time of testing were 17 dBA and 19°C.

DRIVE NOISE EVALUATION
Drive
Mfg date
firmware version
Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State
Airborne Acoustics
Measured Power
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000 HDS721010KLA330
June 2007
firmware GKAOA70M
5
Low RPM Idle
20-21 dBA@1m
3.6 W
Idle
24 dBA@1m
8.5 W
6.2 W (unloaded)
Seek (AAM)
24 dBA@1m
11.7 W
Seek (Normal)
26-27 dBA@1m
15.4 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
Western Digital Caviar Green Power WD7500AACS
October 2007
firmware 01.01B01
7
Idle
19~20 dBA@1m
3.3~5.9 W
Seek (AAM)
19~20 dBA@1m
5.4 W
Seek (Normal)
21 dBA@1m
6.7 W
Samsung Spinpoint T HD400LJ
July 2006
firmware ZZ100-15
3
Idle
20 dBA@1m
7.4 W
Seek (AAM)
21 dBA@1m
9.5 W
Seek (Normal)
22-23 dBA@1m
10.5 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
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

Of the three five platter drives we've examined (all Hitachi models), the 7K1000 is the quietest we've measured. It was also the quietest subjectively, though the difference was not large. Nonetheless, the improvement is welcome, as Hitachi's drives have long been among the noisiest during ordinary operation. The 24 dBA@1m that was achieved at idle brings the 7K1000 to the level achieved by Seagate's recent flagship drives, though it's still not on par with the best from Western Digital and Samsung. The idle noise was the broadband sound of air turbulence, though it had a slightly harsher, more metallic quality to it than most other drives.

With AAM enabled, the 7K1000's seeks were barely audible above the idle noise. Nothing registered on the sound meter either — it remained at 24 dBA@1m. Subjectively, a soft rumbling could be heard, but it was quiet enough not to draw attention to itself. Overall, the seek noise was on par with or slightly better than our older reference drives, but not as good as the current best-of-the-crop. With AAM disabled, the seeks got sharper and the rumbling undertone became deeper. The measurement jumped to 26~27 dBA@1m — not loud, but clearly audible above the idle noise.

Vibration was about average for a 3.5" drive, which is to say, soft-mounting would definitely benefit it. It wasn't the worst drive we've heard for vibration, but it was far from the best.

Power consumption (and therefore the drive's heat output) in the normal operating modes was unchanged from Hitachi's previous flagships. It was definitely on the high side, but that's to be expected of a drive with five platters. However, with Advanced Power Management, things look a little different: With the heads unloaded, power consumption dropped to a more reasonable 6.2W, and low RPM mode reduced even that to 3.6W. This approaches the extremely low power (and low RPM) Western Digital Caviar GP, and is a significant improvement over the low RPM mode in the older 7K500.

Speaking of low RPM mode, the noise level was excellent, as the measurement suggests. 20~21 dBA@1m is barely audible in most situations. Subjectively, the noise character had a harsh electronic character without the silky smoothness of the Caviar GP, but this was noticeable only on close listening. In most systems, other noise sources would cover it, making it effectively inaudible while in low RPM mode.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

Audio recordings were made of the drives and are presented here in MP3 format. The recordings below contains 5 seconds of ambient noise, and 10 seconds of idle noise followed by 10 seconds of seek noise with AAM enabled and 10 seconds without.

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.

  • Hitachi Global Storage Deskstar 7K1000 HDS721010KLA330Idle: 24 / AAM: 24 / Seek: 26~27 dBA@1m — One Meter
  • Hitachi Global Storage Deskstar 7K1000 HDS721010KLA330Low RPM Mode: 20~21 dBA@1m — One Meter

Reference Comparatives:

  • Western Digital Caviar Green Power WD7500AACSIdle: 19~20 / AAM: 19~20 / Seek: 21 dBA@1m One Meter
  • Samsung T Series HD400LJIdle: 20 / AAM: 21 Seek: 22-23 dBA@1m One Meter
  • Samsung P80 SP0802N (Nidec)Idle: 21 / AAM: 23-24 Seek: 25-26 dBA@1m One Meter
  • Seagate Barracuda IV ST340016A Idle: 20 / AAM: 23 Seek: 25-26 dBA@1m One Meter
HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review. Two recordings of each noise level were made, one from a distance of one meter, and another from one foot away.

The one meter recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The one foot recording is designed to bring out the fine details of the noise. Use this recording with caution! Although more detailed, it may not represent how the subject sounds in actual use. It is best to listen to this recording after you have listened to the one meter recording.

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.

CONCLUSIONS

From a silencing perspective, the 7K1000 represents a small but important step forward for Hitachi. Acoustically, it still has a long way to go to match the current best of the crop, but it's no longer bringing up the rear. And, if the slower performance of our favorite Western Digital drive isn't enough, the 7K1000 may be a good compromise, with top-end performance balanced by a low RPM mode that sounds almost as good as the Western Digital when the drive is idling. The only downside is that the sound of the drive spinning up and down may be more distracting than a constant, single state idle.

And, even now, a year after its initial release, it's hard to fault the drive for anything else. It still features the largest capacity, and the best (or very close to best) performance on the market. As an occasional-use drive where it sits in low RPM mode most of the time, it may also be one of the quietest and most power efficient, second only to the WD Green Power. However, as a system drive or in heavy-use scenarios, it's still not quiet enough compared to the competition. We look forward to the next iteration of Hitachi's five-platter flagship series to see if they can improve the noise character even beyond what the 7K1000 offers.

Many thanks to Hitachi Global Storage for the 7K1000 sample.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR's Hard Drive Testing Methodology
SPCR's Recommended Hard Drives
WD Green Power: A New Benchmark in HDD Acoustics & Power
Hitachi Deskstar 7K500 500 GB Hard Drive
Hitachi 7K400 400 GB Hard Drive

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