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February 18, 2008 by Devon
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST31000340AS
1TB, 7,200 RPM Desktop Hard Drive
Seagate came late to the terabyte landmark, and their Barracuda 7200.11 has
not been without its flaws. However, it also came with the promise of lower
noise, lower power consumption, and (predictably) better performance. That's
welcome news here at Silent PC Review for a long time, Seagate was respected
as the maker of the quietest drive on the market: The Barracuda IV. The seven
revision difference between the Barracuda IV and the 7200.11 should give some
idea of how long it has been since they were in a position to brag about the
quietness of their drives.
As an upgrade from the 7200.10, the differences seem to be mostly numerical:
32 vs. 16 MB of cache, 250 vs. 188 GB platters, 2.9 vs. 3.7 bel seeks. However,
a physical inspection reveals some significant changes to the hardware, suggesting
that the 7200.11 is more than just a capacity upgrade and a cache bump. Unfortunately,
none of Seagate's marketing literature mentions these changes or what their
purposes might be.
Notable changes include a redesigned base and top-plate, a more sturdy back
connector, and new circuit topography for the control board. The control board
has also been flipped so that most of the electronics (controller chip, RAM,
etc.) are sandwiched against base of the drive instead of exposed to the air.
It's likely that the redesigned base is at least partly responsible for the
sizable decrease in the claimed noise level.
The 7200.11 New and improved?
|FEATURE & BRIEF
| Up to 1 TB of storage
capacity (also 500 GB and 750 GB)
|| The industry's high water
mark for a year now, though Seagate was late to the game.
| Industry's most reliable
hard drive with proven second-generation Seagate perpendicular magnetic
recording (PMR) technology
||Measuring reliability is
far to difficult to find data to corroborate this. PMR is not intrinsically
more reliable than older technologies.
| Leverages best combination
of technology (areal density, PMR) and proven components for volume
||Kudos to anyone who can figure
out what this actually means. Oh and areal density is a measurement,
not a technology.
| Industry-leading acoustics
and power consumption levels
||Industry-leading? We'll see
about that especially acoustics.
| 5-year limited warranty
||The best in the business.
| 105-MB/s sustained data
||Impressive ... but misleading
a nice number, but not necessarily a good indicator of real-world
||Another industry high water
mark but, again, Seagate was not the first.
Despite debuting with the largest cache yet seen on a desktop drive, the initial
round of benchmarks for the 1 TB 7200.11 were somewhat disappointing. On paper
and in synthetic benchmarks, the drive looks excellent, but most reputable sources
using real-world benchmarks (i.e. testing actual applications rather than drive
specifications) put it in the middle of the pack. Its high point is its sustained
transfer rate, which helps when copying large, unfragmented files from one place
to another, but few other usage patterns stood out.
However, some early revisions of the drive shipped with faulty firmware that
only allowed 16 MB of the 32 MB cache to be used, casting in doubt many of the
initial benchmarks seen on the web. The problem has been fixed in a recent revision
(early adopters may need to download
a firmware update), but it's difficult to gauge exactly where the drive
stands in the performance race. As always, we recommend Storage
Review as a reliable source for drive reviews; but, at the time of writing,
no review for the 7200.11 had been published.
The large cache size is also subject to one other technical glitch: Most utilities
report the cache size as 0 MB. The
word from Seagate is that the full 32 MB cache is being used regardless
of what is being reported, but it would appear that there are some configurations
(or, perhaps, just specific drive controllers) that
do not properly utilize the cache. Seagate's explanation is that a 32MB
cache cannot be properly reported through the (admittedly aged) ATA interface
but it seems strange that Hitachi's
7K1000 has no problem reporting the correct 32 MB cache size. It's not clear
whether or not this issue Seagate's fault, but given Seagate's record in dealing
with the first cache issue, it seems likely that this problem will eventually
be fixed if it is indeed a Seagate issue.
No legacy power connector here...
The specifications below are specific to 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
Specifications: Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST31000340AS
(from Seagate's data
1 TB (1,000.2 GB)
| Disks / Heads
4 / 8
| Spindle Rotation Speed
|Sustained Data Rate OD
| Average Latency
| Power Requirements: Idle / Seek
8.0 / 11.6 W
| Acoustics: Idle / Seek
2.7 / 2.9 bels
Seagate achieves its 1 TB capacity using four 250 GB disks. Unusually, no seek
times are listed in the performance specifications. Instead, something called
"Sustained Data Rate OD" is listed at a whopping 105 MB/s.
Exactly what this number represents is difficult to say given how much transfer
rate can vary depending on where the data is located within the drive.
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