Seagate Pipeline HD Pro 1TB Hard Drive

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The Pipeline HD Pro posted an impressive average read speed of 101.8 MB/s, beating our 1TB 7200.11 sample by 14MB/s. On the down-side, CPU utilization was unusually high at 10% and random access time was very poor at 17 ms.

We are used to seeing high random access times on drives that have AAM (Automatic Acoustic Management) enabled to reduce seek noise. Seagates do not support AAM, but it's fairly clear that they've done the equivalent of setting AAM to the quietest setting. As the drive is geared toward serving media, it is logical to sacrifice some speed for quieter operation.

Pipeline HD Pro HD Tach results.

1.0TB 7200.11
Tach results.


These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, 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.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds 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. 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 recording starts with 5 seconds of ambient noise, then 10 second segments of the drive in the following states: idle, seek with AAM enabled (if applicable), and seek with AAM disabled (if applicable).



If our 1TB sample was any indication, Seagates entire Pipeline series would be a fine fit for any system where quiet operation is valued. It was significantly quieter than Seagate's other high capacity drives, both idle and during seek. It is unfortunate we no longer have a Western Digital Green Power sample to compare it to in our anechoic chamber — we expect the results would have been close. It should be noted that the overall noise the drive generates alone does not reflect how quiet it will be in a typical PC with a hard-mounting system. Our sample had a high level of vibration — this is one area where the Pipeline HD Pro cannot compete against the Green Power. A good suspension system would level the playing field in this regard.

The drive's read speeds were excellent, but random access time was very poor at 17 ms. This is one of the reasons for its low noise level, especially during seek. For media-type applications, it does not need to be blazing fast so Seagate decided to trade away some performance for quieter operation. The Pipeline HD Pro, being a 3-platter drive, was also fairly power efficient, at least for a 7200 RPM model.

Seagate claims it would make a better media drive, but assessing whether that is true leads us into a grey area. The specification sheet does list an unusually high maximum operating temperature of 75°C which would be beneficial in a cramped DVR or HTPC that lacks airflow and is left running 24/7. The drive also "supports up to 12 simultaneous high-definition or standard-definition video streams" though we have no reason to believe a regular hard drive wouldn't be just as capable. You could say Seagate has not wholly sold us on the idea of a "HTPC-optimized" drive. You may wish to give them the benefit of the doubt, however, and make the Pipelines your preferred drives for HTPC applications.

As a consumer drive, the Pipeline HD Pro is in an awkward position. For high performance, the Western Digital Black is a better option, as is the Green Power for quiet efficient operation. If you require high capacity, there's Seagate's 7200.11 1.5TB drive. All three of these models are less expensive and more widely available than the Pipeline HD Pro. The drive does not excel enough in any one area to distinguish itself enough from the rest of the pack. Combined with the high sticker-price, it's a tough sell for the average end-user. Still, for some, the Pipeline's high temperature tolerance and long continuous use design may make it worthwhile.

Many thanks Seagate for the review sample.

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Feb 19, 2009 by Mike Chin

The single most salient property which drew my attention to the Pipeline series some months ago was a news leak about a new line of drives from Seagate sporting the unheard-of spindle speed of 5900 RPM. When I first inquired about this product, my primary contact at Seagate was annoyed that he hadn't heard of it yet.

The Pipeline models are divided into two series: The Pro consists of just one model, the terabyte capacity reviewed here, and it has a spindle speed of 7200. The standard Pipeline series is composed of three models, at 500, 320 and 160 GB capacities. These run at 5900 RPM.

You won't find mention of the 5900 RPM spindle speed in the Pipeline datasheet, however. Like Western Digital with their Green Power series, Seagate seems reluctant to admit that these drives run at slower than the standard 7200 RPM speed. An earlier version of the datasheet did contain this data, but now, it is only found in a Seagate white paper entitled Energy Efficient Electronics Gain Momentum in the Home (pdf). The paper cites reduced "friction-induced heat" and reduced power — "as little as 4.7 watts of electricity" — as key benefits of the slower spindle speed.

The following summary of Pipeline HDD power and acoustics characteristics shows a marked difference between the 7200 RPM terabyte model and the others.

1000 GB
500 GB
320/160 GB
Consumer Storage Profile (W)
Idle Average (W)
Acoustics (typical/max, bels)

The data in the above table will probably make you feel disappointed that Seagate did not send us any of the 5900 RPM drive samples. The 320 GB model would certain vie for top spot among quiet HDDs, and the spindle speed would probably give it a performance edge over 5400 RPM drives from WD and Samsung. I will point out this PS to Seagate to persuade them to send over some lower capacity Pipeline samples in the future.

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR's Hard Drive Testing Methodology
SPCR's Recommended Hard Drives
Seagate 7200.11 1.5TB: The Perfect Balance?
WD and Seagate take steps to fix terabyte drives
Caviar Black: WD's Performance 1TB HDD
WD SE16 Caviar 640GB is now Blue
WD VelociRaptor: A Triple Crown
Samsung F1 750GB & 1TB Drives: Fast... and Silent?
Terabyte Round II: Seagate Barracuda 7200.11

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