Review: Seagate's 1.5TB Barracuda drive -- quiet, sips power

The Barracuda 1.5TB drive idles at only 8 watts, making it a good choice for a low-power system

Seagate's new Barracuda 7200.11 SATA 1.5 terabyte drive (model ST31500341AS) ($225) packs a lot of performance into its 8-head 4-disc drive, proving that you can have size and speed in a single internal hard drive.

Windows says that the 3.5-in. drive has 1.36TB of capacity, and Seagate says the random-read seek time is less than 8.5 milliseconds and random-write seek time is less than 10 milliseconds. Our battery of tests showed good performance despite the large capacity.

I installed the drive into two systems -- three configurations in all. On the first system -- a three-year-old Dell Dimension running Windows XP SP3 -- I connected the drive to a SATA port on the motherboard.

I tested the drive using HD Tach 3.0 from Simpli Software using its thorough Long Bench test (which uses 32KB blocks for reads and writes across the entire drive). The drive registered a burst speed of 131.6MB/sec., an average read speed of 102.8MB/sec. and CPU utilization of 8%. Because the drive arrived unformatted, I could run HD Tach's write test (which works only on unformatted media); that test registered an average write speed of 89.6MB/sec. For comparison purposes, I also ran the Full Bench test, which uses variable blocks across the entire drive. The test, which took over eight hours, reported similar results: burst speed was 130.9MB/sec., average read speed was 103.1MB/sec., CPU utilization was 4% and write speed improved to 100.4MB/sec.

I then connected the Barracuda to a HD Tune benchmark test, the drive had an average transfer rate of 98.2MB/sec., a burst rate of 102.8MB/sec. and an average access time of 13.8 milliseconds, but CPU utilization rose to 13.1%. Speed was slower but still respectable when I connected the drive to the Promise card. Average transfer rate was 93.0MB/sec., burst rate dropped to 93.3MB/sec., average access time was 13.4 milliseconds and CPU use was 14.7%.

On the third test configuration -- a new, high-end HP Pavilion with 6GB of memory running the latest update to 64-bit Windows Vista -- I connected the drive directly to a port on the motherboard marked as SATA 3.0GB/sec. The average transfer rate using HP Tune was the only benchmark with a better score than the Promise configuration: 99.6MB/sec. The burst rate was 89.1MB/sec., average access time was 13.7 milliseconds and CPU utilization was a hefty 24.3%.

The drive supports S.M.A.R.T. drive monitoring and reporting (Self Monitoring Analysis & Reporting Technology) and on-the-fly error-correction algorithms. I had no problems or surprises testing the drive.

Barracudas (the fish) aren't known for being green, of course, but Seagate's drive certainly is. The 7200rpm drive idles at only 8 watts, making it a good choice if you're building a low-power system. The drive meets the RoHS (restriction on hazardous substances) environmental requirements, and it's decidedly quiet, thanks to what Seagate says is its use of industry-leading acoustics.

The company says its 11th-generation drive uses proven components and technology (such as perpendicular magnetic recording technology) and expertise in volume manufacturing; for extra peace of mind, the Barracuda 7200.11 is backed by a five-year limited warranty.

With data volumes growing on desktops, it's no wonder that the capacity of easy-to-connect external (USB 2.0) drives is growing to 1TB (and beyond). However, significantly slower speeds of external drives (with average read and write times roughly a quarter of this Barracuda drive's performance) are a big negative. If you are building desktop or server systems where only the largest-capacity internal hard drives will do, when speed matters (especially for tasks such as system backups) and you don't want to break your budget, the Barracuda 7200.11 drive is a very good choice.

Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 SATA 3GB/s 1.5-TB Hard Drive (Model ST31500341AS) $225 (list)

Rich Ericson is a Northwest-based technology writer and is the reviews editor of The Office Letter, a site devoted to tips for Microsoft Office.

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