Review: Hitachi's old-school 1TB DeskStar 7K1000

Hitachi has found a reasonable compromise between bleeding-edge technology and plain old visceral gratification

A few months ago, when Hitachi's DeskStar 7K1000 was, briefly, the only kid on the block packing 1TB of storage in a single 3.5-in. hard drive form factor, it would have been a no-brainer to give the unit three thumbs up, a bushel of kudos and a bucket of drool. The difference between then and now is that Hitachi Global Storage Technologies is no longer alone in the 1TB market. Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital are arrayed against it to compete for your TeraBucks, and now the true test for the DeskStar 7K1000 is the test of time.

The basic stats for the drive, although not exact matches, are fairly common among the genre: perpendicular recording, 7200 rpm, SATA 3.0Gbit/sec., 8.7 milliseconds average seek time, 4.17 milliseconds average latency and a 32MB buffer. (Western Digital only sports a 16MB cache.) Where Hitachi departs from the group is in the platter and head count, endowing the 7K1000 with five platters and 10 heads compared to four and eight for Seagate and Western Digital, respectively, and three platters with six heads for Samsung. Some have waxed poetic about Hitachi's return to the five-platter design of DeskStar's past; the extra gear takes power to move it along.

That translates into 10.8 watts on average when operating and 9 watts when idle, according to Hitachi's published specifications for the drive. While these numbers were fairly good a few months ago, they don't hold a candle to Western Digital's 7.4-watt average operating/4-watt idle or even Samsung's 7.9-watt/7.7-watt ratings. Seagate only does better by 1 watt at idle.

Areal density is another departure for Hitachi. Where most of its competition manages to achieve 250GB per platter (and Samsung squeezes in 334GB), the math, based on the DeskStar's capacity and platter count, puts the 7K1000 at 200GB per platter to reach 1TB. Keep in mind, however, that while there's general agreement that higher areal densities can produce faster data throughput at similar rotational speeds, accuracy can be a trade-off. To read or write that data correctly, better error-checking must be used when data is more compact as it whizzes by the read/write head. That can often translate into more time.

Rather than pooh-pooh the DeskStar off-handedly for old technology, a run through Simpli Software's HDTach disk test revealed the 7K1000 is actually quite fast. In fact, its Burst Speed even tops that of Western Digital's speedy RE2-GP by a hair and the 7K1000's Average Read is about 10% faster than the tested results of the RE2-GP as well. Obviously, Hitachi has found a reasonable compromise between bleeding-edge technology and plain old visceral gratification.

There is, however, an 800-pound gorilla in the room. DeskStar drives have been accused of being unreliable -- and they've carried that tag from their genesis at IBM up through Hitachi's current ownership of the brand. Truth? Loud voices from small numbers on the Internet would make it seem so -- in the same way that Seagate wore that banner at one point, as has Maxtor and Western Digital. Any popular drive -- and you can define popular as inexpensive -- will see more installations and, as a result, more failures. It's just a matter of numbers.

Prices for 1TB drives have been dropping steadily and, after a little nosing around the Net, the 7K1000 can be purchased for as little as $315 currently. That's going to make it popular. You, of course, have implemented an adequate backup strategy to mitigate any data loss that might arise from a drive failure -- no matter who the manufacturer. You're also using a case that has adequate ventilation. Hard drives typically run hot. Hitachi, on its part, will repair or replace the drive for three years.

Seagate's 1TB Barracuda 7200.11 has a significantly faster average read speed and that information should be more relevant to your purchase decision. If not (and no media file handling comes to mind as the prime reason it wouldn't), hunt for price. The 7K1000 has weathered the competition well and can easily be classified as a good deal for consumer installations.

Hitachi DeskStar 7K1000 Benchmarks

Drive

Burst Speed

Random Access

Average Read

CPU Utilization

Western Digital WD10-00FYPS-01KKB 02.0 1TB Internal

184.0MB/s

15.1ms

65.3MB/s

4%

Seagate ST31000340OAS SD03 1TB Internal

124.7MB/s

13.0ms

85.4MB/s

10%

Hitachi HDS721010KLA GKA0 1TB Internal

185.9MB/s

12.6ms

72.4MB/s

4%

Seagate ST3250824AS 3.AA 250GB Internal

120.7MB/s

16.9ms

56.6MB/s

2%

Western Digital WD 5000AA External 200i 500GB USB

25.0MB/s

13.4ms

24.8MB/s

1%

Manufacturer

Operating average

Idle

WDC

7.4 watts

4.0 watts

Seagate

11 watts

8 watts

Hitachi

10.8 watts

9 watts

Samsung

7.9 watts

7.7 watts

Bill O'Brien has written a half dozen books and more than 2,000 articles on computers and technology, ranging from Apple computers, to PCs, to Linux, to commentary on IT hardware decisions.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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