Guest Eugene

SR's 250 GB Drive Roundup

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Guest Eugene

As a rule, StorageReview evaluates the largest, "flagship" drive within a given family. While this tenet permits impartial selection of review drives, it has at times created inequitable comparisons as some manufacturers tend to lag behind others when it comes to sheer capacity. Now, however, we'll take a break from the practice as we take a look at how affordable, 250 GB drives stack up from all five SATA manufacturers. Join us as we put drives from Hitachi, Maxtor, Samsung, Seagate, and WD to the test!

250 GB Drive Roundup

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Guest 888

Good, in-detail review!

Long awaited, much needed - We have seen many topics and questions posted recently in SR forums just about 250GB drives selection. Hope this article helps making decisions easier now.

But, Eugene, are you really sure that WD2500KS does not support NCQ?

According to this WD's own tech.help document:

http://wdc.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/wdc.cfg/ph...hp?p_faqid=1311

it does have it !?!?

Although the same document (at the end) lists the WD4000KD without supporting NCQ but in reality it supports it.

What is the right sure answer for WD2500KS about its NCQ? Who knows?

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All drives in this roundup feature two or three platters and incorporate a native SATA interface running at either 1.5 or 3.0 GB/sec (remember, however, that this figure represents a ceiling rather than achieved rates).

:(

Could you please use 150 mbyte/s or mb/s and if that's not possible 1.5 gbit/s?

Edited by Olaf van der Spek

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[q]Western Digital Caviar WD2500KS: It also offers the coolest overall operation of all drives in the roundup. [/q]

Doesn't the Hitachi use less power when idle?

It may also be nice to include the relative difference % when comparing the larger units with the 250 gbyte versions.

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One typo found:

"Given its 83 MB/sec platters, it is also no surprise that WD's Caviar brings up the rear... "

83 MB/platter, not 83 MB/sec platter.

Not a typo:

"On the plus side, even when going up against same-size competition, the SpinPoint's noise levels and power consumption are among the best around."

Aren't desktops HDD typically just sitting idle for most of the time? For an ultra-light-duty file server that P120 would probably be amongst the ones using less power (WD being the other), but sitting idle most the time (like normal office working or gaming) T7K250, Seagate and WD use less power. Only DM10 uses more power at idle... and DM10 is typically not considered a cool drive.

I was surprized that Seagate was that cool running. From previous generations of two-platter Seagates and reviews on other web sites, I would have expected it'd use about the same amount of power as P120. There seems to be some improvement, but the most noticeable difference is between old DM10/ML3 and new DM10/ML3.

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For example: Let's assume 50% activity-cycle (isn't that quite intensive gaming?)

T7K250 11.3W active, 6.1W idle. Average: 8.7W

Samsung: 10.3W active, 7.3W idle. Average: 8.8W

Anytihng less than the 50% activity-cycle, and T7K250 will use less power than the P120. And 50% activity while playing a game would make me consider doubling the RAM, it's simply not good to have swapping occur during gaming.

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Guest Eugene
For example: Let's assume 50% activity-cycle (isn't that quite intensive gaming?)

You're right when pointing out that there's a decision to be made when balancing idle and active consumption. Non-server use will -average- down very low, in the single digits when it comes to % load. However, there will be times (virus/malware scans, defragging, etc) where the drive is continuously active. While the proportionate time is small, at those times, the drive's internal- and to a leser degree the case's temperature become important factors, hence our equal treatment of the two modes.

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Eugene: "While the proportionate time is small, at those times, the drive's internal- and to a leser degree the case's temperature become important factors, hence our equal treatment of the two modes."

I agree. But I think the conclusion page doesn't follow that 50/50 treatment. With 50/50 treatment of idle and active consumption, T7K250 is averaging 0.1 W less than Samsung.

review (conclusion page): "Its seek noise and active power draw, however, remain on the high side when contrasted with the competition."

What is said, is totally true. The fact that it uses the least power by a fair margin when idling, remains unmentioned (and we should remember not all readers read the whole review but just the conclusions).

review (conclusion page): "the SpinPoint's noise levels and power consumption are among the best around."

Among the best around = Western Digital (the leader when using 50/50 treatment) and all other drives but not the Maxtor.

Using 50/50 treatment, the power consumptions would be:

WD2500KS: (9.4+6.8)/2 = 8,1W

7200.9: (10.6+6.7)/2 = 8.65W

T7K250: (11.3+6.1)/2 = 8.7W

P120: (10.3+7.3)/2 = 8.8W

DM10: (12.8+7.5)/2 = 10.15W

As a comparison, while DM10 is a bit warm, it's a clear improvement over the older sample:

(13.9+9.3)/2 = 11,6W

Edited by whiic

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Excellent review, as one would expect from SR :)

The reason for such a review is quite nicely and accurately put:

Though drives may all fall under the same "family" as specified by a manufacturer, in reality these units could feature differing densities, seek times, and buffer sizes.

To add to that, some drives within the same 'family' may even have different internal engineering designs - an excellent case in point being the WD2500KS v. WD4000KD... one from the older Caviar and the latter from the Raptor. In fact, the only similarity between the two seems to be the 16MB buffer! The differences It's almost as if the two drives could (should?) be from different families altogether. That they do come from the same family (and are grouped together by WD) is therefore further reason such a review as this is so important - if SR had not reviewed the 2500KS but only the 'flagship' 4000KD, many users may have gone and bought the 2500KS expecting identical performance to that of the 4000KD... when in reality the bigger drive consistently leads in single-user (and especially in multi-user) performance by noticeable margins.

With that in mind, I wonder why WD doesn't just use the new 4000KD platform and shave off platters/sides to create smaller capacities and hence supercede the older designs altogether... there should have been enough time to do so and wind down production of the 2500KS. If anything, it would clean up the SE16 line and introduce higher performance into smaller capacities that more users could afford.

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I have a question. The review makes note that Maxtor will have higher capacity drives soon.

How long are Maxtor branded drives going to be produced now that they are owned by Seagate?

I was looking for another MaXLine 250GB but NewEgg doesn't seem to have any MaxLines left. So I went with a Seagate 7200.9 instead for the better warranty than the DiamondMax 10 (which I also have two of).

I was assuming the Maxtor drives were already being phased out...

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Guest 888
some drives within the same 'family' may even have different internal engineering designs - an excellent case in point being the WD2500KS v. WD4000KD... one from the older Caviar and the latter from the Raptor. In fact, the only similarity between the two seems to be the 16MB buffer! The differences It's almost as if the two drives could (should?) be from different families altogether. That they do come from the same family (and are grouped together by WD) is therefore further reason such a review as this is so important

In fact WD has different approach to the "family" term. Its KS or KD suffix does not indicate the family, it's just indication of drive's main specs (K stands for 16MB buffer, S stands for 300MB/s SATA and D for 150MB/s SATA). As long as they are producing the drives with similar main specs, they always get the same model numbers, although the construction may be changed many times. In example WD's popular drives with JB and JD suffixes produced today are not the same construction and firmware which they were years ago (with just same model numbers).

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Poddie, I recall reading on the 'Seagate to buy maxtor' thread in Computing that Maxtor would be allowed to produce the next generation of designs that are already well into the development phases, under the Maxtor brand AFAIK, but the generation after that will see a merging of Seagate and Maxtor design and engineering ideas. Don't forget that the merger isn't official until the shareholders say yes, and even then it has to pass scrutiny by the monopolies people.

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Very nice roundup! ;)

The P120 is quiet and performs pretty good with the exception of gaming.

The T7K250 leads in that category when p120 is about 90 I/O behind, so the impression is that the gap is big, but how noticeable is it while gaming?

On the Office bench the Hitachi takes over P120 by 45 I/O which probably not that noticeable.

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Very good article. I got here from a link on the HTPCnews website and forum. I'm a first time HTPC builder and would like to know which of these drives best performs in an HTPC environment. Specifically, I'm building an HTPC server with about 1.5 TB or 2 TB of storage. The server will be recording SD and HD tv and serving it to two or three HTPC clients via GigE; storing and serving music, digital pictures, DVD's, home video; some CCTV, and whatever....the typical things people do with HTPC's (I think).

So which of these work the best in this type of environment? Does it make sense to stack a bunch of these 250GB's in the server? Or get bigger drives, and fewer of them?

Thanks!

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nice review as usual ;)

jmcoy, I'd say a single Samsung SP2504C should be a good choice for building a quiet HTPC. I've built one with a SP2514N (PATA version of the SP2504C) and a single, 120mm fan (±7Volts, ±800rpm) for the whole system, using fanless cooling for CPU, VGA, HDD, PSU; easy to setup and very quiet.

888 & Stele (about Western Digital's naming scheme) does this mean we can't get any valuable information from WD's official specifications ? I've built a small comparison table here ; I guess the variations in announced acoustic levels are due to different production dates and continuous mechanical design developing ; but this situation doesn't quite help buyers having a good idea of which WD hard disk they'll really buy...

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Marconi (not based in Essex, are you?):

Hard disk speed will affect loading times in games, but after the level is loaded, it makes relatively little difference... as long as you've got enough RAM not to need to hit the pagefile while gaming.

The 74 GB Raptor will be faster than any of these in games, but is only of interest if you don't need 250 GB of storage. And it will typically be up to $20 more expensive.

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jmcoy, I'd say a single Samsung SP2504C should be a good choice for building a quiet HTPC. I've built one with a SP2514N (PATA version of the SP2504C) and a single, 120mm fan (±7Volts, ±800rpm) for the whole system, using fanless cooling for CPU, VGA, HDD, PSU; easy to setup and very quiet....

Thanks for the response. I should have mentioned that this HTPC server will be going in a closet, and therefore, does not necessarily need to be ultra-quiet (unlike some HTPC's that are in the family room with the CD player and Receiver). I'm looking for best overall performance for this particular purpose.

Also, why would you say a "single Samsung SP2504C" is the way to go? I'm looking to have 1.5 - 2 TB of storage. Wouldn't I need six - eight of these drives?

Anyone else know what are the important features for a good HTPC drive?

Thanks.

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jmcoy I don't get the whole point on having 2 terabytes of hard disk storage in what you call a 'htpc server' -- anyway, if you want high (& cheap) performance go for a RAID-0 setup; if you want the quiestest machine go for a single quiet hard drive like this Samsung (or even better, a quiet 2.5" drive).

Be aware that a gigabit ethernet connection will limit transfer rates at ±45 MB/s real-life so I see no advantage in setting up a 100-150 MB/s RAID.

As for knowing which hard drive best fits the needs of a HTPC, I think any current drive will do the job; most consumer-level dvd recorders & the like use a 5,400 rpm hard disk ! Playing a dvd ripped on hard disk and recording something at the same time won't go beyond 25 MB/s.

.. this htpc debate seems to be quite off-topic ;)

Anyone about WD's official specs ?

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I wonder which drive to buy.

When the warrenty is three years instead of five, is the drive more likely to fail within the same period of time than the one with five years or is the difference in years just pure PR stunt to sell units?

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Not just a PR stunt but also both a statistical cost and capital that cannot be invested. Because of this, Seagates tend to cost more than drives equivalent drives from other manufacturers but with shorter warranty. They don't use those extra bucks to make better drives: they use those extra bucks to have extra drives ready waiting when drives fail and need replacing. The longer the warranty, the more drives failing, the more costs related to the warranty.

Seagate has a good reputation of making realiable drives but it's has little to do with the warranty period. Making reliable drives was important even when 1 year was an industru standard. OEMs continued to require good reliability.

IBM had a legendary reputation of making reliable drives... that is, before 75GXP. Making above average quality drives again isn't impossible (and Reliability Survey suggests that's been true since 120GXP), but polishing the image of the Deskstar-brand under Hitachi's ownership is a challenge.

Samsungs have increased their reliability during years (from "terrible" to "acceptable"). They have made HDDs for quite a long time, even though they are considered as newcomers by some people. They've always manufactured mainstream drives and made them cheap.

Western Digitals... I really can't figure them out... Reliability Survey shows the latest models to be poor reliability, but that might have been affected by ball-bearing-equipped models that were sold under the same model names as current FDB-equipped models.

Maxtors... I wouldn't trust their MaXLine II (5400rpm, ball-bearing) and MaXLine +II (7200rpm, FDB) drives more than DM10, despite DM10 having shorter warranty and not stated "enterprice". That 2 years of extra warranty isn't anything enterprice. The added price of "enterprice" is mostly statistical cost of added warranty: reliabilitywise, one could achieve the same reliability by purchasing a (badly reputed) DM+9 and benchmarking it intensively for one day, since that is actually the only thing that Maxtor does to "make" MaXLines more reliable. It isn't making: it's just trashing few of the worst of the worst DM+9s and the result is - the whole batch of DM+9 have just become MaXLine +IIs! DM10 and MaXLine III are siblings as well the main difference is the warranty. Reliability increase is again achieved by trashing the weakest drives from the batch. These drives aren't bad quality AFAIK, but they could not save Maxtor from it's death. DM8/9s are the nails that are used to make the coffin for Maxtor. Funeral shall be held 2nd quarter 2006, assuming a Higher Force isn't going to stop it from happening.

In short, don't trust the warranty correlates with long term reliability. (HDD testing at factory can only decrease the likelyhood of failure during the first few days of use, decreasing the need for an early RMA.)

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Guest 888
Anyone about WD's official specs ?

I take the WD's official drive specs (on their Website) not very seriously. At first, during years I have found several mistakes there, some of them kind of typos caused very probably by copy-paste of tables from some older model to create a table for newer model. Sometimes even such main characteristics like number of heads and LBA have been clearly wrong there. Not talking then about noise levels and other secondary characteristics. And when you look at the individual (often more detailized) tech.spec pages under the "support" section then some of the data there is totally different than in tables under the "products" section! In example I found there physical weight for the exactly same model to be 0,73 kg in one table and 0,60 kg in other table!

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Guest 888
Samsungs have increased their reliability during years (from "terrible" to "acceptable").

You may be really right in saying that. Still early to confirm it but when looking at SR's reliability database, their older P80 series has currently below average reliability rating (39%). But for the new P120 series (for which the percentage is not calculated yet (because of insufficient number of samples) I just counted manually - there's 54 drives registered now and of them only 2 failed. If to compare with other newer drive series from last year or two we see that Samsung P120 has a promising start (concerning the reliability):

* Here are the simplified (not taking into account the number of total weeks of spinning) reliability ratios I counted manually from SR database (number of drives registered : number of drives failed = ratio, higher is generally better):

HITACHI Deskstar 7K400 (2004q2) 35:4 = 9

MAXTOR MaXLine+III(DM10) (2004q3) 237:45 = 5

SEAGATE Barracuda 7200.8 (2004q4) 532:74 = 7

WD Caviar SE WD3200JB/JD (2005q1) 91:7 = 13

WD Caviar SE16 WD2500KS (2005q2) 23:3 = 8

SAMSUNG SpinPoint P120 (2005q2) 54:2 = 27

WD Caviar SE16 WD4000KD (2005q3) 7:0 = ?

WD Caviar RE2 WD4000YR (2005q3) 11:2 = 6

HITACHI Deskstar 7K500 (2005q3) 6:2 = 3

SEAGATE Barracuda 7200.9 (2005q4) 35:3 = 12

Of course some of these drives have still too small total number of samples, so take these results for information only! Still, we can see that at least MaXLine+III and 7200.8 are sure less reliable drives than they were expected to be...

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jmcoy I don't get the whole point on having 2 terabytes of hard disk storage in what you call a 'htpc server' -- anyway, if you want high (& cheap) performance go for a RAID-0 setup; if you want the quiestest machine go for a single quiet hard drive like this Samsung (or even better, a quiet 2.5" drive).

....

As for knowing which hard drive best fits the needs of a HTPC, I think any current drive will do the job; most consumer-level dvd recorders & the like use a 5,400 rpm hard disk ! Playing a dvd ripped on hard disk and recording something at the same time won't go beyond 25 MB/s.

.. this htpc debate seems to be quite off-topic ;)

Off topic??? WTF. I'm no expert. But you obviously have no clue. Do you even know what an HTPC is? To be clear, YOU NEED A LOT OF STORAGE if you are going record TV, especially if you are going to record HD content, store your music, ripped DVD's and such. Thus, an article about hard drives is pretty much ON TOPIC.

Now that we're past that, I simply want to know if some drives are better than others in this type of environment.

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