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Quiet, Cool, Reliable, 2 Platter - Which 250-320GB drives should I buy

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Hi all,

I'm looking for a new hard drive to swap my (absolutely brilliant) Samsung P80 120GB with, and have read around a lot but still in the dark.

I have average backup habits - usually once fourtnightly on average. However these days that means I could lose 100 up to hours of work, and due to other constraints (space, heat and power) RAID mirroring is out of the question, which leads me to my primary factors of concern, most to least important:

1. Reliability

I want 2-3 years of 24/7 running out of this drive inside a well-cooled PC, and hopefully another 2-3 years in an external case. I don't want to have to have a refurb drive in the warranty period, so I'm looking for manufactuers whose drives tend to follow bathtub curves nicely (e.g. high failure rates early in life, very low failure rates until end of life).

2. Noise

We sometimes work in a very quiet environment. My SATA Seagate 7200.7 is too noisy while my PATA 7200.7 is acceptable. Ideally, I want the noise level of my (literally inaudible outside a fanless case) Samsung P80.

3. Heat

This drive MUST run cool - especially considering it will be moved into an external case later in its life.

I have the following options with prices (in $NZ - should be the comparison that matters) and notes that i have made based on reading around:

250GB[b/]:

Seagate 7200.(9?) - $145

- reliability survey indicates issues with the .9 family, bad performance?

Seagate 7200.1 ES - $175

- ES seems overpriced?

WD 2500KS - $150

- Jx series seems good, KS series runs hot? Looks promising - a bit dubious about WD reliability since having two drives disintegrate with bad sectors (800JB and 800BB)

Samsung P120 - $150

- Looks to be my best bet, except reliability figures in survey not great?

Hitachi T7K250[/i[ - $150

Hitachi T7K500 - $150

- Hitachi are hard to source in New Zealand, which leads me to believe warranty would be a problem.

3x0GB:

Samsung T133 (?) 300GB - $210

- Expensive. Not much info on T-series?

WD 3200KS 320GB - $185

- Looks fairly good and reliable? What about noise though? Lots of info on Jx series but not Kx?

Seagate 7200.10 320GB - $180

- Noisy, lottery for good drive?

As you can all see, it seems like something is at fault with every drive in my list :(

Does anyone have any recommendations for me, or facts to set my findings straight?

Thanks :)

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Guest 888
250GB:

Seagate 7200.(9?) - $145

- reliability survey indicates issues with the .9 family, bad performance?

If to talk about .9 series (and not .8) then in reality not too many reliability issues. Just an average or even good reliability. But not very good. But yes, real life performance is just bottom (slow).

But if to take .10 series then performance is much better (but not the best) and reliability also good. Temperature average.

Seagate ES - $175

- ES seems overpriced?

Just like 7200.10 but longer tested and may-be also better selected. Plus different firmware, more server optimized. In reality not much differences in performance but reliability may be better, at least theoretically. May be a bit overpriced but not much.

WD2500KS - $150

- Jx series seems good, KS series runs hot? Looks promising - a bit dubious about WD reliability since having two drives disintegrate with bad sectors (800JB and 800BB)

No real differences between temperatures of Jx and KS series. Must not be hot. They are very identical drives now, only some differences in electronics (cache size, interface type). They may be still 3-platter drives today. Reliability still good or even very good (the reliability problems with older WD batches are years ago history now). Performance a bit slow (slow platters but good firmware often overruns it). But they are quiet in every mode.

Samsung P120 - $150

- Looks to be my best bet, except reliability figures in survey not great?

Good performer but warning: A lot of noisy batches around, plus hard vibrations often. But if you win the lottery you may get very quiet drive (especially in idle, not just in seeking). Reliability average. Temperature average.

Hitachi T7K250[/i[ - $150

Hitachi T7K500 - $150

- Hitachi are hard to source in New Zealand, which leads me to believe warranty would be a problem.

The fastest 250GB drives. But not the quietest (in seeking). Reliability good. Still the T7K500 320GB version is even more faster. But its reliability is unknown (too new item yet). Cool-running.

3x0GB:

Samsung T133 (?) 300GB - $210

- Expensive. Not much info on T-series?

Much weaker performer than Samsung 250GB model. May be pretty quiet but often hard vibrations. Reliability average or a bit lower.

WD 3200KS 320GB - $185

- Looks fairly good and reliable? What about noise though? Lots of info on Jx series but not Kx?

Based on more than 2 year old construction but it has proven to be very reliable and stable. Also relatively quiet (including seeking) and relatively cool-running. The performance is not on top by today's standards but its good firmware does nice job, overrunning sometimes even some faster-platter contemporary drives.

Seagate 7200.10 320GB - $180

- Noisy, lottery for good drive?

The noisy bathes are appearing more rarely now but they still appear. If you win the lottery you may get a real quiet drive. Generally it's not a bad drive. Pretty ok performance (but not always in real applications except with larger files). Reliability good. Temperature higher than for WD or Hitachi.

Edited by 888

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"Seagate 7200.1 ES - $175

- ES seems overpriced?"

A bit, perhaps. Other manufacturers sell their regular drives with 3 year warranty and those with longer factory testing with 5 years. Seagate sells all drives with 5 years so there's not much point in paying extra for longer factory testing. Longer factory testing might reduce infact mortality rate (i.e likelyhood of HDD dying the first week) but in long term it won't matter. (It's kinda ironic that drives with longer factory testing usually have longer warranties...)

888 (on P120): "Good performer but warning: A lot of noisy batches around, plus hard vibrations often."

Was those noisy drives by any chance equipped with JVC spindle motors? I ask this because P80 with JVC spindles are generally considered noisier that P80 with NIDEC spindles. Like you said, Spinpoint P are very quiet if you get a good one. They have been on SPCR's recommended quiet drives list (now newer T series Spinpoint and WD5000KS have replaced it's place on the list).

T133 300GB has three platters. There's drives with up to 500GB (in T166 series) using three platters and there's might be a 320GB T166 using 2 platters. But according to model number of that 320GB T166, is a 5 head, 3 platter drive...

While Samsungs are usually very quiet (if with NIDECs) they most usually do vibrate quite a bit, eliminating the benefit of being acoustically quiet by creating more structure borne acoustics. Decoupling recommended.

Being silent has nothing to do with being cool, though Samsungs aren't as warm-running as Seagates (which have pretty much taken Maxtor's place as a toaster manufacturer... though unlike Maxtors, Seagate toasters are more reliable if they have some cooling).

Hitachis and WDs are the coolest. Which one is cooler, depends on way of use. Hitachis idle cooler (with or without APM) while WDs seek cooler (probably even without AAM).

Hitachis have APM feature which allows them to save energy when idle. But when seeking, they consume a lot. Enabling AAM reduces power consumption several watts but consumption might still be somewhat high. Enabling AAM doesn't eliminate all the seek noise either. Before transfering Hitachi to external case, enabling AAM and APM might not be a bad thing (enabling them AAM might reduce the performance a bit but in USB enclosure... who cares).

WDs have quite a bit of variation in drives acoustic (like Seagate has and possibly Samsung as well(*)). A good WD has extremely quiet seeks. My WD3200JB seeks in performance mode (average access around 13...14ms) as silently as my DM9/MLII Maxtors seek in quiet mode (access times slower down to somewhere to 20...24ms range) and that is unbelievably quiet to me (especially considering WD3200xx is a 3-platter drive).

(*) Though what I've read SPCR forums there hasn't been much complaints about noisy Samsungs since some JVC batches with P80. Hearing that P120 has noisy batches as well (even in increasing amounts) came as a surprize to me. I though newer Samsungs were all with NIDECs or that number of JVC batches has at least declined over the time. But SPCR forumists is probably too small a sample size to tell the truth...

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So from what you've both said, my best bet for Reliability, Noise and Heat are the Western Digitals (2500KS and 3200KS)?

I just put a 3200KS in a system I built for a friend just last week actually, was pretty quiet from memory..

I guess it's about time i bought another WD...

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Guest 888
888 (on P120): "Good performer but warning: A lot of noisy batches around, plus hard vibrations often."

Was those noisy drives by any chance equipped with JVC spindle motors?

No, as far as I know it isn't related to motor manufacturer (for this P120 series). The reason for these noisy batches is still unknown. But it's known fact that these noisy drives began to appear just from January 2006 (before that no noisy P120 was known). It was mentioned by drive users also here on SR forum several times...

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Guest 888
WDs have quite a bit of variation in drives acoustic (like Seagate has and possibly Samsung as well(*)). A good WD has extremely quiet seeks. My WD3200JB seeks in performance mode (average access around 13...14ms) as silently as my DM9/MLII Maxtors seek in quiet mode (access times slower down to somewhere to 20...24ms range) and that is unbelievably quiet to me (especially considering WD3200xx is a 3-platter drive).

Judging from several sources it seems just like mostly WD4000 and WD5000 series have some noticeable variations in their acoustics, depending on batch. Even here in SR database we can find this controversy: Idle noise for WD4000YR is 45.2dB but for WD4000KD it is only 40.1dB !!! It's very huge difference but they are just in fact the same drives physically! Also WD2500KS has high noise level 43.6dB recorded in SR database here though all users I know of have reported it to be a very quiet drive (it may be just an early batch SR received before WD's implementation of quiet drive systems for this series in 2005). Also for WD3200 series there's pretty general consensus around that it has always been relatively quiet drive though some minor variations exist (I have dealt less or more with over 400 WD3200 drives and some 20% of them have had low-frequency hum which others of this series drives did not have but this hum was pretty weak, listenable only in very quiet room or putting ear very close (few cm-s) to the drive.

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I have 3 WD2500KS in my machine bought at different times.

1 of them (the OS drive) is amazingly quiet.

1 of them (a data drive) is fairly quiet.

1 of them (data as well, and the newest) is shockingly loud during seeks.

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