Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 120.9 GB,Internal,7200 RPM,3.5" (ST3120026AS) Hard Drive Reviews
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Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 120.9 GB,Internal,7200 RPM,3.5" (ST3120026AS) Hard Drive

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My kind of Hard Drive

Oct 19, 2004 (Updated Oct 19, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:An undisputed great performer, extremely fast read/write, easy installation, excellent for large data/file transferring

Cons:a little noisy at first...

The Bottom Line: Definitely the drive of choice for those who demand fast read/write speed and overall performance. Plus, it is priced roughly the same as its IDE relative.


The Barracuda Serial ATA (S-ATA) is the second generation that was originally introduced as Barracuda V ATA. Introduced late last year under the new name 7200.7, the S-ATA series are quickly gaining popularity. I recently had the opportunity to use and make some test comparison with its IDE relative, and was very impressed with the results I obtained.

The Difference Between S-ATA and P-ATA (IDE), all for the better…

While both S-ATA and IDE Barracudas share similar spindle speed of 7200RPM and 8MB memory buffer, there are a few important characteristics that make them quite different. One of them being that the S-ATA has a fast data transfer rate of 150MB/s.

With the IDE hard drives, there seems to be an inevitable limit of data transfer rate that also depends on the system memory, as well as a 137GB barrier on large hard drives. The downside with using IDE hard drives is bottleneck on data transfer rate, specially when two drives are configured as Master and Slave on the same IDE cable.

By contrast, each Barracuda 7200.7 S-ATA drive is unique. It connects to each S-ATA port on the motherboard via a separate S-ATA signaling cable. Being Serial ATA, there are no jumper pins on the drive. This makes it even more convenient to install the drive. But S-ATA drives can still be configured as Master or Slave through the motherboard’s BIOS. There is a jumper box at the rear, but completely covered, intended for factory use only.

The Barracuda 7200.7 S-ATA uses a 7-pin S-ATA connecting cable as opposed to the 40-pin IDE ribbon cable used on the IDE drives. The power connecting cable is of S-ATA type with 15 pins, in contrast to the 4-pin Molex power connector found on the IDE drives. This can pose a problem on power connection, since the power supply is still equipped with the regular 4-pin connectors. Fortunately, the 4-pin-to-15-pin adapter is usually supplied with the motherboard that features S-ATA connection. The retail packaged Barracuda 7200.7 S-ATA also includes these power adapter and S-ATA data cable. If you purchase an OEM bare-bone drive, that does not come with power adapter and cable, these cables can also be purchased separately.

Specifications: Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 S-ATA 120GB

Interface: Serial ATA
Capacity: 120.9GB
Spindle Speed: 7200 RPM
Platter Size: 80GB
Cylinders: 16383
Heads: 16
Sectors: 63
Cache Size: 8MB
Seek Time: 8.5ms
Max. Internal Transfer Rate: 683MB/s
Max. External Transfer Rate: 150MB/s

Availability

The Barracuda 7200.7 S-ATA series are available in 80GB, 120GB, 160GB and 200GB, all are equipped with a large 8MB cache (memory buffer). Nowadays, it seems that you pay more for a small capacity hard drive. For example, a 40GB hard drive is selling for $80, while a 120GB is between $100-$110 (without rebate offers). The same can be said for the Barracuda 7200.7 S-ATA series. It is more expensive to get the 80GB compared to the 160GB or 200GB. The larger the capacity, the lower the price (in terms of GB per dollar).

Unlike the IDE hard drives that regularly carry rebate offers, the new S-ATA ones don’t; at least I haven’t seen one yet. However, the price of the Barracuda 7200.7 S-ATA are comparable to their IDE counterparts (without rebates). This makes getting the Barracuda S-ATA over the IDE the most logical choice both for price and performance. I ordered two Barracuda 7200.7 S-ATA 120GB drives from newegg.com; one as a retail package ($105), one as an OEM ($91) since I needed the power and S-ATA connecting cables.

Retail Package

The retail package includes:

Barracuda 7200.7 S-ATA 120GB drive ST3120026AS
One S-ATA connecting cable
One 4-pin to 15-pin power converting cable
Instruction Manual
Quick guide
Disc Utility CD
4 screws

The OEM drive does not come with anything, just the drive unit in a sealed anti-static wrap.

Installation

Installing the S-ATA drive is fairly simple. The cable connection is similar to that of the USB, very easy to plug and unplug (unlike the 40-pin IDE connection). However, the drive configuration part may require several steps in the BIOS system. Most motherboards that support S-ATA connections offer several configuration options: 1) Use S-ATA as RAID, 2) Use S-ATA as IDE drive(s) and disable the IDE ports, 3) Use S-ATA as IDE drive(s) combined with the regular IDE ports (for IDE and ATAPI [optical] devices) and 4) Auto mode. The S-ATA ports are controlled by the SouthBridge on my motherboard. It is a good idea to have your motherboard’s system manual available for reference.

For my drive configuration, I select “Enhanced Mode” in my motherboard’s BIOS which allows combined usage of S-ATA and IDE ports. All drives, two S-ATA (port1 and port2) and one IDE, are configured as IDE drives. My motherboard’s BIOS program also permits me to set both S-ATA ports as Master (IDE-3 and IDE-4). I use one S-ATA as the boot drive and data storage alternation, and the other solely for data storage. I also set the last portion of each drive to configure as soft RAID 0 for greater accessing speed on data striping.

Performance

With its external data transfer rate being 1.5 times faster than my Seagate Ultra ATA/100 120GB Cache 8MB drive, I was eager to see how it actually performed. Therefore, before putting it into good use, I ran a few tests on both the S-ATA and Ultra ATA drives using PCMark2002 pro and WinBench99 testing applications.

To maintain consistency and relevant comparison, these two drives were tested under the following system:

Motherboard: Abit AI-7 u-GURU
CPU: Pentium 4 2.8GHz 800MHz FSB
RAM: 1024 MB dual-channel
Video: ATI Radeon 9200SE 128MB
OS: Windows XP SP-1

Based on PCMark2002, CPU usage of the S-ATA series is quite good but not much better than the Ultra ATA/100. However, the transfer rate of the S-ATA was very impressive! Under WinBench99Version2 for Business and High-End Diskmark test, the Barracuda S-ATA did not show any sympathy for its IDE counterpart. As a comparison, the figures below will show who owns the performance stage:

Playback (KB/s)
Ultra ATA/100 120GB: 12046 (Business), 26809 (High-End Diskmark)
7200.7 S-ATA 120GB: 27540 (Business), 42820 (High-End Diskmark)

The average read/write test under WinBench99 showed that the 7200.0 S-ATA is leading its regular IDE relative by quite a good mark:

HD Tach Average Read (KB/s)
Ultra ATA/100 120GB: 43436
7200.7 S-ATA 120GB: 49020 (higher is better)

HD Tach Average Write ( KB/s)
Ultra ATA/100 120GB: 45243
7200.7 S-ATA 120GB: 50145 (higher is better)

The 7200.7 S-ATA maintains a maximum read and write speed of 59MB/s and 68MB/s, while the IDE could only bump up to around 50MB/s (49.7MB/s).

Accessing time (ms)
Ultra ATA/100 120GB: 13.1
7200.7 S-ATA 120GB: 12.2 (lower is better)

These numbers don’t mean much if we don’t know how to relate to them. Moreover, they are collected under a controlled environment (a test lab, if you will), but suffice it to say that these numbers provide a pretty good idea how these two drives compare to each other.

On the practical side, loading up Windows XP operating system takes less than 10 sec with the 7200.7 S-ATA drive. My Ultra ATA/100 160GB Barracuda (7200RPM w/ 8MB cache) takes about 13 sec on a different PC system. This is timed from the Windows XP logo to log-in screen. The difference is not by much, but with large chunk of data it all adds up.

As a real-world test, I move a large chunk of 4.63GB data, containing folders and files, within the hard drive. My Seagate Barracuda Ultra ATA/100 120GB took about 5 minutes, while the 7200.7 S-ATA took only 2 minutes. These two drives are partitioned with roughly the same geometry, and this large chunk of data is being moved from one partition to another roughly within the same sector specification.

Heat: I boot up the system and let it sit idling for about an hour. Then I touch both Barracuda drives (S-ATA ST3120026AS and IDE ST3120026A) with my hand. The S-ATA feels a little bit warmer than the IDE. The procedure is unscientific and maybe inaccurate (because the operating system is running on the S-ATA drive) but is practical enough. Under extreme operating conditions, I suspect the Barracuda 7200.7 S-ATA will produce more heat.

Noise: Both my Seagate Barracuda Ultra ATA/100 160GB and 120GB hard drives are very quiet during operation. The Barracuda 7200.7 S-ATA started out with a little noise; I can easily hear the head movement during accessing data. One of them is now fairly quiet. Its noise is much lower than my Western Digital 120GB drive. Nonetheless, noise it not of important to me. To help increase ventilation, I leave my system case open at all times, and I even place a small appliance fan facing toward the case to help blow cool air into the system, particularly the hard drive units area. The noise from that fan is already louder than the hard drive can produce.

The Advantage of the S-ATA over regular IDE

It is clear that the advantage of the S-ATA drive is speed and performance. However, there are a few more things worth mentioning here. Cable wiring is much less complicated than the 40-pin type; and there is a lot of room in the system board as a result. No more hassle on the try-to twist and bend that stubborn flat 40-pin ribbon cable that seems to occupy the entire space in the system board. Even the round 40-pin flexible cables cannot compete with the 7-pin small S-ATA cable (the size of an Ethernet or phone line). The best part is that Linux operating system recognizes S-ATA as SCSI drives. This means that performance will improve greatly; and indeed I have experienced significant improvements, because the flow of high-speed data transmission can be moved freely without much traffic control.

Reliability

I think it would be fair to say that we should use this drive for at least one year before writing this review. This will ensure that the reliability part of the product is tested out. Well, I’m too excited to report my results and my impression of this drive!

So far I have never had any problems with all my hard drives (Maxtor, Western Digital or Seagate), to suddenly stop working or producing bad blocks or bad sectors. Still, I regularly backup my important data in case such unforeseen event should occur. DVD or CD rewriteable media are currently more affordable than ever, which makes backing up my import data less expensive and less inconvenient. A small price to pay for your invaluable data; why risk it.

So what about the reliability of this Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 S-ATA 120GB drive? I forgot to mention that Seagate puts a 5-year warranty on this drive. With such a bold statement and warranty, it seems that Seagate is pretty confident with its product. And with such warranty, I don’t need to wait for one year to write my review. My hard drive is covered through Sept 2009.

If you have purchased Seagate Internal hard drive after July 2004, you may want to contact Seagate or visit their web site on how to extend the warranty.

Conclusion

Based on my test data, the Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 S-ATA 120GB hard drive definitely outperforms its IDE counterpart. Due to its fast throughput, this drive is capable of handling any applications, ranging from web surfing, files serving to large-file video editing or gaming. Since 7200.7 S-ATA drives are priced roughly the same as their regular IDE siblings, for money and performance wise, the S-ATA drives are quite a definite excellent choice. The only downside is that not all motherboards support S-ATA, particularly those entry-level or lower-mid range ones. Therefore, you would definitely have to get a good motherboard that features S-ATA or get a PCI controller card to take advantage of S-ATA experience. After all, a good PC starts with a good motherboard.


Recommend this product? Yes

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