Holiday Storage Guide

by Gary Key on December 19, 2008 12:00 PM EST

Hard Disk Storage

Like DDR2 memory prices, hard disk storage costs have plummeted the past year. The usual technological march continues as performance is improved through higher density platters and larger cache sizes while costs continue to drop. A year ago, we highly recommended 320GB drives at the low end and now we see no reason not to buy 500GB or larger drives if your budget permits it. In fact, our minimum recommendation for most systems are the newer 500GB~640GB drives with 1TB+ drives quickly becoming the norm in the mid-range to upper range markets. You might not ever need that much storage but the price to performance ratio on the larger drives are just too enticing for us to pass up.

For specialized applications we still see value in the WD VelociRaptor series in the enterprise, workstation, and high-end desktop markets. For the general desktop space, we think the performance of the WD Caviar Black or Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 drives are more than capable for most users. We were initially impressed with the Samsung F1 series, but as of late we have had a higher than normal failure rate, something we notice other users have also experienced. It seems as though you either get a really solid drive or not. As far as Hitachi is concerned, well, we just have not seen anything compelling out of them recently. However, their current drive lineup is still competitive from a performance viewpoint for the most part.

We will concentrate on the HDD and ODD desktop market today and follow-up in early 2009 with a look at several new SSD and SAS drives that were recently released. This along with detailed looks at NAS (hint, Promise SmartStor NS4300N would make a great holiday gift) and other external storage products should bring us up to speed in the world of storage on the desktop.

Entry Level Drives


Western Digital is one of our favorite drive manufacturers and the new WD Caviar Green 640GB (WD6400AACS) drive offers a great blend of capacity, performance, and quiet operation for $70. The Green series of drives offers lower power consumption, improved thermals, and very quiet operation. We highly suggest this drive (or the 500GB version) for systems that will be placed near the user or in HTPC systems.

Performance is just a few percent lower than the WD SE16 or Seagate Barracuda series and most users will never notice the difference. For the same price, you can purchase the WD Caviar Black 500GB drive that offers faster performance but at the expense of acoustics and thermals, although both are still tolerable in most HTPC conditions.

The WD Caviar Black (WD6401AALS) 640GB drive is the new favorite in the labs, replacing the WD 640GB SE16. This $85 drive offers a larger 32MB cache, improved acoustics, and around a 3% improvement in application performance for about $10 more than the SE16 version. The biggest change for us is this drive’s warranty is extended to five years instead of the typical three that WD offers on other desktop drives. We highly recommend this drive or several of them for a very fast and secure RAID 10 or 5 setup.

If you are on a tighter budget or feel like 640GB is too much capacity, we suggest the Hitachi P7K500 320GB or WD Caviar SE16 320GB drives selling for around $50.

Hard Drives a leaping.. Optical Drives are singing
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  • cyriene - Saturday, December 20, 2008 - link

    I make sure a drive has a good track record of reliability before I buy one. Price matters too, but most drives are competitively priced. Reply
  • JNo - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    Interesting comments on these. The price does indeed seem very compelling especially to the significantly more expensive WD 1TB drives (and I usually like Samsung e.g. DVD drives, TVs etc). However, I bought a Spinpoint F1 1TB recently after a 500GB WD recently went bad (after intense usage admittedly) and every now and then it reports S.M.A.R.T. errors on load up (only a few weeks old!). Also, a friend of mine returned his for same reason. And the replacement one also did the same... what is it with these things?! I will pay the extra in future for a different brand, especially as it's my primary data storage... Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    Great value, good drives. All my drives are Pioneer, including two slot drives I got for a mATX system. Reply
  • DBissett - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the review, but reread the section on DVD writers. It starts by recommending the Sony and LG units, for stated reasons. Fine. Then recommends looking at the Sony before purchasing the former. Why? ...you just recommended purchasing the former. Then you state that you still "favor" the Pioneer unit. Favor=prefer, so this statement contradicts everything said previously. Maybe you still "like" the Pioneer, but you clearly don't still favor it because you just recommended at least 2 units over it. It's just a whole lot of equivocating that ends up being contradictory. Maybe there's not a breath of difference among these units in real world use? Reply
  • bob4432 - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    i agree w/ the above post - why not just recommend the pioneer drive?

    also, you fail to mention that the green drive is a 5400rpm drive - this may be important to some people. if they come here and are a bit green themselves, you may want to educate them and let them know that they are not 5400-7200rpm like the wd marketing, but 5400rpm drives (when that first came out i was really impressed w/ a understanding of how drives work mechanically i was surprised somebody made a various speed drive - truth is they dont)

    last, why do you mention sas but you guys never mentioned scsi? is it simply because of the connector? oh well, scsi's reign is over except for us that have used it for years and still enjoy it, too bad the mainstream never really took to it even at an ethusiast level - just the enterprise community for the most part. sad because scsi was never hard - you just needed to read a bit and it was/is as easy as any other connection...
    Reply
  • RagingDragon - Sunday, December 21, 2008 - link

    Ummm... SAS = Serial Attached SCSI. Except for tape drives, parallel SCSI is pretty much dead. A 15K RPM SAS drive would be nice, though expensive, alternative to the Raptor - especially if your motherboard happens to include an SAS controller (i.e. the ASUS P6T and many server and workstation boards). Reply
  • HollyDOL - Saturday, December 20, 2008 - link

    Considering SCSI my bet for not mentioning them are as following:
    1. When SCSI drives got to the Enthusiast segment the SCSI was already obsolete replaced with high end SATA and SAS drives
    2. Those machines running SCSI drives are most likely 99% servers. You don't buy server discs for holiday :-)
    Reply
  • teko - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    Lately I've been seeing reports that the 1TB Seagate series that were manufactured in Thailand had firmware issues. Some of these HDD died within a month or two without any signs. So, it may be best to avoid them atm.

    If I'm not mistaken they're the 7200.11 lineup with SD15 firmware.
    Reply
  • The0ne - Monday, December 22, 2008 - link

    I got 2 of these 1.5TB drives waiting to be tested. Now that I have them I'm a bit afraid to keep my movies on them. Seagate has release a firmware to address the issue they claimed not to know about. Sorry, I don't have a link to the updated firmware. Reply
  • Jynx980 - Sunday, December 21, 2008 - link

    These 1.5TB(http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8... and 1TB (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8... Seagate Baracuda's 7200.11 each have around 20% 1 egg reviews out of 400 and 500 total reviews. Ouch. The Seagate that is recommended on the second page must be pretty new with just 4 five egg reviews, though only one person actually bought from Newegg. I would go with the Black or Green WD's for now until the newer Seagate model has more reliability reports. Reply

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