"We are what we repeatedly do."

This statement by the famous Greek critic, philosopher, physicist, and zoologist Aristotle expresses our beliefs about the technological capabilities of Seagate. Seagate has been at the forefront of storage design, manufacturing, and service capabilities while attaining the status of the world's largest supplier of hard disk drives with their acquisition of Maxtor a few months ago.

Seagate recently announced the Barracuda 7200.10 as the successor to their Barracuda 7200.9 series with much surprise as the 7200.9 product line has only been available for a short period of time. Although the Barracuda 7200.10 series will become the flagship product for personal desktop solutions, the 7200.9 series will continue to be offered in capacities under 200GB as a "value performance" product once the 7200.10 drives are shipping in volume later this spring. As with previous Barracuda product group updates, the naming succession follows the standard point upgrade path but this change is anything but a simple number revision. The new Barracuda 7200.10 product will be the first desktop centric hard drive to feature perpendicular recording.

For nearly fifty years, the storage industry has been on a path where the longitudinal technology currently utilized would eventually become a limiting factor in drive capacities. Over the last decade the drive manufacturers have been doubling and at times quadrupling storage capacity at a dizzying rate in order to meet continuing demands from users. The standard method of increasing the amount of capacity in a drive is to either add more platters or increase the density of the data on each platter. Increasing the density of data that can be stored on a platter is the preferred manner, as it will allow for an overall increase in drive storage along with resulting performance and cost advantages by reducing the number of components. However, this solution requires significantly more effort from a research and development viewpoint that can lead to additional complexity and cost. While the storage manufacturers have been able to develop and implement some incredible technologies to achieve the capacities, cost, and drive performance we currently experience there is a limit to what can be achieved with today's technology.

The next evolutionary step in the storage industry for solving today's current issues is the utilization of perpendicular recording technology. This technology has been researched and discussed for a number of years by the various drive manufacturers. It has its roots in the late 19th century work of Danish scientist Valdemar Poulsen, who is generally considered the first person to magnetically record sound using perpendicular recording.

What is Perpendicular Recording Technology? Simply put, during perpendicular recording the magnetization of the disc stands on end, perpendicular to the plane of the disc, instead of lying in the disc's plane as it does in current longitudinal recording. The data bits are then represented as regions of upward or downward directed magnetization points. The data is written to a soft magnetic under-layer that functions as part of the write field return path and basically generates an image of the recording head that doubles the available recording field, resulting in a higher recording density compared to longitudinal recording.



In longitudinal recording, the data bit magnetization lies in the plane of the disc and switches between pointing in the same and then opposite directions of the disk movement. In order to increase areal densities and provide greater storage capacity in longitudinal recording, the data bits must be arranged and shrunk in a very tight pattern on the disc media. However, if the data bit becomes too small, the magnetic energy holding the bit in place can become so small that thermal energy can cause it to demagnetize, resulting in a condition known as superparamagnetism.

To avoid superparamagnetism, engineers have been increasing the coercivity - the field size required to write a bit - of the disc media. These fields are limited by the magnetic materials making up the write head and will soon effectively limit drive sizes utilizing longitudinal recording. Although additional capacities are still achievable, the drive industry will be moving to perpendicular recording technology shortly as longitudinal recording has basically hit the proverbial brick wall after being utilized for nearly 50 years.

Perpendicular recording will eventually enable areal densities of up to 500 Gbpsi (Gigabits per square inch) with current technology as compared to the 110 Gbpsi rates in today's longitudinal recording designs. This results in an almost five fold increase in storage capacities with a typical 3.5-inch desktop drive being able to store two terabytes of information. Current perpendicular technology has allowed Seagate to demonstrate 245 Gbpsi capabilities with a data transfer rate exceeding 480Mb/s (7200.10 already does).

While the launch of the Barracuda 7200.10 series is certainly impressive for Seagate, it is not the first use of perpendicular recording technology in their product lines. Seagate is currently shipping their Momentus 5400.3 mobile hard drive with this technology, and it has allowed the mobile sector to finally break the 100GB mark with drives featuring capacities up to 160GB. Seagate has also introduced perpendicular technology into their Enterprise product line with the release of the Cheetah 15K.5 product series; it has effectively doubled the storage capacity of 15K enterprise level drives overnight.

Let's see how the newest Barracuda performs against other large capacity SATA drives.

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  • JakeBlade - Friday, May 26, 2006 - link

    Interesting that this drive has a MADE IN SINGAPORE label instead of Seagate's usual MADE IN CHINA junk. Reply
  • ElFenix - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link

    no reason to upgrade from my SE16, i see.

    i'd like to see a couple more drives in tests, such as the latest hitachi.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link

    quote:

    i'd like to see a couple more drives in tests, such as the latest hitachi.


    The reason we did not include the Hitachi unit is we have the revised 500GB unit arriving shortly and as mentioned in the article we will have a complete 500GB roundup with the new 7200.10 also. It will take some time to build the database with the revised test suite as we also have additional application timer tests coming shortly.

    The performance across most of the recently released mainstream drives is so close now that it comes down to a personal decision on warranty, reliability, thermals/acoustics, and capacity for the most part. However, drives like the Raptor and RE2 series do make things interesting for SATA on the desktop as did this drive for a PVR fanatic. ;-)
    Reply
  • ElFenix - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link

    i'd also like to see audio tests from a little bit further away. 5 mm doesn't give a realistic idea of how loud it will be sitting 3 feet away on the floor. plus, for all i know where you place the microphone is extremely important when at 5 mm. Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link

    quote:

    i'd also like to see audio tests from a little bit further away. 5 mm doesn't give a realistic idea of how loud it will be sitting 3 feet away on the floor. plus, for all i know where you place the microphone is extremely important when at 5 mm.


    There is no one good area to measure the acoustics as you never know where the PC will be located, what type of case, fan noise, or ambient sounds are present. I can tell you that a drive that is loud at 3mm~5mm will be loud at three feet with all things being equal. Sound tones are also very subjective, the dull thumping sound the drive has under load might be perfectly acceptable while the higher pitched clicking sound of a Maxtor will be unbearable for some people.

    We place the two mics at different points on the drive to ensure a consistent recording point, we assume most people will utilize a horizontal mounting point with the rear of the drive facing the case front, although we test the drive facing the case side also as this cage design is becoming very popular. The tone of the drive can change dramatically with the addition of rubber washers between the drive and the mount points.

    Thanks for the comments. :)
    Reply
  • jhvtoor - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link


    Temperature measurement using S.M.A.R.T. is not reliable. The sensor and electronics on the harddrive are used, en they are not calibrated.

    I am using the freeware "HDD Health" utility to monitor the SMART information. It reported the drive temperature of my desktop is 12 degrees celcius immediatly after winXP boot, while the room temperature is 19 degrees.... I am not using cooling techniques on this drive. This can only be explained by an inaccurate temperature measurement of this drive.

    I would suggest to use one an independent measurement instument in the future. Attach the sensor in the middle of the cover plate.

    Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link

    Hi,

    1. We have found S.M.A.R.T. to be "fairly" accurate along with our capture utility. We know it is not perfect but it allows us a consistent measurement of each drive in testing. In our 7200.10 test ActiveSmart reported a temperature of 26c after boot, room temp was 22c. We put the drive through 15 minutes of light usage, let it idle for 15 minutes, and then report this number as our idle number. All of the drives we have tested have followed the same pattern with a consistent idle reading after this usage, the idle temp will be the same 15 or 30 minutes later. If you stress the drive, you will see the temps rise accordingly and then fall back to the standing idle temp during the cooldown phase.

    2. One drawback is the temperatures are not "real" time, there is a delay built in, this is why on the load test (also idle) we loop PCMark05 several times and then take the reported temperature at the end of the session, generally the high temperature was actually reached in the previous loop.

    3. We have have tried using a sensor, infrared, and other methods with varying results. The problem is each section of the drive will report a different number. When we utilized a sensor on the top plate, the temps varied from drive to drive with the same model being tested. Each supplier uses different materials for their casings so that creates greater variables, it just is not consistent enough to report.
    Reply
  • toattett - Thursday, May 18, 2006 - link

    Apparently,
    If I want a speedy drive, I buy the raptor.
    If I want a super large drive, I buy the new 750GB Seagate.
    If I want good performance and good amount of stoarge, I buy the 500GB WD.
    Reply
  • Missing Ghost - Thursday, May 18, 2006 - link

    The pictures for the noise level are wrong. You put the dbA level as if it was a linear scale. It's not that way, the space between 0dB and 10dB should be smaller than the space between 10dB and 20dB. That way it will show more clearly the difference between the noise levels. It's a logarithmic scale. Reply
  • Gary Key - Thursday, May 18, 2006 - link

    quote:

    The pictures for the noise level are wrong. You put the dbA level as if it was a linear scale. It's not that way, the space between 0dB and 10dB should be smaller than the space between 10dB and 20dB. That way it will show more clearly the difference between the noise levels. It's a logarithmic scale.


    Our current graph engine will not allow us to do this type of scale manipulation. We will probably have to utilize a Microsoft Excel chart in the next article. We agree with you, just not possible with the internal engine at this time although we are working on a new one.
    Reply

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