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Since time began, man has looked at four- and five-platter 3TB hard drives and dared to say, “That’s cool, but when will we get hard drives with one terabyte per platter?” Man is impossible to please. Nevertheless, drive makers have cracked the 1TB-per-platter limit, and this year we’ll see 4- and 5TB drives, and even one-platter 1TB drives. The first 1TB/platter drive to cross our bench, though, is Seagate’s new 3TB Barracuda.
This is the first from Seagate’s simplified consumer 3.5-inch drive lineup. The LP and XT brands, for “green” and “enthusiast,” respectively, are gone. In fact, Seagate has entirely phased out 5,400rpm and “green” drives. The Barracuda lineup now consists exclusively of 7,200rpm drives with 6Gb/s SATA controllers. The 2- and 3TB models use three platters, the 1.5TB version uses two, and the 1TB and lesser-capacity drives all use one. Increased areal density allows for faster read and write speeds, which should mean a faster drive. Does it?
It does. On our Sandy Bridge test bed, the 3TB Barracuda had average sequential read speeds higher than 155MB/s, with max sequential read speeds of 200MB/s. Average sequential write speeds were higher than 150MB/s. The two 7,200rpm 3TB drives we reviewed in July 2011—Seagate’s Barracuda XT and Hitachi’s Deskstar 7K3000—were both slower, by around 30MB/s. Random-access times for the three-platter drives were less than 15ms—speedy for a mechanical drive, although nowhere near the 0.1ms random-access times an SSD will post.
In our Premiere Pro encoding benchmark, the three-platter Barracuda lagged slightly behind the five-platter Deskstar, and both five-platter drives bested the three-platter model in PCMark Vantage.
As with all drives higher than 2.2TB, you’ll need a motherboard with UEFI, the ability to make GPT partitions, and a 64-bit operating system in order to create a bootable 3TB partition on your drive. If you don’t meet those criteria, you can use Seagate’s included DiscWizard software to help create multiple partitions. Or you can use Disk Management in the control panel, as the gods intended. Most Maximum PC users will opt to use their 3TB drives as storage volumes anyway, and you don’t need UEFI to create 3TB non-booting partitions in Windows.
If you can find it at its MSRP of $180, the three-platter 3TB drive is a steal, combining sustained speeds of over 150MB/s with, well, three terabytes of storage. But given the hard drive shortages forecasted due to this autumn’s flooding in Thailand, supplies could be tight and street prices much higher.
Nov 1 Note: Initial MSRP was $180 on our reviewer's guide; we're seeing reports now that it could be as high as $210, likely due to the aforementioned shortages.
Blazing-fast sequential reads and writes; fast access times (for mechanical storage)
Encoding and Vantage scores lag slightly behind.
|Seagate Barracuda 3TB||Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 (3TB)||Seagate Barracuda XT (3TB)||WD Caviar Green (3TB)|
|Avg Read (MB/s) ||155.8*||119.5||124||101.5|
|Random-Access Read (ms)||14.9*||15.7||17.2||15.7* |
|Avg Write (MB/s)||150.7*||118.5||122||96.9|
|Random-Access Write (ms)||14.9*||15.7||17.3||15.6|
|Burst Write (MB/s)||335.5*||315.6||284.8||183.1|
|Premiere Pro Encode (sec) ||455||435*||447||530|
|PCMark Vantage ||6,910||7,663*||6,975||4,910|
Asterisk (*) denotes best score. All drives tested on our hard drive test bench: a stock-clocked Intel Core i3-2100 CPU on an Asus P8P67 Pro (Rev 3.1) motherboard with 4GB DDR3, running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. All tests performed using native Intel 6Gb/s SATA chipset with IRST version 10.1 drivers.