Not a caching or hybrid drive, but a separate SSD and HDD
Today WD is unveiling a slick 2.5" hard drive it calls the Black Squared Dual Drive. Unlike previous 2.5" drives which featured either a spinning hard drive or an SSD, or the two combined in a caching setup, this model features two separate volumes that coexist peacefully in one chassis. It's designed to be a high-performance drive for those with single-bay devices, such as a notebook, SFF rig, or AIO. If you fall into this category, and can squeeze your OS onto a 120GB volume, Christmas has indeed come early.
Several months ago, the supreme high-end SSDs from Corsair and Samsung faced off in the Octagon known as the top of our desk area that holds drives being tested. In that blood-curdling battle (in which neither drive moved nor made a sound), the Samsung 840 Pro was victorious, vanquishing its opponent by a slim margin in a contest where zero trash talk was delivered by either storage device. This month, Round Two commences as the companies’ value-conscious SSDs clash like cars in a demolition derby by sitting quietly on a test bench while we perform benchmarks upon them. Neither of these drives is as fast as their top-tier brethren, but they are priced accordingly, and both are a damned-good value.
Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of the magazine.
PC users have been in a bit of a quandary about the new Thunderbolt interface from Intel. On the one hand, we’re all about maximum performance, so given its sizable speed advantage over USB 3.0, at least on paper, we’re eager to adopt it. On the other hand, there are three issues that have prevented us from jumping on the Thunderbolt bandwagon with both feet. The first is the fact that it debuted on the Apple platform. Granted, we’re a bit sensitive, but this just rubbed us the wrong way. Second, Thunderbolt doesn’t exist on LGA2011 due to a requirement for integrated graphics. And finally, we already have USB 3.0, so do we really need Thunderbolt? Sure, it’s twice as fast on paper (10Gb/s versus 5Gb/s), but will we see that benefit in the real world, and is it worth the cost? To help us answer all these nagging questions we snagged a very special hard drive, the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt, which has both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports, allowing us to test both interfaces back-to-back and make an apples-to-apples comparison.
In this group, the Toshiba Canvio initially came across as the vanilla stepchild—nothing to get excited about, at least in this company, given its bland exterior and specs. We tested the 1.5TB version of the drive, which is the highest capacity offered by Toshiba. Surprisingly, it’s almost as thick as the 2TB WD drive despite its 500GB capacity deficit, so the lesson here is that if you’re going big on a USB drive, prepare to be toting around a Hot Pocket-size enclosure. The 1.5TB drive is only available in black, a decision we are just fine with since we don’t need nor want fancy colors on our USB storage. If you favor a splash of color attached to your USB port, you’ll have to get by with less capacity, as only the 500GB and 1TB models are available in red, blue, and gray (as well as black, natch).
The Toshiba drive wins the contest of lamest names for devices and software, but is still the best drive here.
At 2TB, WD’s My Passport is the largest-capacity USB hard drive we’ve ever tested, and its four chunky 500GB platters rotate at 5,400rpm. In the palm it feels about as thick as a huge English muffin with a piece of ham in the middle, or a water-logged deck of cards; it’s the thickest drive in this roundup, but only by a tiny margin over the 1.5TB Toshiba. Though this drive is pudgier than the rest at 0.8-inch thick, it’s noticeably shorter than the other two drives at just 4.2 inches long. It comes in a variety of pleasingly subtle, matte color finishes (red, blue, black, gray, white) and is available in sizes ranging from 500GB to 2TB.
The Hitachi Ultrastar 7K4000 4TB made its first appearance in this magazine back in September 2012, when a gaggle of them debuted in the Dream Machine. At the time, they were the only 7,200rpm 4TB drives available, so they fit right in among all the other expensive and hard-to-find components. Now that the dust has settled and the 7K4000 has some company, we decided to put it on the test bench to see how it fares against its only rival in the 4TB category.
Note: This review first appeared in the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.
The WD RE 4TB drive is specifically meant to handle an enterprise workload, but don’t let that scare you off, as it includes a desktop-friendly SATA 6Gb/s interface. As long as you’re running Windows Vista or Windows 7, you should be able to format it into one partition somewhat easily, though you could use it as a boot drive if you’re insane. Its enterprise pedigree is evident not only in its RE branding but in its 1.2 million-hour MTBF, or mean time between failure. This means you should be using this drive at least until Apple Maps for iOS has caught up to Google Maps.
Note: This review appeared in the Holiday 2012 issue of the magazine.
Western Digital releases a new Raptor drive every couple of years, and each time the performance and capacity increase while the price for the highest-capacity model stays around $300. This year’s iteration finally breaks 1TB, but the VelociRaptor remains caught between increasingly fast 7,200rpm drives and increasingly capacious SSDs. Is it the best of both worlds, or the worst?
Like the previous two generations of VelociRaptor, the WD1000DHTZ is a 2.5-inch drive spinning at 10,000rpm, mounted on an “IcePak” cooler/3.5-inch drive adapter. The latest version has 64MB of cache (up from 32MB) and up to 1TB of storage (up from a maximum of 600GB). Despite its 2.5-inch form factor, it won’t fit in a laptop—the drive is far too thick and power hungry. So far, so unsurprising.
Finally, a 4TB hard drive. That’s one more than three!
MOST OF US DON'T NEED 4TB hard drives. Most of us don’t even need 3TB drives. Unless you create, edit, or store lots of high-definition video; have backups of all your machines; have a massive lossless audio library; or…. You know what? Maybe we do need 4TB drives. After a couple of years making do with puny 3TB drives (like animals!), it’s time to get 25 percent more stuff into our 3.5-inch drives. Though other drive makers offer 4TB external drives, Hitachi GST is the first drive maker to give you 4TB on the inside. And didn’t your mother or mother-equivalent teach you that it’s what’s on the inside that counts?
We’ve been expecting 4TB drives since Seagate’s 1TB/platter 3TB drive in the January 2012 issue, but the four-platter 4TB 7,200rpm drive we’ve been dreaming of isn’t here yet. Instead, we get Hitachi’s Deskstar 5K4000, which packs a full four terabytes into a standard 3.5-inch drive, but on five platters, not four. The platters have a maximum areal density of 443Gb per square inch. The 5K4000 has 32MB of cache, a 6Gb/s SATA controller, and a spin speed of 5,400rpm.
In the storage world, nothing matches a solid-state drive for speed, and nothing matches a mechanical hard drive for capacity and price per gigabyte. Recognizing these two great tastes would go great together, many vendors have attempted to find the perfect hybrid storage solution, with variable—and often clunky—results. Seagate’s Momentus XT, which we first reviewed in September 2010, offered a 500GB 2.5-inch drive with 4GB of NAND flash with an adaptive algorithm to ensure that the most frequently used files are mirrored in the NAND. This means your boot drive feels faster than a mechanical drive, if only for the stuff you use the most. We liked the first Momentus, but complained that it could use more NAND. Seagate aims to remedy that complaint with this new Momentus.