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.
Thanks to advances in areal density, today’s 5,400rpm drives are faster than the 7,200rpm drives of yesteryear.
One of the wonders of modern areal density is that today’s 5,400rpm drives can hit average sustained read and write speeds north of 100MB/s—truly impressive, considering a fast 7,200rpm drive couldn’t average 90MB/s four years ago. By that standard, the Deskstar 5K4000 is excellent, with read averages of 108MB/s and writes of 105MB/s across the whole disk. Of course, because this is a mechanical drive, that means speeds vary—read and write speeds start near 140MB/s near the beginning of the volume but fall to around 60MB/s at the end. Random-access times average around 19ms—on the slower side for a modern 5,400rpm drive.
The 5K4000 is faster than the 3TB Caviar Green, but slower than a 7,200rpm 3TB drive. No surprise there.
Hitachi flat-out refused to give us an MSRP for the Deskstar 5K4000, so our street price is based on the one store carrying the 4TB Deskstar at press time: OWC (Macsales.com), which sells the drive for $350. Hard drive prices are still in flux, but at press time you could get a 3TB Seagate Barracuda for $200, meaning you could score 6TB of faster storage for just $50 more than the 4TB Hitachi drive. However, the two Barracudas would take up twice the space, consume more power, and put out more heat.
If you just want the single highest-capacity hard drive you can get today, the Deskstar is your drive. Hitachi gets points for being first out of the gate, and we look forward to both the 7K4000 and four-platter 4TB drives from other vendors.
Hitachi Deskstar 5K4000
Four terabytes! One drive!; average sustained speeds above 100MB/s.
Slower than a 7,200rpm drive; first out the gate means lack of competition.
Hitachi Deskstar 5K4000
Seagate Barracuda 3TB
Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 (3TB)
WD Caviar Green (3TB)
Avg Read (MB/s)
Random-Access Read (ms)
Burst Read (MB/s)
Avg Write (MB/s)
Random-Access Write (ms)
Burst Write (MB/s)
Premiere Pro Encode (sec)
Best scores are bolded. 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.