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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  • MTDEW - Tuesday, December 23, 2008 - link


    There really is only once choice here in the HDD desktop market. That being the WD VelociRaptor 300GB (WD3000GLFS) drive featuring 10K RPM platters, 32MB Cache, incredible performance, and very good acoustics and thermals for a drive in this category. Without moving to high end SSD or SAS drives, this is the drive to have on the desktop if performance is paramount and storage capacities be dammed.

    The WD VelociRaptor 300GB (WD3000GLFS) only has 16mb cache, not the 32mb listed.
    I just purchased one, and to be honest, I think it wasnt worth the extra $$$ over what i paid for my WD Caviar SE16 WD6400AAKS 640GB 7200 RPM 16MB.

    Going from a WD6400AAKS to the WD300GLFS just wasnt that big of an improvement to me speedwise as an OS drive.
    Sure, the Velociraptor is faster, but not by much, and CERTAINLY not buy as much as the price difference.
    So i would assume that makes the WD Black series excellent buys for the money!!(since thay are faster than my WD6400AAKS)

    Its gonna be at least until 20010 i think until SSDs are low priced AND with large storage, so in the meantime we're getting great deals on Mechanical hard drives.
  • MTDEW - Tuesday, December 23, 2008 - link edit button for my many typing/spelling errors...LOL
    I figure large capicity SSDs wont be really cost effective until 2010.
  • v12v12 - Wednesday, January 7, 2009 - link

    Agreed on that EDIT BUTTON FUNCTION: and the outrageous price for Raptors Vs the actual performance percentage increase = like getting 7200rpm for $100 or a 5400 for $60... with minor avg speed increases of a whopping 5-10% for over $40 the cost and lack of storage space... Yes I'm running raptors, but they are older and much much cheaper. It's snappy and bursts are fabulous... BUT not for 30-50% cost increase.

    SSD's will continue to be flawed until the market demands them and prices drop waaaay lower... aka Dell, HP and the other pre-built systems start including them as a near cost effective option. Mechanical drives are just STONE AGE, but the technological-metering market still prevails so long as people keep buying at sky high prices. The LESS you buy these things, the lower they'll HAVE to drop the price or Fsking go out of business. Yes that's opposite to teachings, but notice the "go out of business." A few spoiled/baller-IT jocks purchasing these high priced SSD units = is NOT what's driving the price down. Lmao, it's all part of the metering.

    Look at all of the other 1st gen released hardware examples... $600 1x CDR burners in 1997? You think a few rich boys purchasing these things actually drove the price down b/c they profited from them? Lmfao NOPE! It was HUGE contracts from pre-built corps that drive costs down. STOP BUY THEM in 1st-gen phase: All you're really doing is BETA-TESTING for the manufacturers.
  • kjeldsen - Monday, December 22, 2008 - link

    I hope to jump in to get my 5 cents on the table.

    Seagate have really screwed up on the 1.5TB issues, they closed down threads on their forums and is only issueing firmware updates after you contact their support, and apparently those updates doesnt really solve the problem. The feeling i got after browsing through some of the threads is that they hope this will go away if they ignore it.

    Out of the 4 drives i have encountered 2 had these issues.

    Unless they change their direction 180 degrees and do something extraordinary i will stop purshasing their drives. And i think it´s a shame that sites like anandtech isn´t on the ball on these cases.
  • Visual - Monday, December 22, 2008 - link

    I would really love to see a new SSD article.

    Recently OCZ launched a new "Solid Series" that is supposed to go a bit below the "Core Series" V2 in both performance and price. For some reason they are being marketed as only laptop drives, and only for laptops made after 2007... why is that? I am really curious about the differences between Solid and Core V2, as well as how they compare to the newest OCZ Vertex series, and the Intel MLC drives too.

    Also you need to explore the stuttering issues in XP and Vista in more detail. Your last article on the subject blamed it all on the JMicron controller, but I don't think things are as clear-cut.
    Apparently the main reason for the problems is the low write cache on the drives, and there are similar problems with other SSDs that don't use JMicron controllers, including Intel ones. On drives with more cache, the problem happens more rarely, but it still can happen.
    The problem seemingly disappears with a hardware RAID controller that has cache of its own, maybe you can give a recommendation for a cheap one that does the trick? And it would be interesting to test if even with a huge cache the drives can eventually be pushed hard enough with a special stress test to cause the problem to present itself.
    Also on some forums I've seen people claiming to have no problems with even on-board controllers, by just enabling RAID mode, even with a single drive... could there be truth in this?
    OCZ themselves in some support forums have posted that the problem is limited to certain Intel chipsets, does that mean AMD systems are unaffected?
    Lastly, I wonder if any such problems can be seen in Linux.
  • Griswold - Sunday, December 21, 2008 - link

    My 500GB WD Green isnt really that much more silent than either of my two 640GB WD Blues. It also doesnt run that much cooler and the power saving advantage isnt enough to warrant the performance difference - unless its intended as a pure data storage (yes, HTPC movie storage comes to mind). And the Black drives arent fast enough to warrant the premium over the Blues - the only thing they got going for them in my opinion is the extended warranty. But it remains to be seen for how much longer WD will keep that up since Seagate dropped that 5 year warranty from all their desktop parts recently...

    With that said, I think the WD Blue is the thing to get. Best of both worlds.
  • c128 - Sunday, December 21, 2008 - link

    Just for the record -- 5 out of 6 Seagates 7200.11 died on me in the last 12 months, SD04 and SD15 firmware. The replacements from Seagate died as well, so I stopped RMA-ing them after I spent over $100 on mailing them back to their TX warranty facility. Issues include: bad sectors, failure to post, freezing during writing, erratic loud high-pitched noise and clicking sounds. I switched to WD Black Editions, and am very impressed by their reliability and performance, especially under AHCI. Some of my customers in accounting noticed dramatic performance improvement after upgrading to WD Black Edtion over AHCI -- their Tax Software and PDF Forms run much faster now. You can buy Seagate only if you like wild adventures and are prepared to lose all your data.
  • CrystalBay - Saturday, December 20, 2008 - link

    JFTR, Just for the record, I have a 1TB 7200.11 pushing 15 months and 7000 hours...
  • InSearchOf - Saturday, December 20, 2008 - link

    ive been going back and forth debating whether i should get a 640GB or a 1TB Hard drive. WD Caviar Black series has received alot of positive feedback from users. one caveat is that some have complained that it is pretty loud and runs somewhat hot. By having less platters (2 instead of 3) would a 640GB drive be quieter and run cooler than a 1TB (3 platters) hard drive?

    is money the deciding factor why some people go with smaller capacity drives or does reliability come into play too?
  • 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.

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