Seagate Barracuda XT review

6 Nov 2009

A decent début for the new SATA standard, but for now the price is prohibitive

Price when reviewed: 
251(£251 inc VAT)
4

Seagate's new 2TB hard disk ushers in the new SATA standard — but don't call it SATA III. Piqued by misuse of the name SATA II (in reality a committee rather than a specification), the SATA standards organisation has urged manufacturers to refer to the new interface only by its official name: SATA 6Gbit/s. That's pretty unwieldy, though, so we're going with SATA/600.

As you'll have guessed, the new interface doubles the bandwidth of its predecessor to give a maximum usable transfer rate of 600MB/sec (after taking into account encoding overheads).

That should provide ample headroom for the foreseeable future: in past tests we've found that mechanical hard disks typically read and write at a little over 100MB/sec, and even Intel's super-fast SSDs manage to read at only 250MB/sec.

This being the case, you might wonder why Seagate would bother equipping a conventional drive with a high-speed interface. But although the drive's average performance is held back by its physical capabilities, the Barracuda XT features a whopping 64MB RAM cache, allowing burst operations to take full advantage of SATA/600's bandwidth.

Does this have a noticeable effect on performance? Not in the way you might expect. Across our standard file copy tests the drive performed identically regardless of whether it was connected to a SATA/300 or SATA/600 interface.

The Seagate Barracuda XT is a 2TB drive with a huge 64MB cache and a SATA/600 interface

That's not to say performance was disappointing: the Barracuda XT achieved some very creditable speeds, averaging 80MB/sec to write our 650MB file and an impressive 144MB/sec when reading it back again.

But we did see a benefit from SATA/600 when we ran the PC Pro real world benchmarks on our standard Core i7 test system using the Barracuda XT as the system drive.

Here, moving from SATA/300 to SATA/600 shaved ten seconds off our Office benchmark, cutting execution time to four and a half minutes. Even better, it cut 27 seconds from the Photoshop test, for a total run time of 3mins 22sec.

The appeal is obvious, but there's always a price premium for new technology, and in this case it's compounded by the fact that 2TB drives are themselves still a specialist market. At £218 exc VAT the Barracuda XT costs nearly £90 more than a bog-standard SATA/300 drive of the same size, and more than four times as much as a typical 1TB drive.

For that reason we can't currently recommend the Barracuda XT for anything but a money-no-object workstation. All the same, it's good to see SATA/600 on the market, and in the years to come we look forward to seeing some more affordable drives that can take proper advantage of it.

Details

Price ex VAT £218
Price inc VAT £251
Overall rating 4
Performance 5
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 2

Specifications

Capacity 2.00TB
Hard disk usable capacity 1.86TB
Hard disk type Mechanical
Cache size 64MB
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Seek time (ms) 8.5ms
Cost per gigabyte 11.7p

Noise and power

Idle power consumption 6W
Idle/eco noise level 28.0dB(A)
Peak noise level 32.0dB(A)

Performance tests

Write speed small files 158.0MB/sec
Write speed large files 80.0MB/sec
HD Tach burst speed 237.0MB/sec
HD Tach random access speed 16.5ms
HD Tach average sequential read speed 117.0MB/sec
Overall application benchmark score 1.83