Hitachi's 4 TB Hard Drives Take On The 3 TB Competition

Hitachi recently started shipping a pair of 4 TB hard drives. We can see that they're pretty expensive, but how do they compare to existing 3 TB models in other ways? It’s time for a comprehensive overview of today's high-capacity hard drive offerings.

As we were preparing to update our Hard Drive Charts for 2012, we started sending out requests for high-capacity disks. We were taken by surprise when we saw that Hitachi Global Storage Technologies provided not one, but two different 4 TB samples.

Although Seagate is also selling its 4 TB external GoFlex, Hitachi is the only vendor with an internal drive available at retail. Western Digital hasn't started offering a 4 TB internal disk yet. Samsung sold its hard drive business to Seagate. And Toshiba’s 3.5” drives are more enterprise-oriented.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of 3 TB disks we can use for comparison in a more comprehensive round-up of today's high-capacity storage devices.

Why Manufacture Two 4 TB Drives?

The way Hitachi names its products is pretty self-explanatory. The Deskstar 7K4000 is a 4 TB drive that spins at 7200 RPM, while the Deskstar 5K4000 operates at 5400 RPM. They both reach their capacity using five-platter designs, meaning that these drives are mechanically more complex than most 2 TB hard drives, which typically only employ three platters. However, Hitachi has been building drives with higher platter counts for a while, giving the company quite a bit of experience at managing the challenges more platters introduce.

But does it really make sense to build two different 4 TB drives? And what practical difference is there between them in real-world testing, knowing that performance-sensitive enthusiasts would rather spend money on an SSD for their Windows installation plus an additional storage hard drive rather than just one 4 TB monster selling for a premium?

Hitachi created the Deskstar 7K4000 with 64 MB cache for the power user segment demanding lots of capacity and a minimum level of performance for workloads like video editing, semi-portable storage solutions, and video surveillance servers. The 4 TB capacity point is several times larger than the biggest SSDs, which incidentally cost several times more than Hitachi's 4 TB hard drives.

The Deskstar 5K4000 has 32 MB cache and is designed for data storage where large amounts of information need to be available on file servers, NAS solutions, and near-line applications. Low power consumption is touted as a benefit of the 5K4000 that helps manage heat and cooling in larger deployments, too.

Performance and Cost

The Deskstar 5K4000 is currently available for $300 in the U.S. (260 Euros in Europe), while the 7K4000 costs a little under $350 (340 Euros) if you can find it (availability seems to be an issue for Hitachi still).

You'll want to put those prices into perspective. Hitachi's own 3 TB 5K3000 starts at $220, and many 2 TB hard drives sell for $120. So, you could almost get three 2 TB disks for the price of one 4 TB drive. A compelling cost per gigabyte clearly isn't one of the reasons you'd want to shop for the highest-capacity disk available. Instead, we'll have to look at the performance and efficiency of these storage products.

We're throwing in Hitachi's Deskstar 5K3000, Deskstar 7K3000, Seagate’s Barracuda 3 TB, Barracuda XT 3 TB, and Western Digital's Caviar Green 3 TB up against the 7K4000 and 5K4000 to gives you a comprehensive picture of today's 3 and 4 TB hard drives.

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    Top Comments
  • __-_-_-__
    100$ per TB. I paid half of that more then a year ago.
  • Darkerson
    Nice review. I could use a few of those, but until they have more competition and the prices come down, I can wait.
  • Other Comments
  • jsowoc
    Good review.

    Did you encounter any issues with testing drives this large (they need a GPT vs MBR, and booting from them also requires a specific setup)?
    I'm curious, can you install Windows 7 x64 to these 4 TB drives and will the full drive be recognized? With the latest motherboards, of course.

    At that capacity, why bother with 5400 RPM?
  • Darkerson
    Nice review. I could use a few of those, but until they have more competition and the prices come down, I can wait.
  • blackbirden
    Ony thing i miss from the review is noice level, atleast a subjective one for all who uses them in a htpc or mediastation, do you have any comments on the noice?
  • kinggremlin
    Not sure if there is some sort of pricing glitch going on at Newegg right now, but the Hitachi 7K3000 is currently about $400 plus $7 shipping. That's doesn't sound like the value sweet spot this article mentions multiple times for the 3TB capacities. As also mentioned here, for drives this size, speed is not the be-all-end-all. The $300 Hitachi 5400RPM 4TB drive looks like a much better buy than $407 for a 7K3000.
  • Achoo22
    I'm pretty disappointed that there aren't multiple points of note regarding expected drive lifetimes, warranties, and return policies in this roundup.

    I have had an incredible failure rate with hard drives beginning around the time that the move to perpendicular recording became the norm. I am not alone in this regard. I'm pretty sure that the drive manufacturer's are aware of serious reliability issues, but their RMA policies are ridiculous. I would be willing to pay current market prices for a new drive if vendors stepped up their game with quality control and some appropriate policies addressing data security in the event that a drive is returned - the risk of granting someone else access to my banking, tax information, and whatever else was on the failed drive is generally not worth returning the drive. Vendors know this, and take advantage of it. Until the situation changes, or drives return to their previous rock-bottom sale prices, I will do everything in my power to avoid purchasing more hard drives.
  • Anonymous
    I have one 3TB Hitachi and several (>20) 2 TBs mixed from Seagate and WD. I'm impressed with 3TB Hitachi drive, and also I'm very disappointed by Seagate which cut their warranties to 1 year. No more Seagate in my home NAS until they improve the offering. Sorry Seagate, I was a Seagate-only user until you screw up with 7200.11, take advantage of the flooding, rised the prices and cut the warranties.
  • Achoo22
    blackbirdenOny thing i miss from the review is noice level, atleast a subjective one for all who uses them in a htpc or mediastation, do you have any comments on the noice?

    There hasn't been a truly loud hard drive on the market for many years. It shouldn't be an issue.
  • outlw6669
    Achoo22There hasn't been a truly loud hard drive on the market for many years. It shouldn't be an issue.

    My Hitachi 2TB drives beg to differ.
    When they start chugging along, it sounds like a snow plow clearing a parking lot in my room :(
  • jacknoll
    If someone could clear up this thing for me:

    I see two parameters for each drive: The media transfer speed and the I/O performance. The first one sounds like the speed to read/write to the disk. AFAIK, it's the speed at which the drive actually reads/writes bits to/from the surface of the platter. In that case, what does the I/O performance mean? It sounds really similar to read/write, but reading these reviews, I get the feeling there's more to I/O.

  • mapesdhs
    "... while hard drives safeguard our digital memories and databases."

    It doesn't feel like HD vendors are making products suitable for the safe-keeping of data when
    warranties are as little as a year. I'd rather the industry started leaning more towards reliability.
    As drive capacities increase, the consequences of a failure become more serious in terms of the
    amount of data lost (images, video, etc.)

    I was told by a movie studio guy a while ago that they were once supplied with a batch of ordinary
    consumer-type SATA drives by mistake; almost all of them were dead within a week. For Seagate
    (for example), get the models that end with NS if you want reliability, not AS (or try hunting for 15K
    SAS instead).

    Patrick/Aschim, a couple of typos/points:

    - Drive Surface Temperature (C): this should be Celsius, not Centigrade (the latter was
    formally dropped in 1948 to avoid confusion with a term found in Spanish and French for
    angular measurement).

    - IOMeter 2006.07.27 4K Random: should be 'Reads' instead of 'Reades'.

  • xtreme5
    oh my GOD! guys can could 2500k support 4tb or 3tb.
  • __-_-_-__
    100$ per TB. I paid half of that more then a year ago.
  • RCPG
    I would like to see a review of the performance of the new 1 TB VelociRaptor.
  • stingstang
    Let's go, tom's. Give us some fun numbers like how much money we would put down for electricity after a year of 24/7 ops with these hard drives, since they're supposed to be used as such.
    Also, review the new velociraptor!
  • thezooloomaster
    __-_-_-__100$ per TB. I paid half of that more then a year ago.

    There are two reasons for that. First of all this is a new product, so it doesn't have the best bang-for-buck value out there. If you want the cheapest $/GB HDD you probably need to look at 2TB drives. (I recently saw a 2TB external USB 3.0 drive selling for approx. 110$ ; externals are more expensive than internals)
    The second reason, and Tom's has mentioned this a few times on the website, is due to the flooding in Thailand last year that severely hindered the manufacture of HDDs, so supply was diminished. As far as I know, inflation in HDD prices will still take a few more months to subside.
  • nforce4max
    Well not bad but would like to have seen more though, I own three 2TB Hitachi 5400 rpm drives that I bought last September on the cheap. Performance wise they are pretty decent compared to crappy 1tb WD blue editions that I also have. As for benching well slap a os on them and see how they perform then. No where near as good as they had benched empty or with just some static data. As for evolution of performance it is sad to see decade old ide drives offer roughly 1/4 to 1/5 the performance of a modern 1tb sata2 drive. Back to Hitachi they run very cool and are built pretty solid but the newer ones (post flood) seam to not be as good as the old ones like all the other brands. To many doa and far to many slugs that make people want to chew the carpets.
  • aevm
    You keep mentioning that fourth gig, or the last gigabyte... That's TB, not GB.
  • jonyah
    Thanks for the review. I currently have a server with 4 2Tb Hitachis in it (no more space) and have been trying to decide if I just get an external sata tower to add more drives, or replace what I have. Swapping out a 2Tb drive for the 4Tb is starting to look like a promising solution. No need for another tower, savings on power usage and I can reuse my 2tb in another machine in the house, or just sell it off to help with the higher price of the 4tb.
  • madooo12
    RCPGI would like to see a review of the performance of the new 1 TB VelociRaptor.

    there is on anandtech

    not advertising or anything, just saying a review which is not here is availble there plus I'm not affiliated in any way with them