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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.
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.
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.