With the 7200.8, Seagate has managed to improve even further on the virtues of the much-esteemed Barracuda family. The drives run very quietly, and the transfer rate has now been raised to 70 MB/s thanks to increased data density. Seagate thus offers the fastest mainstream ATA desktop hard drive currently on the market. Only Western Digital's Raptor remains out front with its 10,000 RPM speed, but here users have to settle for 74 GB and live with higher noise levels and temperatures.
Compared to the predecessor model, the 7200.7, not much has changed in terms of access times - at 15/16.5 ms for the 400 GB model, Seagate brings up the rear in our test group. The fact that both drive types were rather unhurried at the starting gate shows that there is no defect involved, especially since the test results from other drives could be reproduced without problem.
High data density seems to prevent the product from obtaining results as good as those of the Hitachi 7K400, with its five magnetic disks providing for less data density. Another factor is that command queuing may have some influence that is as yet undetected. We intend to shed some light on this matter in a separate article.
Our conclusion is thus pretty obvious: ergonomically, the 7200.8 is a top drive, combining the highest transfer rates with minimal noise and a low level of waste heat. The pricing is acceptable too, as the latest models are not significantly more expensive than the old ones. Access times could have been better, although when used with typical desktop computers there is usually no negative effect - loading times for individual programs or just for Windows XP tend to be more subjectively noticeable. Only individuals thinking about server or workstation applications might take issue here; they ought to keep their eyes open for drives offering shorter access times, such as those made by Hitachi, Maxtor, and Western Digital.
We also included Seagate's external 400 GB drive in the test, currently without competition for the title of the largest mobile hard drive. For the future, however, we would however like to see a faster connection than USB 2.0 or FireWire. Some conceivable options would be FireWire/1394b, with a nominal transfer rate of up to 800 Mbit/s, or eSATA, which now is undergoing specification testing and will soon be available.