From a customer point of view, Seagate's new Barracuda 7200.9 offers a tremendous amount of storage capacity, backed by a five year warranty that other manufactures only offer for their enterprise class products. If you want a safe bet, this is your drive. However, the Barracuda 7200.9 performed clearly below our expectations, especially since we expect new hard drives to outperform their predecessors.
As it stands now, the Hitachi DeskStar 7K500 remains the fastest 500 GB drive. But then again, the DeskStar7K500 outperformed its predecessor 7K400 by insignificant numbers only. And there will be more hard drives offering larger capacity numbers, albeit minus any performance benefits compared to previous models.
At this point we can't help but to criticize the storage companies. Since hard drives have such a substantial influence on how fast a desktop computer really 'feels' today, increasing performance should not be jeopardized in favor of capacity. Processors are going multi-core, systems will have multiple gigabytes of memory and graphics cards are few generations away from bursting 100 GB/s between GPU and video memory. Do you really want hard drives to remain at 60-70 MB/s? I hope not.
While a drive's reliability still should remain the primary development criteria and we're fully aware that defect numbers have decreased in recent years, there is only one company that already went in the right direction - without actually intending to do so: It was Western Digital who introduced the first 10,000 RPM 3.5" ATA drive when trying to introduce Serial ATA into the entry-level professional segment at an early stage.
Performance and high-capacity drives used to be distinguished by their rotation speed years ago, but we feel the time for distinct product families has come. The hard drive companies should focus on providing both performance and storage optimized products, no matter what rotation speed these run at and no matter what market they go into. If I were to recommend a non-RAID hard drive setup for a high-end desktop computer, it would consist of a Western Digital Raptor and one of these 500 GB monsters - the first as the system drive, the second for storage.
It would be great to see more Raptor-like hard drives from the other manufacturers to address the performance shortcomings. Seagate's Barracuda family has traditionally been a top performer, so why not turn the 7200.10 into a 10k RPM model?