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We looked at several Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 drives to get down to the performance nitty-gritty. In doing so, we found that there is hardly any difference between two drives that only differ in their cache sizes: 16 MB cache has no significant advantage over 8 MB across our benchmark suite, and this applies both to Serial ATA and to UltraATA drives. We would have expected that at least the SATA drives would show some degree of benefit, but in the case of the 7200.10 family, 16 MB cache is a waste of money if you have a cheaper 8 MB alternative. At the same time, 16 MB cache doesn't hurt either if the price is about the same...
Knowing that there are differences between members of a hard drive family you should now be able to make a more confident buying decision. Hard drives whose platter configurations don't utilize the maximum per-platter capacity show slightly quicker access times, because the operating range of the drive is somewhat reduced, while units that fully utilize the maximum capacities offer slightly better data transfer rates.
That said, we have to make clear that the differences between the quickest and the slowest hard drive model within a product family are clearly smaller than differences between product generations. In our experience, a new product will always outperform an older one.
We have inserted the 15 Seagate hard drives into our Interactive 3.5" Hard Drive Charts, so you can compare them to the rest of the market. Happy hard drive hunting!
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