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

Three And 4 TB Hard Drives For Your Digital Lifestyle

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.

Achim Roos
  • 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.
  • 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.