One of the benefits of boosting areal density is that it allows hard drive manufacturers to pack more data onto fewer rotating platters. Not only are they able to achieve higher total capacities, but the most popular capacity points--500GB and 1TB, for example--can be achieved with simpler drives.
Thanks to higher per-platter capacities, the current barrier of 2TB per drive will fall in 2010. However, speed, cost, capacity, and power consumption have to be in mixed in a way that users will accept. We looked at three new premium desktop hard drives from Hitachi, Samsung, and Seagate to see if they strike the right balance.
Up to Five Platters
Hitachi Global Storage Technologies has enjoyed a bit of success its high-capacity hard drives, which typically employ more platters than the competition. The recent Deskstar 5K2000, as well as the first-generation Deskstar 7K1000 at 1TB, are both based on five platters, as was the 7K500. Hitachi believes that a higher platter count with less storage density per platter offers the most robustness, despite the fact that more platters generally means increased heat, higher power consumption, and one more mechanical component that could go bad. Fortunately, while we don’t have specific failure rates, we know that the last Hitachi five-platter drive generations didn’t receive much negative press.
As always, there is no perfect approach. Most drive makers typically try to reduce platter counts as quickly as possible. The main reason is the so-called sweet spot in the hard drive market, where you have high capacity with an ideal cost-per-capacity ratio. Obviously, using only a single platter provides the lowest overall cost, and whomever can offer the highest capacity on only one platter has a competitive advantage. Also consider each drive's rotation speed, which has a noticeable influence on performance, power consumption, and storage density.
This review includes three very different 3.5” desktop hard drives. Hitachi’s Deskstar 7K2000 is the firm’s new 2TB flagship, featuring five platters. Samsung sent us its Spinpoint F3 at a rather modest 1TB capacity point. Lastly, Seagate provided a Barracuda XT 2TB, one of the company's latest high-performance drives. As always, we looked at performance, power consumption, noise, and overall efficiency.