Affordable and Reliable 80 and 160 GB Hard Drives

Solidly Middle Class And Affordable

Hard drives with capacity of 200 GB, 250 GB or even 300 GB are a fine thing indeed, but they're expensive. While not completely out of reach for most, large hard drive capacity prices still force most users have to lower their sights. So we selected four representative models in the midrange tier with capacity ranging from 80 GB to 160 GB.

For $100 to $150, there are large and sluggish yet cheap hard drive options or speedier models with 7,200 rpm and 8 MB of cache that, however, features considerably less memory.

The middle road can be taken as well, although careful consideration of the hard drive's intended use should precede any decision to buy. A hard drive on which Windows is supposed to do its job, complete with swap file, should be fast first and foremost - you'll appreciate it every time you start the system or a program. In this context, 2 MB cache and a mere 5,400 rpm seem antiquated.

On the other hand, it's often the case that users are thoroughly satisfied with their system drive and only require more storage space MP3s, videos, digital photo archives. In that case, 8 MB cache and 7,200 rpm are needed only very rarely; the extra money is hardly worth it.

We brought a Samsung SpinPoint SP1604N with 160 GB into the lab to represent the "big" category. Our candidate in the fast category is Western Digital's WD800JB, which is technically identical to the top-of-the-line WD2500JB except for the number of storage platters (one instead of three). The Seagate 7200.7 Plus with 120 GB represents the mid-range. Last but not least, we also received a low-cost model from ExcelStor that covers the lower end of the hard-drive market.