Tom’s Winter 2008 Hard Drive Guide

Conclusion and Recommendations

In an effort to find the best hard drive for the money, we included a dozen different hard drives in this roundup. Most of them were already reviewed in other articles, but we found it important to create some charts to compare all feasible options. We intentionally did not consider flash SSDs in this roundup, as most of those products just don’t provide sufficient storage capacity or simply are still too expensive for most users.

Low Power / HTPC Choices

The majority of the drives were 3.5” models spinning at 7,200 RPM, while there were three power-efficient drives by Samsung and Western Digital, which some people may want to consider for low-power solutions, media servers or home theater PCs. While the Samsung Eco Green drives are solid, we found a clear winner: WD’s Caviar Green (WD10EADS model) is by far the most efficient 3.5” terabyte hard drive available today. Be careful not to get the predecessor WD10EACS, as that one is rather lame compared to the latest model.

Mainstream / All-round Hard Drives

Mainstream users will have to decide if they want a versatile drive, which they can use as a system drive and to store a lot of data. If you’re looking for an all-rounder, we recommend going either for Hitachi’s Deskstar 7K1000.B (watch for the B!) at 1 TB, 750 GB or 640 GB, which offers balanced performance and efficiency. Western Digital’s Caviar Black or RAID Edition 3 (RE3) are the better application drives, as they deliver quicker access time and I/O performance.

Storage Mammoths

Samsung’s Spinpoint F and the Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 at up to 1.5 TB (be sure you get the latest drive revisions) are superior when it comes to sequential throughput. Particularly, the new 1.5 TB Seagate offers the fastest maximum transfer rates of all mechanical SATA hard drives, but both aren’t quick enough in our application benchmarks, and neither belong in the efficiency category. They may still be the best choice if you can get a good deal, given that you are looking to minimize cost per gigabyte in the first place.

Performance Options

If you want maximum hard drive performance there is no substitute for the Western Digital 2.5” VelociRaptor drive at 300 GB—it is the most expensive drive, but also the fastest desktop hard drive you can get. Thanks to its compact dimensions, it even has low power consumption, despite its 10,000 RPM spindle speed. However, if you’re ready to fork out the money for the VelociRaptor, you may want to compare it to some flash SSDs, which provide even more performance at the expense of storage capacity.

Check out our HDD Performance Charts for a performance comparison of most hard drive models.