PC Hard Drives That Pack More Power for Less Dough

Hitachi DeskStar 7K160, HDS721616PLA380

The DeskStar 7K160 spins at a rotation speed of 7,200 RPM and is offered in capacities of 160 GB and 80 GB (we tested the 160 GB model). It includes an 8 MB buffer and comes in SATA/300 and UltraATA/133 configurations. We tested the SATA/300 version.

As we've mentioned before, SATA/300 does not make all that much difference over SATA/150 or even UltraATA/100 in many applications. Hitachi claims that the faster interface provides faster boot up times and quick screen refreshes.

How Hitachi qualifies "quick screen refreshes" we're not entirely sure, as screen rates have more to do with graphics hardware than with the hard drive. That said, the SATA/300 interface does help the DeskStar 7K160 have a very high interface bandwidth, which we measured in our labs to be 189.8 MB/s. Only the Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 750 GB SATA/300 at 196.4 MB/s offers a better interface bandwidth.

The claim of faster boot times is somewhat circumspect, based on the results of our tests. We found the Hitachi DeskStar 7K160 to have Windows XP startup performance of 9.2 MB/s according to PCMark05. Hitachi's own DeskStar T7K250 250 GB SATA/150 is actually 3% faster at 9.5 MB/s and the Hitachi DeskStar 7K500 500 GB SATA/150 tops our results list for the startup benchmark at 12.1 MB/s or 32% faster than the DeskStar 7K160.

The Hitachi DeskStar 7K160 line is aimed at what Hitachi calls "the sweet spot" for storage. It's a sweet spot that includes both storage and even gaming applications, and according to Hitachi, includes both desktop and entry level server applications.

Gaming typically requires high-read transfer rates, which is an area where the DeskStar 7K160 excels. Our lab tests found the DeskStar 7K160 HDS721616PLA380 to have an average read transfer rate of 60.5 MB/s. Average write transfer rate is similarly impressive at 60.7 MB/s. Only the Seagate Barracuda 7200.10, the Western Digital WD1500AD 150 GB SATA/150 and Western Digital's WD740 Raptor74 GB SATA/150 are faster.

Entry-level server applications are a bit more nebulous to define, but typically are not hammered by the same demands as enterprise-class drives that are used for online transaction processing and other such sustained I/O-intensive tasks. With a capacity of only 160 GB, however, the 7K160 HDS721616PLA380 is likely not suited for archival storage applications for which users demand the largest possible drives.

Hitachi has also layered in some substantial reliability features into the drives including Thermal Fly Height Control, which is claimed to improve error rate.