All three hard drive vendors—Hitachi, Samsung and Seagate—came up with powerful drives for the new year. Hitachi stays with its proven five-platter hard drive design and doesn’t deliver the highest throughput or best power efficiency, but it is very robust and quick on I/O. Samsung finally made the next step, and has been shipping the Spinpoint F3 at 1TB capacity. Thanks to its two-platter design, the drive is very conservative with its power consumption. It also establishes new throughput records, achieving more than 150 MB/s. Seagate’s Barracuda XT caused a stir by being the first 6 Gb/s SATA hard drive, offering 600 rather than 300 MB/s potential bandwidth. The XT proves to be a great application drive, with balanced performance and only a few weaknesses in access time.
With flash SSD being increasingly affordable to a larger user base, many folks might wonder whether or not a mechanical drive still makes sense as a system drive. All else being equal, uur preference clearly is a modern and fast SSD. But there's more to consider. An SSD’s capacity may be able to hold all your applications and games, but it almost certainly doesn't have the space for your large audio, video, and photo archives. Moreover, solid state storage isn't necessarily a good choice for downloads (think torrents), where multiple data fragments need to be written. Lastly, SSDs can’t compete with conventional hard drives when it comes to cost-per-gigabyte or total capacity.
If you’re looking for the best bang for the buck without the need to go for the 2TB capacity ceiling, Samsung’s Spinpoint F3 is probably the best choice. We’ve already seen prices at the level of other 1TB hard drives, but none of the others would get anywhere close to the F3’s impressive throughput, low power consumption, and temperature results.
Users searching for a pure storage drive can select almost any 1TB or higher hard drive, as long as there are no special requirements. However, enthusiasts should definitely go either for Western Digital’s Caviar Black drive or the new Seagate Barracuda XT at 2TB. WD is slightly faster, while Seagate offers better efficiency and the SATA 6 Gb/s interface, although we recommend not overemphasizing the latter.
Lastly, there's the Hitachi drive, which is competitive, but not cutting edge in terms of performance. However, looking back at the vendor's long history of five-platter drives, Hitachi’s claims regarding the robustness of this implementation are at least believable. If you’re looking for a reasonable drives for business applications (such as NAS), this could be a solid pick--that is, if you don't prioritize Seagate’s impressive five-year warranty. Hitachi and Samsung only offer three years of coverage.