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Smart Hard Drives: Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 and Western Digital WD740 Raptor

Summary: Brilliant Image

After a brief look at the benchmark results it's obvious that WD pulled out all the stops with the Raptor. Until now, anything above 70 MB/s was indisputably SCSI territory, and Raptor was a poacher.

It will surely want to do the same with the price, although we dare not hope for record low prices. After all, it is a professional hard drive, not a product where the manufacturer can afford to cut corners.

Quite different from Seagate's Barracuda 7200.7 - unlike the Raptor it is intended for the man in the street and is very affordable. It passed the tests without a murmur, ensuring the Barracuda a continued reputation as the subjectively quietest ATA drive with 7,200 rpm. Even from this point of view, its performance data are convincing. With 12.7 ms average access time, it remains unbeaten except by the Hitachi 7K250. It looks even better in the application benchmarks of the Winbench 99 2.0: This is its strongest suit.

It will be interesting to see how performance develops when command queuing becomes more available. In several areas, that could reshuffle the deck. Basically, however, we expect a considerable gain in performance.

One should not draw a direct comparison between the drives; the intended areas of application are too different. However, here is our summary of the two: each cuts a brilliant figure in its own area of use. The 7200.7 in Desktop PCs, thanks to its high performance level and the impossibly low noise level. We can safely advise the Seagate 7200.7 for anyone who prizes a system that is as quiet as possible.

The same goes for the Raptor in server or workstation environments: If it has to go fast, there's no alternative for serial ATA. The WD740 leaves its sister, the WD360, in the dust, and garners the title of fastest ATA drive for itself. The noise level, drastically lowered by the fluid dynamic bearing, is an advantage prized by computer fans who prefer to use this type of drive as the system hard drive.