Hitachi GST – Deskstar 7K3000 3TB (HDS723030ALA640) review

Massive hard drive with a fast 7,200rpm spin speed
Photo of Hitachi GST – Deskstar 7K3000 3TB (HDS723030ALA640)
£166.83 (inc VAT)

Surprisingly, it isn’t its colossal capacity of 3 terabytes (3TB) that makes the Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 unique. After all, the company hasn’t produced the world’s first 3TB hard disk drive – that honour goes to Samsung. Nor is it the world’s first internal 3.5in 3TB drive – for that, you can thank Western Digital.

The aces that the Deskstar 7K3000 3TB carries up its sleeve are the fact that it’s the first Hitachi drive to feature the latest SATA 6Gbit/s interface and – drum roll, please – it is the world’s first 3TB drive with a 7,200rpm spin speed. This puts it firmly into the ‘performance’ camp, with a price tag to match – although it might not be as steep as you think.

What’s inside
The Deskstar 7K3000 3TB boasts a stonking 64MB of cache – the same amount found in Western Digital’s WD30EZRSDTL – but the combination of cache and spin speed leaves the WD floundering in its wake in most tests.

Like most of the very latest drives, the Deskstar 7K3000 3TB uses Advanced Format Technology (AFT) to increase the ‘areal density’ of the platters (discs), enabling them to store more data per platter. Instead of the old legacy 512-byte sector size, AFT uses 4-kilobyte sectors. The 512-byte format wasted a lot of space and wasn’t that efficient. AFT gets rid of the gaps left by the old legacy formatting and so uses less space to store the same amount of data, hence the larger areal densities.

The other advantages gained by the new formatting technology are a bigger and more powerful ECC (Error Correction Code), providing better data security. With an areal density of 411 gigabits per square inch, the Deskstar 7K3000 3TB uses five 600GB platters to reach its capacity (Western Digital’s WD30EZRSDTL uses four 750GB platters)

Although this is the first Hitachi drive to use a 6Gbit/s interface, it’s not worth making a song and dance about when you realise that the quoted sustained transfer rate of the drive between 145 and 155MB/sec, well within the spec of SATA 3Gbit/s, let alone SATA 6Gbit/s. The only currently available drives that come close to flooding SATA 3Gbit/s bandwidth are SSD drives. That extra headroom does, however, help when it comes to burst speed performance.

How it performs
To see just how quick the combination of a fast spin speed, a fast interface and large cache was, we compared the Deskstar 7K3000 3TB to WD’s WD30EZRSDTL using the HD Tach and CrystalDisk 3.0 benchmarks.

When it comes to burst speed performance, the Hitachi drive is light years ahead of the WD drive, thanks to its SATA 6Gbit/s interface. Using HD Tach we got a MB/s score of 175 from the WD drive and a massive 330 from the Hitachi. In the Random Access test, though, there was little to choose between them (Hitachi 13.9, WD 13.1) – hardly surprising, as they both have a 64MB buffer. The Hitachi drive pulled out another massive lead in the Average Read test, with 143.8MB/s compared to the WD drive’s 59.89MB/s.

When it comes to the Sequential Read/Write Performance test in Crystal Mark – which more closely resembles real-world use – the gap between the drives narrows considerably. The Hitachi yielded figures of 155MB/s read and 154MB/s write speeds, against the WD drives 130MB/s read and 102MB/s write.

But it isn’t all good news…
When it comes to actually using the Deskstar 7K3000 3TB, things get a little tricky – especially if you want to use it as a boot drive. Apple and Linux users: no need for you to read the next bit, you can use the drive for booting or for storing data without any further delay. Windows XP can skip the3 next bit too, but for a completely different reason – that operating system doesn’t support drives this big, full stop.

But for other Windows users, the problem lies in the way the OS deals with drives over 2.19TB.
To get the drive to boot, you’ll need a motherboard with an UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) BIOS – rare, but getting more common as its one of the things Intel brought in to support its Sandy Bridge processors. You’ll also need a 64-bit OS (Vista or Windows 7) that will create and use GPT partitions instead of the good old MBR (Master Boot Record) ones. You’ll need to use the same GPT partitions if you want to use all 2.79TB of its formatted capacity as a data drive, although to use as a data drive you don’t need to have a 64-bit OS, just a GPT-supporting one.

Western Digital got around these problems by bundling an AHCI-compliant host bus adapter (HBA) with the drive. It’s a bit of a shame Hitachi hasn’t followed suit.

Company: Hitachi GST


Verdict

If you have the hardware and OS to support it, then the Deskstar 7K3000 3TB is a stunningly fast drive with a huge capacity - but for less money, you could buy three 1TB drives and install them in a RAID array.