The new range of Seagate 7200.9 hard drives is available in a range of capacities that start at 80GB and work up through 120GB, 160GB, 200GB, 250GB, 300GB and 400GB to the top of the heap where we find the 500GB model reviewed here.
As the name suggests these drives have a spin speed of 7,200rpm and although there are some low capacity ATA100 models with 2MB cache, most models are SATA drives. Depending on the capacity you get either 8MB (80-250GB) or 16MB (300-500GB) of data cache.
Seagate has used a variety of areal densities across the 7200.9 drives, ranging from 100GB per platter to 160GB per platter. The 500GB model has four platters so it has an areal density of 125GB per platter which is lower than the triple-platter 400GB 7200.8 model which had a density of 133GB per platter.
This is unusual as the general trend from one model range to the next is to increase areal density as a way of reducing costs and increasing performance, however the 160GB version of the 7200.9 drive is a single platter model, so it should have potential for great performance.
The 7200.9 is the third generation of Seagate drive to use a native SATA interface, and these models meet the SATA 2.5 specification which means that the interface is rated at 300Mb/second rather than the original 150Mb/second. However, this is rather hypothetical as a single drive won’t stress a 150Mb/second interface.
The important change with this model is support for Native Command Queuing which should help to transfer data more quickly between the hard drive and processor, and as a bonus Seagate has slightly reduced the noise level and power requirement of the new models.
Of course we were interested to see if these theoretical benefits shone through to the real world, but what we actually found was that we couldn’t install Windows as the installation routine didn’t detect the 500GB drive correctly. This seems to be a problem with each new version of Serial ATA as we hit problems with incompatibilities between motherboard chipsets and hard drives.
After a call to Seagate we slipped a jumper on two contacts on the drive to force it to run at 150Mb/second and our nForce4 SLI motherboard found it without any problem. We also ran the Seagate on a new Intel 975X motherboard and it ran at full speed without any problem. We couldn’t see any difference in performance between the two settings and we found the problem quite frustrating.
In our testing the Seagate 7200.9 was comparable to a 500GB Hitachi 7K500, which is a good thing, and it shows that Seagate has pulled its latest drives up to the level of the competition after some disappointments with the 7200.7 and 7200.8 ranges.
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