Seagate – Barracuda XT 2TB hard drive review

2TB hard drive with 6Gb per second interface
Photo of Seagate – Barracuda XT 2TB hard drive
£240

Seagate is the latest hard drive manufacturer to launch a 2TB (two terabyte) model, following on from Hitachi and WD. At present Samsung doesn’t seem keen to join the 2TB fun.

The new Seagate drive is called the Barracuda XT and it is unusual in a couple of respects. For one thing the Barracuda XT ‘range’ consists solely of this 2TB model, which costs a hefty £240, although there may well be 1TB and 1.5TB versions in the future.

The big news is that Barracuda XT is the first hard drive to support the new SATA 3.0 interface which has a bandwidth of 6Gb/second. This is double the bandwidth of 3.0Gb/second we saw with SATA 2.0 which in turn is double the 1.5Gb/second of the first version of SATA. You are unlikely to ever achieve those nominal bandwidth figures but the prospect of faster connection speeds is always welcome, so SATA 3.0 is of keen interest.

The new SATA standard requires a suitable controller chip which might present a problem as there is no chipset at present that natively supports SATA 3.0 and we don’t expect to see native support until 2011. We used a Gigabyte P55A-UD6 LGA1156 Core i7 motherboard for our testing as it includes a Marvell 9128 SATA 3.0 chip as well as an NEC USB 3.0 SuperSpeed controller chip.

Internally the Barracuda XT is very similar to the WD Caviar Black as it uses four platters and eight heads to achieve its 2TB capacity, has a spin speed of 7,200rpm and has 64MB of cache.

The acoustic figures for the Barracuda XT are 28dBA (idle) and 32dBA (typical) which are 3dBA higher than the WD Caviar Black. While this isn’t a huge increase in noise levels we found that the difference was audible.

We installed a 2.93GHz Core i7 CPU on the Gigabyte P55A-UD6 motherboard along with Windows 7 on an Intel SSD and then connected the Barracuda XT as a data drive. First we tested the Barracuda XT using a native SATA 2.0 port on the P55 chipset of the Gigabyte before switching to the SATA 3.0 controller.

Unfortunately we found it tricky to tell the two interfaces apart.

The only test that showed a clear difference between SATA 2.0 and SATA 3.0 was the burst speed test in HD Tach 3, where the speed jumped from 199.4MB/second to 284.3MB/second. Burst speed doesn’t have much impact in the real world, although it can look impressive in performance graphs.

The reason that SATA 3.0 doesn’t make more of an impact is simple. A desktop hard drive doesn’t saturate the bandwidth of SATA 2.0 so the new interface doesn’t get a chance to strut its stuff. This is a shame as Barracuda XT is a decent hard drive that nearly matches the WD Caviar Black, but it costs a huge amount extra.

Company: Seagate

Contact: 00 800 4732 4283


Verdict
If you remove the SATA 3.0 interface from the equation you'll find the Barracuda XT doesn't bring a great deal to the 2TB party. Unfortunately it has the same performance as a regular SATA 2.0 hard drive yet it looks rather expensive, as you pay a hefty premium for the privilege of the 6GB/second connection speed without it delivering a tangible benefit.