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Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000 Terabyte Hard Drive Review

At first blush, the idea of a terabyte hard drive seems almost ludicrous. Who needs that much storage?

Anyone asking that question is probably just running a few office apps and browsing the web. Anyone with any substantial quantity of digital media automatically gets it. On our primary home system, we have a 500GB RAID 1 array, with only about 130GB free—and that's only with constant monitoring, uninstalling bulky games, and limiting the amount of digital media stored on the system.

Our home network houses a terabyte RAID 5 array, with five 200GB hard drives. Since it's RAID 5, the array has "only" 770GB or so of effective space—and it's 70% full. Some of that, of course, has to do with work-related stuff. There's a dedicated volume just for benchmarks, which takes up several hundred gigabytes by itself. Increasingly, however, large digital media files—photos, video, music, and games—take up vast amounts of drive space. So a terabyte hard drive begins to feel like a necessity, not just a luxury—for some of us, at any rate.

Let's take a look at the first terabyte hard drive, the Deskstar 7K1000 from Hitachi Global Storage, and see just how it performs. For an impressive $399 ($0.39/gig), is it worth your bucks?

Hitachi is the first to market with a 1TB hard drive, using the company's perpendicular recording technology. The technology is similar to Seagate's 750GB 7200.10. Perpendicular recording orients the tiny magnetic domains vertically, with one orientation representing binary zeros and the opposite representing binary 1's.

Even so, Hitachi needs five platters and ten heads to hit 1TB. Having that many heads can have an impact on issues like noise and power draw. For example, the 750GB version of the drive is rated at 30dB while seeking; the 1TB sibling generates 32dB.

Still, one terabyte is a milestone. Let's take a look at the rated specs for Hitachi's latest progeny.

Interface Serial ATA 3.0gbps
Capacity 1TB (1,000,000,000,000 bytes)
Platters 5
Heads 10
Cache 32MB
Rotational speed 7,200RPM
Transfer rate from surface 1070 Mb/sec
Transfer rate (interface) 300MB/sec
Rotational latency 4.17ms
Rated seek 8.5ms (read), 9.2ms (write)
Power (typical idle) 9W
Power (random R/W) 13.6W
Noise level (idle) 29dB
Noise level (seek) 32dB

One of the first issues to note is that you may not see an actual one terabyte capacity on your system. First, the formatted capacity is always less than the raw space available on the drive. Directory information and formatting data always take up some space.

Second, the hard drive industry's definition of a megabyte differs from the rest of the PC business. One megabyte of hard drive space is 1,000,000 bytes: 106 bytes. Operating systems calculate one megabyte as 220 bytes, or 1,048,576 bytes. Once installed and set up, Hitachi's 1TB hard drive offers up an actual formatted capacity of about 935GB, as measured by the OS.

That's still a lot of space, by anyone's definition.

Now that we've taken a quick look at the basic set of specs, let's move on to performance. HDTach measures raw performance, such as transfer rates, access times, and CPU utilization.

HDTach Average Write Benchmark
HDTach Average Read Benchmark
HDTach Burst Transfer Benchmark
HDTach Random Access Times

It's no surprise that the Western Digital Raptor drive offers better write, read, and access time performance, given it's 10,000RPM spin rate and enterprise-class construction. However, the Hitachi drive substantially outperforms the Seagate 7200.10 in all the benchmarks except burst transfer rate in our raw performance tests.

Of course, the 7K1000 offers nearly 8X the capacity of the Western Digital drive, so that's a key factor. Let's take a look at how the performance curves shape up.

HDTach Benchmark Versus Seagate

This result isn't all that surprising. The platter capacity of each 7K1000 platter is higher—200GB—than the Seagate drive, which is about 187.5GB. More bits can stream off the drive per linear inch when the density is higher.
HDTach Benchmark Versus Raptor

The Raptor drive's performance curve tails off more rapidly, probably partly because of the lower area density and to the difference in platter size (the Raptor uses 3-inch, rather than 3.5 inch platters.) It's certainly plenty fast, but the capacity is small by modern standards. The PCMark05 disk benchmark uses real world scenarios, such as OS startup, application loading, and general disk usage.
PCMark05 XP Startup Benchmark
PCMark05 Application Loading Benchmark
PCMark05 General Hard Drive Usage Benchmark
PCMark05 Virus Scan Benchmark
PCMark05 File Write Benchmark

The pattern seen with the raw throughput numbers is mirrored in these more applications-focused tests: the 7K1000 outpaces the Seagate 7200.10 in all the performance tests, while the Raptor is better in four of five tests, trailing only in the virus scanning test. It looks like the Raptor isn't well optimized for the style of constant stream small reads that occur during typical virus scans.
Final Thoughts: Should You Buy?

We're pretty impressed with the overall performance of the Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000. However, as we pack more data onto these compact digital devices, the thought of losing that data is a bit daunting. Losing 160GB of data is one thing, but losing 900GB of your digital life is quite another. If you do opt for one of these massive drives, a good backup strategy is essential. If you're concerned about reliability, two drives set up in a RAID 1 configuration may give you a little peace of mind, but RAID 1 is no substitute for a good backup.

The price for the 7K1000 is impressive: $399 (MSRP) for a one terabyte drive. That price is pretty close to what we've seen on the web, with some web shops selling as low as $389, while others are charging as much as $599. As supply increases, pricing will likely shake out.