The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Seagate 1.5 Terabyte HDD – Good for Storage, Not Much Else

Posted by Deliverator on October 18th, 2008

This year has seen big inroads for solid state disks. SSD prices have dropped from sky high enterprise level pricing to something a PC enthusiast could afford, on par with what such a person might spend on a good GPU or CPU. Flash chip sizes have gone up substantially, so that top of the line SSDs provide storage capacity equivalent to a laptop drive of 2-3 years ago. Performance of the top tier SSDs, such as the X25 series from Intel is now substantially better in almost every performance metric than the fastest conventional hard drives, such as the Velociraptor series from Western Digital. All this, while using little power and without the potential for mechanical shock induced damage. 2009 could see SSDs become a staple on many mid and high level laptops and are already quite common on Netbooks. The one area where I don’t see SSDs competing in the near future is in terms of pure raw storage capacity. The top of the line SSDs currently top out at 256 GB in terms of capacity, with 32, 64 and 128 GB capacities being far more common. Hard drives with a Terabyte of capacity, four times that of the largest capacity SSDs, are available at market for as little as $120-130. Recently, 1.5 Terabyte drives from Seagate have begun trickling onto the market. While not yet widely available at retail, you can order them from Newegg and a few other online sources.

I’ve been doing a great deal of slide scanning and digital photography this year, which has stretched my storage capacity to the limit. I like to try and backup all my data to a single device, to make it easy to grab my data and go in the event of a fire or other unforeseen circumstance. Recently, my 1 TB external drive started running full persistently, despite my best concerted efforts to cull unnecessary files. With the massive increase in data I will be seeing from the Hastings Newspaper Project, I knew it was time to upgrade and the new Seagate 1.5 drives offered the only potential solution, short of going with a multi-drive network attached storage device or some form of RAID solution. I ordered one up from Newegg and it arrived earlier this week.

I gave the new drive a thorough testing out with Spinrite, to give it a good burn-in and to induce any potential infant mortality before trusting it with my data. While my testing didn’t reveal any bad clusters, I was pretty shocked at the number of data reads requiring ECC error correction and seek errors. As platter data densities have skyrockets in recent years, I have seen a sharp increase in the number of seek errors and ECC correction has increasingly been used as a crutch instead of a fall-back measure. I have observed this to be especially true with 750 GB and Terabyte drives, but this new 1.5 TB drive almost triples the previous highs that I’ve seen in both categories from fully working drives. The high degree of re-seeking necessary with this drive is enough to severely impact random i/o performance. In short, while this is a great drive for backup purposes or for storing large media collections, I can’t recommend it as a boot drive or for running applications.

While this drive is currently in a class all by itself, I would advise a wait and see approach unless you really need the extra storage capacity in a single disk. Early comments from purchasers suggest an unusually high degree of infant mortality with these drives and also widespread problems with Nvidia motherboard chipsets, which require a drive update where available.