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PC Buyers Guide - September 2002

By: TweakTown Staff | Guides | Posted: Sep 2, 2002 4:00 am

Hard Disk Drives


- Western Digital Caviar Special Edition Hard Disk


Times on list: 4


Western Digital's website for this product



When Quantum and Maxtor joined forces some time ago, the competition in the hard disk industry began to thin out. Add to that IBM's woeful 60GXP and 75GXP hard drives which suffered very frequent data loss and complete failure (thankfully the newer GXP120 is better) and the market is left with three main forces - Maxtor, Seagate and Western Digital. In recent times, all three companies have put out excellent drives and Maxtor went the next step and added ATA-133 support to their drives.


The Western Digital drives, or WD for short, supports ATA-100, spins at 7200 RPM (revolutions per minute), has a 2MB buffer, an average Read Seek time of 8.9ms and comes in sizes from 20-120GB. If you're in need of some serious space, the 80-120 GB models also come in a "Special Edition" format, which ups the buffer to a massive 8MB. All the drives come with WD's special Data Lifeguard, which is a group of software utilities that tries to identify problems on the disk and then fix them before they result in data loss. You also get a 3-year warranty.


The performance of the normal WD drives is excellent, but the performance of the Special Edition drives are unbelievable. In many cases they can outperform a SCSI drive, which obviously puts them ahead of the Maxtor and Seagate IDE drives. With a buffer of 8MB and performance that can beat SCSI drives, the WD Caviar Special Edition drives are the ones to get. Couple these together in a RAID array and you can get even higher performance (and an awful lot of HDD space seeing as they only come in 80-120 GB sizes). The choice of size is yours but it's going to take a lot of programs, MP3's and DIVX to fill even the 80GB model up.


If you're in the market for a hard drive that can support insane FSB speeds, the Seagate Barracuda IV drives have been getting a reputation for just that. Take a look if that's your cup of tea.


One thing to remember is that the new Serial ATA format is going to be released soon, and a new range of hard drives will follow. At the moment, the Seagate Barracuda V is reported to have a 8MB cache like this WD drive, and come in sizes up to 120GB. Add to this the faster data transfer rate of Serial ATA, and these drives will be the way of the future. If you can hold off buying a hard drive, I'd look into a Serial ATA drive (but you will need either an onboard Serial ATA connector, or you will have to buy a Serial ATA card, as they use a different format to the current drives).


- Find the best price on Western Digital Caviar Special Edition 100GB!


- Seagate Barracuda ATA IV Hard Drive


Times on list: 4


Seagate's website for this product



The Seagate Barracuda IV can't keep up to the Special Edition WD's, thanks to their massive buffer size, but they can surpass the normal WD Caviar drives in performance and are slightly cheaper. The Barracuda IV comes in sizes ranging from 20-80GB, has a 2MB buffer, spins at 7200 RPM, has an average Read Seek Time of 9ms and supports ATA-100. Like the WD drives, they have a data protection system, in this case called 3D Defense System. They also come with a 3-year warranty.


As I've said, the performance is better than the normal WD drives and they are priced slightly cheaper. The Maxtor drives support ATA-133, but you will rarely exceed a transfer rate of 100MBytes a second so there's nothing to worry about. To cap it all off, they have a reputation for supporting crazy FSB speeds, which is a big plus for extreme overclockers. Finally, when the Barracuda IV was first released, it had issues with running in RAID at any decent speed. However, the new Barracuda IV's do not have this problem, due to a firmware upgrade, so these drives are a decent choice for a RAID array.


- Find the best price on Seagate Barracuda ATA IV Hard Drives!


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