Can a 3TB 7,200RPM Drive Beat a 10,000RPM One? Seagate Thinks So


From our experience, the majority of larger capacity drives have been generally slow and this has been one of the biggest reasons why people are still sticking to 2TB rather than moving onto 2.5 and 3TB. The other reason has been the limitation of many operating systems to utilize the full 3TB on the drives. Many 32-bit operating systems and older operating systems (Windows XP) have issues recognizing anything beyond 2.2TB on any drive over 2.2TB.

Hard drive manufacturers have fumbled with this issue in the past and come up with hardware solutions to resolve the issue, while others have gone on a software route to resolve the problem. With Seagate, they decided to go with the less obtrusive software solution rather than the hardware one adopted by their competitor Western Digital.

Today we will be evaluating the overall speed of the Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB as well as how easy it is to make sure that we are getting the full 3TB out of the drive. Furthermore, since it is a 3TB drive we will be primarily using this drive in a data backup sort of usage scenario so things like boot time, etc will be insignificant.

Background info and Specifications
Seagate Barracuda XT is the 1st drive to adopt the three 1TB platter approachThe Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB takes a lot of the enterprise features from Seagate?s Constellation Enterprise drives and puts them into a more affordable consumer packaging. They also come with a 5 year warranty which indicates that Seagate is confident that the product will last at least that long. The real big deal with the Barracuda XT 3TB is that it not only increases the capacity of the top end XT line of drives by 50% but it also significantly improves performance over the old generation XT 2TB as well as its large drive competitors.

One of the things that kept Seagate from releasing a 3TB drive faster than what could have been possible was because of the 2.2TB limitation of many of the existing motherboards and operating systems. This limitation is more commonly known as the MBR wall or the 2.2TB wall [technically 2.19TB]. This wall is a function of the fact that older operating systems [like XP] will have issues properly recognizing and utilizing all four 750GB platters of the 3TB drive. This is a limitation of using an MBR when formatting a drive rather than a GUID partition. Many operating systems will support the 3TB drive as a storage drive with the exception of XP. This means that Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OSX 10.5 and higher and Linux should all get support. The only problem that then arises is that the drive must communicate with the motherboard via a UEFI motherboard firmware. Current motherboards run a BIOS based firmware which is not conducive to the 3TB drives as they need GPT Partitioning and a UEFI motherboard firmware.

Seagate's software approach for users that have an issue with 2.2TB wall
Seagate’s software approach for users that have an issue with 2.2TB wall

Seagate chose to resolve this temporary issue by creating a software package (i.e. hard drive overlay) that allows user to recover the remaining storage capacity. This is in contrast to their competitor, Western Digital, who currently uses a hardware solution to resolve the 2.2TB barrier. Once more people begin to purchase motherboards that utilize UEFI, there will be no need for either. Currently, many of the P67 motherboards from Intel feature a UEFI motherboard firmware which enables the GPT which is what is necessary in order to utilize beyond 2.2TB of storage.

Getting to the drive itself, we see that the Barracuda XT 3TB on paper doesn?t really seem much better than the 2TB other than by size. They both utilize SATA 6Gb/s and they both have 64MB of cache.

We will be taking these figures into account and seeing whether or not the drive meets or exceeds their numbers as well as our expectations. In the past, the Barracuda XT 2TB was not necessarily the best performing drive out there, but perhaps Seagate has made some tweaks to their drives to actually make them better.
Performance Testing and Reviewer Experience

AIDA 64 v1.70
AIDA64 v1.70 Results

The AIDA64 benchmarks show various read tests on this drive and compare against all of the recent drives we?ve tested. We also included the old 2TB XT drive to compare as well. If you look at these tests you can see that the Barracuda XT 3TB basically performs on the same level as the Velociraptor 10K RPM 600GB drive. The Barracuda XT 3TB trades punches with the Velociraptor 600GB and in the buffered reads and linear reads. This looks promising for a 3TB 7200RPM drive against a 600GB 10,000 RPM drive. It also walks all over the Barracuda XT 2TB which means that Seagate has really improved their product to the point where it is actually a viable competitor.

Cinebench 11.5
Maxon's Cinebench R11.5 Benchmark focuses on CPU and GPU performance, but storage has an impact on scores

In Cinebench, we notice more of the same. The Barracuda XT 3TB effectively beats almost every single drive in performance, and is also on par with the Western Digital Velociraptor drive both of which score a 6.04.

Cinebench R11.5 CPU Score is impacted by a faster or slower storage

Once again, the Barracuda XT 3TB also outshines its 2TB predecessor by a decent margin considering how narrow the margins are in Cinebench to begin with.

HyperPi Results confirm: The faster the drive, the lower the score. If you're looking for an OC'ed system, don't skip on the hard drive

In HyperPi the story continues, the Barracuda XT 3TB is one of the best performing drives out there and interestingly enough scores once again the exact same speeds as the Western Digital Velociraptor 600GB. This is also noting that these scores are actually an average of 3 tests. So, they effectively averaged out to the same score, which we found amusing but not surprising. And once again, the Barracuda XT 3TB blows right by the XT 2TB drive.

CrystalMark shows quite good results for the three terabyte XT drive
In CrystalMark we take a look at both reads and writes of varying sizes as well as the sequential speeds. In the sequential speeds, the Velociraptor slightly out-edged the Barracuda XT 3TB by 2Mb/s  but when you realize that both drives are doing in excess of 160MB/s you realize that it barely a 1% difference. In sequential writes, though, the Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB pulls ahead of the Velociraptor showing 155.1MB/s over the Velociraptor?s 147.4MB/s this is an increase of almost 8MB/s over the Velociraptor showing over a 5% improvement over the WD drive.

In our 512K reads and writes, though, the Velociraptor reclaims the performance crown and bests the Barracuda XT 3TB by about 10%. The story is similar with the 4K reads as the Velociraptor once again beats out the Barracuda XT 3TB. And finally in the 4K writes, the Barracuda XT 3TB for some reason shows somewhat disappointing performance as it is not only bested by the Velociraptor by double, but is also beaten by the Barracuda XT 2TB its predecessor. We believe that this may be because Seagate sacrificed 4K write performance for the sake of everything else performing well.

ATTO Disk Benchmark
ATTO Benchmark Results for Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB

In ATTO, we see that the Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB shows solid performance regardless of the file size once it passes 32KB. This shows that the Barracuda XT is one of the best drives for large file sizes and for reading and writing of large media files such as music and movies.

Temperature and Noise
Average Temperatures
The Barracuda XT 3TB was one of our coolest and quietest desktop drives only bested by the Barracuda Green drive. This further reinforces that this would make a fantastic data drive for backing up data or simply being a drive to hold media.
The Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB currently sells for $229 on Newegg which is not necessarily cheap. But at the same time, it also is a 3TB drive which does give you quite a bit of space and yields 13GB per dollar which isn?t necessarily as good as the Seagate 2TB Green for $80, but at the same time is significantly faster. It also gives the Velociraptor ($219 on sale) a run for its money since the Barracuda kept up with the Velociraptor in many tests or even beat it. For having 5x the capacity of the Velociraptor, this may make sense to a lot more people considering getting the Velociraptor or the Barracuda XT. Not to mention, this drive does come with a 5 year warranty which is more than most large capacity drives unless they are top-of-the-line like this one.

Most people wouldn?t expect to be comparing the Seagate Barracuda XT to the Western Digital Velociraptor, but Seagate has managed to take a 7200RPM drive and put it in the performance levels of a 10,000 RPM drive. As such, we would actually have to recommend that if you want to consider capacity at all into the equation the Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB is a better drive than the Velociraptor 600GB and gives you significantly more value considering it would essentially take 5 Velociraptors to attain the same capacity as the Barracuda XT 3TB. As such, we have decided to award the Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB our innovation award for not only making their XT line better, but making it a great value as well.

BSN* Prosumer / Enthusiast Award 2011: Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB
BSN* Prosumer / Enthusiast Award 2011: Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB