Should you still consider a mechanical hard drive or is it time to jump ship to SSD? Well, it depends. We take a look at two mechs on the market, and the results may surprise you.
When we saw that Seagate's latest mechanical drive was packing a rather hefty 3TB of storage space, we immediately assumed it'd be quite the sloth. How wrong we turned out to be. This SATA3 drive has a healthy 64MB cache to help speed things up, but more importantly it spins its five 600MB platters at a blazing 7,200rpm.
This results in some very good performance... relatively speaking. It's almost up there with the slowest SSDs when it comes to sequential performance, the one area where mechanical drives aren't completely outclassed by SSDs. And sure, it might be 31 times slower than something like OCZ's Vertex 3 when it comes to the smaller 4k files, but the real result is how well it performed against WD's speed demon, the VelociRaptor. Little did we know that the Barracuda XT can keep up with the newest VelociRaptor, turning our expectations around.
Given the 3TB size, there are limitations about who can use this drive. If you're stuck with Windows XP or another operating system that can't handle drives over the 2.1TB limit, you're going to have to install special software to make the most of this drive's gargantuan abilities. Thankfully Seagate includes them all with the drive, and it's actually quite a painless procedure.
While the massive size of this drive gives it one huge advantage over SSDs, the other is price per MB. While the fastest SSDs cost around $2 per megabyte, the Barracuda XT is just 9c per megabyte!
If you've got a stack of movies, games, music or other large files to store, the Barracuda XT comes highly recommended. And the fact that mechanical drives seem to be much more reliable than even the latest SSDs is a fact that shouldn't be ignored.
Moving on to our mech competitor, the WD VelociRaptor VR200M 600GB, it should be noted that there was a time not all that long ago when the ultimate in storage performance meant a pair of VelociRaptors strapped into your case in RAID 0 mode. And then the SSD revolution began, pushing these beasts into the extinction category like their namesakes.
But WD won't let the brand die, and while SSDs are nice, they're still not big enough for general storage duties. Does the most recent VelociRaptor still have its place in a performance PC?
Sadly not. It should be pointed out that the newest VelociRaptor is still over a year old, yet it's still widely available, and we're guessing it's mainly due to the stellar brand recognition associated with the VelociRaptor product name, which many users still equate to high performance. However, when compared against the likes of the shiny new Barracuda XT it's no surprise that this crusty old creature is struggling. It doesn't matter that this drive's platters spin at a significantly faster rate, topping out at 10,000rpm. In fact, these platters are so fast that they create significant heat, hence the reason why this 2.5in drive is ensconced in a massive heatsink the size of a 3.5in enclosure. The inclusion of SATA3 doesn't help either.
In nearly every test, the Barracuda XT slightly edges out the VelociRaptor. This wouldn't be such a problem if the VelociRaptor was exponentially cheaper, given it’s only a fifth of the capacity. But it's not - this drive checks in at a crazy $249, just $30 cheaper than the faster, and five times bigger, Barracuda XT.
As once proud owners of a VelociRaptor-powered rig, we're saddened to see the downfall of a truly great product. If WD wants the brand to retain any kind of worth it had better update this product line quick smart.Seagate Barracuda XT available from Seagate, retailing for $279
.APC rating: 9/10 (Editor's Choice)WD VelociRaptor VR200M 600GB available from Western Digital, retailing for $249
.APC rating: 5/10