When buying a hard disk drive most users are only concerned with the drive’s capacity. Should you also care about performance? We compared the performance of ten 500 GB SATA-300 hard disk drive models from Seagate, Samsung, Western Digital and Hitachi. Is there a big performance difference among them? Is it worthwhile to pay a little bit more and get a drive with a bigger buffer? If so, which is the fastest 500 GB drive on the market? Check it out!

We tried to include on this review all 500 GB hard disk drives we could find on the US market. In the table below you can see a comparison between the main specs for all ten drives included in our round-up. Nine of them rotate at 7,200 rpm – the exception is Western Digital Caviar GP, which is a “green” hard disk drive with rotational speed varying between 5,400 rpm and 7,200 rpm depending on the usage in order to save energy. All drives included in our round-up use a SATA power connector.

All 500 GB models we tested have a real capacity of 465.76 GB (976,773,168 sectors). As you may be aware, the capacity advertised by hard disk drive manufacturers isn’t the real drive capacity. Read our Hard Disk Drives Capacity Limits tutorial for further information on this subject.

Keep in mind that some of the drives included in our review are not primarily targeted to the end-user market and thus are a little bit more expensive. Seagate SV35.3 is targeted to digital video surveillance systems while Seagate ES.2, Western Digital RE.2 and RE.3 drives are targeted to the enterprise market. But it will be interesting to see how these drives that in theory have a higher reliability and transfer rate compare to mainstream units.

Manufacturers are using three different buffer sizes for 500 GB hard disk drives: 8 MB, 16 MB and 32 MB. It will be very interesting to compare drives with different buffer sizes to see if this feature really impacts performance.

Manufacturer Model Model # Buffer Price
Hitachi Deskstar P7K500 HDP725050GLA360 16 MB USD 59.99 *
Samsung Spinpoint F1 DT HD502IJ 16 MB USD 74.00 ^
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST3500320AS 32 MB USD 69.99 *
Seagate Barracuda ES.2 ST3500320NS 32 MB USD 89.99 *
Seagate SV35.3 ST3500320SV 32 MB USD 89.99 *
Western Digital Caviar GP WD5000AACS 16 MB USD 64.99 *
Western Digital Caviar SE WD5000AAJS 8 MB USD 64.99 *
Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000AAKS 16 MB USD 69.99 *
Western Digital RE2 WD5001ABYS 16 MB USD 94.90 ^
Western Digital RE3 WD5002ABYS 16 MB USD 86.00 ^

*Researched at on the day we published this review.

^Researched at on the day we published this review.

As for prices, we always try to research them on the same online store on the day we publish the review for a better comparison, as prices can vary wildly (for example, the same Caviar GP that is sold by USD 64.99 at is found at USD 123.99 at Best Buy, practically the double), but sometimes the store we decide to use for comparison doesn’t carry all models we included in our round-up.

Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 and Seagate Barracuda ES.2 came with a SATA-150/SATA-300 jumper. This jumper must be removed in order for the drive to work at SATA-300, otherwise it will work as a SATA-150 device. Of course we removed this jumper. For more information on this subject, read our Everything You Need to Know About Serial ATA tutorial.

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.