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 nine mainstream 250 GB SATA-300 hard disk drive models from Seagate, Samsung, Western Digital, Maxtor 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 250 GB on the market? Check it out!
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Figure 1: The tested hard disk drives.
For this review we went to Newegg.com and bought all 250 GB SATA-300 hard disk drives we could find. In the table below you can see a table comparing the main specs for all nine drives included in our round-up. On all of them the discs rotate at 7,200 rpm and provide only a SATA power connector, except Hitachi Deskstar T7K500, which was the only model also providing a standard 4-pin peripheral power connector.
All 250 GB models we tested have a real capacity of 232.89 GB (488,397,168 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.
The prices are the actual price we paid when we bought the drives last week and as you can see even though there are some price differences, they are minor: all drives can be found on the same price range, except Seagate Barracuda ES, which is a little bit more expensive as it is targeted to enterprise solutions, theoretically providing a higher performance.
Seagate bought Maxtor some years ago and the benchmarked Maxtor drive (DiamondMax 21 STM3250310AS) is identical to another drive from Seagate also included in our round-up (Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250310AS). So it will be interesting to see if there is any performance difference among these two drives.
As you can see most models have an 8 MB buffer, but we also included some models with 16 MB buffer. So we will be able if the larger buffer size really increases the drive’s performance. The comparison between the two Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 drives should be really interesting, as they are identical with the only difference being the size of the buffer. The same goes for the two Western Digital drives.
Seagate and Maxtor drives come 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.