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 320 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 320 GB on the market? Check it out!
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Figure 1: The tested hard disk drives.
We tried to include on this review all 320 GB hard disk drives we could find on the US market. Below you can see a table comparing the main specs for all nine drives included in our round-up. Eight of them rotate at 7,200 rpm – the exception is Western Digital VelociRaptor, which is a 10,000 rpm model – 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. VelociRaptor is also the only disk that doesn’t have a nominal capacity of 320 GB but 300 GB. Since this disk is supposedly the fastest hard disk drive around, we decided to include it on this round-up. Speaking of which, we have already posted an individual review for Western Digital VelociRaptor, where we compared its performance against two Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 160 GB in RAID0.
All 320 GB models we tested have a real capacity of 298.09 GB (625,142,448 sectors), with VelociRaptor 300 GB having a real capacity of 279.46 GB (586,072,368 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 we researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review, except for the Samsung model, which was researched at Tigerdirect.com as Newegg.com didn’t carry this model. Most drives can be found on the same price range (USD 65 – USD 70), which the exception of the Hitachi models, which are cheaper, and Western Digital R2 – which is targeted to enterprise solutions and theoretically providing a higher transfer rate, plus higher reliability – and Western Digital VelociRaptor, which is was more expensive than the other models, since it is a high-end drive rotating at 10,000 rpm. Of course during this round-up we will see if it is really worthwhile paying high bucks for this drive.
As you can see most models have 16 MB buffer, but we also included one model with 8 MB buffer. So we will be able if the larger buffer size really increases the drive’s performance. The comparison between Western Digital Caviar SE and SE16 should be really interesting, as they are identical with the only difference being the size of the buffer.
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 came with a SATA-150/SATA-300 jumper (this didn’t happen with Barracuda 7200.11). 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.