You've heard this before, but it's worth re-iterating: the most important component in your PC is the hard drive. The CPU, the RAM, even the motherboard, if they fail, can be replaced at the mercy of your budget. But, and those who have lost photos and other documents dear to their hearts will tell you, it's very hard to replace the personal data on your hard drive when it eventually succumbs to physical or electronic damage.
- Efficient power consumption, runs very quietly, relatively cool, optimised for 24/7 systems
- It was sluggish in our file transfer tests
Always-on PCs, small business servers and home media centres will benefit from this drive as it's very quiet and runs relatively cool. However, its single drive performance was sluggish in our tests.
Price$ 469.00 (AUD)
While it's essential that all irreplaceable data be backed up on separate drives, you can postpone inevitable hard drive crashes by investing, at the outset, in drives with a higher-than-usual reliability rating. Especially if you leave your PC on 24/7 or if you use disk-intensive applications, such as Adobe Premiere or Photoshop.
The best drives for intensive applications and 24/7 operation are ones that are designed for servers, but they can blow out a budget quicker than a drinking session at the local watering hole after a rough day at work. Recognising the gap in the market between regular desktop and enterprise drives, Seagate has plugged it with the Barracuda ES2, which is aimed at enthusiast desktop, as well as small business and enterprise users. It can be used just as easily in a file server as in a gaming, media centre or workstation PC.
It's a Serial ATA based drive, with NCQ, an interface speed of 300MBps, 32MB cache size, 7200rpm spin speed and a capacity of 1TB (931GB formatted capacity). It also takes advantage of perpendicular recording technology, which fits 250GB of storage space on each of its four internal platters. At $469, its cost per formatted gigabyte is 50 cents, which isn't too bad at all.
Essentially, the ES2 is the same drive as the Barracuda 7200.11, but it incorporates better technology to combat vibration, as well as different firmware, for better data verification and lower power consumption. While it's touted as a solution for 24/7 systems, it's not designed for a 100 per cent load. You can't perform seek and write operations continuously over that period of time and expect it to last its rated 1.2 million hours before failing. Instead, it means the drive can be left on 24/7, and periodically during that on-time (say, 20 per cent of the time) perform the odd read and write operation, with most of the time being spent in an idle condition. This is the pattern of use for a small business's file server, a typical media centre PC that's been left on overnight to record programs, or a desktop machine left on continuously to download data or render a video. For these endeavours, it's ideal.
We used a Samsung SpinPoint HD501LJ hard drive to facilitate our hard drive tests on the PC with an NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI-based SATA II controller. The ES2 wrote data from our test drive at a rate of 72.16MBps (7GB at 97sec) and read it back to it at an almost identical rate -- 72.91. Copying data from one location on the ES2 to another, the drive averaged a transfer rate of 20MBps, which is a shade slower than the result achieved by the Barracuda 7200.11 (20.85MBps). As such, it won't be the quickest car in the garage, so rather than a WRX, the ES might be more akin to a Camry, hopefully reliable over long periods of time, and power efficient. We rated its power consumption at 6.94W when idle, and 8.3W when under a full load. Both figures represent slight power savings over the Barracuda 7200.11, and are excellent figures overall.
One thing above all that is noticeable with this drive; it's definitely one of Seagate's most quiet and cool running drives. Even under a full load, copying data from one location to another, the drive's operation was barely noticeable, except for some dull, almost subdued ticking when the heads were at their busiest point during the transfer. Its balance is also impeccable, as hardly any vibration was noticed when we parked the drive in our CoolerMaster Praetorian mid-tower case. Again, these traits make it an ideal solution for a media centre, which will run in a living room, or for a desktop PC in the bedroom.
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