Before the Raptor, before 8MB buffers and before its reliability issues, the IBM Deskstar 75GXP was the king of desktop hard disk performance. Unfortunately for IBM's storage division, the drive was plagued with reliability issues. Even more unfortunate was that given its high performance, seemingly everyone had one, and thus, a lot of people had to deal with dead drives, and even dead RMA replacement 75GXPs as well.

After the 75GXP fiasco, IBM did have a handful of other drives that were released, but it wasn't long before the storage division was handed over to Hitachi. On January 1, 2003, Hitachi and IBM entered into a joint venture whereby IBM owns a share of the Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (GST) division and Hitachi handles manufacturing of the hard drives.

In a somewhat odd move, considering the recent history of the Deskstar drives, Hitachi and IBM elected to continue to use the Deskstar name. But with much stronger competition, the Deskstar name is still not as popular among performance enthusiasts as it once was.

Recently, Hitachi announced the latest in their Deskstar line of hard drives, the 7K400 - a 400GB desktop hard drive that was designed to offer high capacity as well as the highest performance levels of any desktop Hitachi drive. We started covering desktop hard drives around the time of Hitachi's announcement, and thus, they were one of the first on our list to pursue for review samples. Not too much later and we were sitting on over a terabyte of storage in the form of Deskstar 7K400 drives.

There's not much revolutionary about the 7K400 that enables it to reach such high capacities. There are two basic methods employed to increase disk capacities: either increase the amount of data that you store on each platter, or increase the number of platters in your drive. In the case of the 7K400, Hitachi continues to use their 80GB platters and simply tacks on another two platters to their older 7K250 drives - resulting in a total of 5 platters.

The use of 80GB platters is a bit disappointing as the 300GB MaXLine III from Maxtor employs three 100GB platters. The benefit of higher density platters is that with more data stored in the same amount of space, higher sequential transfer rates (which matter greatly for desktop performance) are made possible. Generally speaking though, higher density platters and larger buffers should go hand in hand in order to deliver the best overall performance.

Hitach continues to employ an 8MB buffer with the 7K400, once again making this drive more of an evolution of the 7K250 rather than an updated drive designed to compete with the MaXLine III and upcoming offerings from Seagate.

While the 7K400 is available in both Parallel and Serial ATA versions, the drive is a native PATA solution with the SATA version featuring a bridge chip. We have yet to see any performance data suggesting that a bridged solution actually limits performance with current generation drives; that being said, a native SATA drive is still more desirable from a manufacturing, cost and heat standpoint.

The 7K400 uses fluid dynamic bearing motors to enable quiet operation, but we'll touch on just how quiet in our noise test section.

What to do with 400GB?


View All Comments

  • masher - Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - link

    Hummm yourself #15, the Seagates have fluid bearings as well. Its not just these two drives...all the results are highly suspect. The values are far too close together, both between drives and for the same drive between idle and load.

    The review numbers are wrong.
  • PrinceGaz - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    I'd also be happy to sacrifice some performace for extra space (and also increased reliability as well if it has a lower rpm) on my largest drive. The Quantum Bigfoot drive (5 1/4" 3600rpm) I bought in the late 90's was slower than most others but offered considerably more GB/$ than faster drives of its day, and was ideal for my needs then. Its still working fine to this day in my second box.

    When you're considering archival drives of many hundreds of gigs capacity, economy and reliability are far more important than speed.
  • stephenbrooks - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    #6's idea of wanting larger storage (not necessarily speed) also interests me. I guess if 133GB platters are available Q3 and 5-platter drives are engineerable now, then 5x133 = 665GB drives should be (theoretically?) possible from Q3. I'm looking forward to the race to the first 1TB drive in 2005. Reply
  • jiulemoigt - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    hummm #14 look up fluid mechinics isolations then turn on a grinder, and weither his number are right the fluid ball bearings should be quiter than the graphite drives. My spelling is due to the time of night. I wouldn't have said anything but I have six raptors (the newer ones don't know how loud the old ones are) in an array and you have to get pretty close to hear them. Reply
  • masher - Sunday, July 11, 2004 - link

    While I appreciate the addition of the sound ratings, I have a hard time believing them. The 10K Raptor quieter under load than a Seagate 7200? No way. The quietest disk of the bunch at idle is the 5 platter Hitachi? And the Maxtor only half a db difference between idle and load?

    Sorry, you did something wrong to get these numbers. All the values are far too close together for one...maybe your SPL meter is filtering out part of the spectrum, or reading some background noise.
  • PrinceGaz - Sunday, July 11, 2004 - link

    #12- I assume you didn't read the earlier review on RAID0 and the conclusion that there is negligible performance advantage to using RAID0 on a desktop PC. Although the article only considered two 74GB Raptors in RAID0, the conclusion is equally applicable to other drives, more drives, or other controllers. noticed the article and all the comments from readers because they faced exactly the same criticism when they found RAID0 was basically worthless, and have posted a large editorial on their front page making it quite clear RAID0 is not worth using. I suggest you read AT's earlier atricle as well as those on SR.
  • pickxx - Sunday, July 11, 2004 - link

    I know you spend a lot of time making these and i greatly appretiate them but i would like a comparrison of RAID setups. I hear claims all the time about certin drives in RAID are faster then a 72GB Rapter or some drives are faster in RAID then others. I am just curious if you could do a set up of the top 5 individual drives and set them up in RAID.
    i am just throwing some ideas out there....
  • mkruer - Saturday, July 10, 2004 - link

    "If its there, people will fill it!" Reply
  • RossAdamBaker - Saturday, July 10, 2004 - link

    Article looks great! You can't beat a 400 gb hard drive! (Well, at least not for a few more days or so!) A quick question however... the PATA version of the hard drive loads UT2004 almost a second quicker than the SATA version. Is this an actual difference in the two drives, or is it just a fluke in the test that doesn't really have a technical basis to explain it? I see the SATA version beats out the PATA version in every other test, but being a gamer this definately raises my curiosity!

    Again, as always, great article!
  • jliechty - Saturday, July 10, 2004 - link

    What to do with 400GB hard drives? Aside from pr0n, serious photographers that work in digital (either straight from the camera, or scanned from film) can testify that once you get a .PSD with a few adjustment layers, some layer masks, etc., it might well reach the 500MB range or more (or if you got a drum scan, it might start out at 400-500MB before all the layer masks are added!). And most people don't shoot just a few images per month; draw your own conclusions. Reply

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