by eugene

Hitachi Deskstar 7K500


Hitachi Deskstar 7K500 Available Capacities
Model Number Capacity
HDS725050KLA360 500 GB
Lowest Real-Time Price (500 GB):


Introduction

Hitachi's Deskstar series of drives have always been rather polarizing here at StorageReview as well as around the enthusiast community in general. One reason is sheer capacity and performance... Hitachi's (and formerly IBM's) drives have always been among the largest and speediest around. Another cause, however, is a legacy of troubles. Two iterations, the 75GXP and 60GXP, have been dogged by allegations of high failure rates.

Several families and several years have passed since the fervor over those two families hit a fevered pitch. As time moved on, the hubbub over those lines has died down... but Hitachi's commitment to remain on the bleeding edge of capacity and speed has not. Last year's Deskstar 7K400 reintroduced the firm's unique five-disc assembly and delivered first-class performance that until very recently vied for the SATA performance crown. A parallel ATA unit retrofitted for serial operation, the 7K400 incorporated a surprisingly robust (yet relatively unadvertised) implementation of ATA-4 tagged command queuing.

Top of the driveThe manufacturer's first attempt at a native SATA drive design was the transitional Deskstar T7K250. Though it featured from-the-ground-up SATA construction and implemented SATA Native Command Queuing, the drive took a step backwards from the 7K400 when it come to capacity. Now, however, the firm is back in full-force with a new flagship, the Deskstar 7K500.

Hitachi's latest leverages the five-platter design reintroduced in the 7K400 with higher-density 100-gigabyte platters and is the first half-terabyte drive to hit the market. Like all Deskstars, the 7K500 claims a relatively aggressive 8.5 millisecond average seek time. It is the first of Hitachi's drives to feature a larger 16-megabyte buffer similar to those found in competing designs. Like the T7K250, the 7K500 boasts a second-generation 300 MB/sec SATA interface and NCQ. A desktop-standard three-year warranty protects the drive.

With 7K500's monstrous capacity, Hitachi targets the hot-rod rigs put together by power users as well as entry-level servers with light duty cycles where capacity remains a more significant factor than blazing random accesses.

As a contemporary 7200 RPM drive, the Deskstar 7K500 will be compared against these drives in the tests that follow:

Hitachi Deskstar 7K400 (400 GB) Predecessor to the review drive (80GB/platter)
Maxtor MaXLine III (300 GB) High-capacity competing enterprise unit (100 GB/platter)
Samsung SpinPoint P80 (160 GB) Competing desktop unit (80 GB/platter)
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 (500 GB) High-capacity competing desktop unit (125 GB/platter)
Western Digital Caviar RE2 WD4000YR (400 GB) High-capacity competing enterprise unit (100 GB/platter)




Access Time and Transfer Rate

For diagnostic purposes only, StorageReview measures the following low-level parameters:

Average Read Access Time- An average of 25,000 random read accesses of a single sector each conducted through IPEAK SPT's AnalyzeDisk suite. The high sample size permits a much more accurate reading than most typical benchmarks deliver and provides an excellent figure with which one may contrast the claimed access time (claimed seek time + the drive spindle speed's average rotational latency) provided by manufacturers.

Average Write Access Time- An average of 25,000 random write accesses of a single sector each conducted through IPEAK SPT's AnalyzeDisk suite. The high sample size permits a much more accurate reading than most typical benchmarks deliver. Due to differences in read and write head technology, seeks involving writes generally take more time than read accesses.

WB99 Disk/Read Transfer Rate - Begin- The sequential transfer rate attained by the outermost zones in the hard disk. The figure typically represents the highest sustained transfer rate a drive delivers.

WB99 Disk/Read Transfer Rate - End- The sequential transfer rate attained by the innermost zones in the hard disk. The figure typically represents the lowest sustained transfer rate a drive delivers.

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Hitachi's drives have traditionally led the field when it comes to random access times. The Deskstar 7K500 posts a 12.9 millisecond access time which, when taking into account 7200 RPM's 4.2 ms latency, yields a measured average seek time of 8.7 ms. The result misses Hitachi's claim by a small 0.2 ms margin. Writes clock in slightly slower than reads at 13.1 milliseconds. These scores trail those of the older 7K400 by over half a millisecond.

The 7K500's sequential transfer rates are respectable but hardly earth-shattering. With an outer-zone rate of 62.9 megabytes per second, the Deskstar lags the similar-density competition such as the WD Caviar and Maxtor MaXLine by 2 to 3 MB/sec. The 7K500's 100 GB/platter construction does, of course, top its 80 GB/platter predecessor and, oddly enough, Seagate's 125 GB/platter Barracuda. Transfer rate decays significantly as data moves inwards. An inner-zone measurement of 33.7 MB/sec lags all other large-capacity drives save only Hitachi's older 7K400.

Some Perspective

It is important to remember that seek time and transfer rate measurements are mostly diagnostic in nature and not really measurements of "performance" per se. Assessing these two specs is quite similar to running a processor "benchmark" that confirms "yes, this processor really runs at 2.4 GHz and really does feature a 400 MHz FSB." Many additional factors combine to yield aggregate high-level hard disk performance above and beyond these two easily measured yet largely irrelevant metrics. In the end, drives, like all other PC components, should be evaluated via application-level performance. Over the next few pages, this is exactly what we will do. Read on!




Single-User Performance

StorageReview uses the following tests to assess non-server use:

StorageReview.com Office DriveMark 2006- A capture of VeriTest's Business Winstone 2004 suite. Applications include Microsoft's Office XP (Word, Excel, Access, Outlook, and Project), Internet Explorer 6.0, Symantec Antivirus 2002 and Winzip 9.0 executed in a lightly-multitasked manner.

StorageReview.com High-End DriveMark 2006- A capture of VeriTest's Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004 suite. Applications include Adobe Photoshop v7.01, Adobe Premiere v6.5, Macromedia Director MX v9.0, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX v6.1, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9.0, Newtek Lightwave 3D 7.5b, and Steinberg Wavelab 4.0f run in a lightly-multitasked manner.

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With a StorageReview Office DriveMark of 877 I/Os per second, the latest Deskstar takes the field by storm. The 7K500 bests WD's impressive Caviar RE2 by 6% and even edges out the 15,000 RPM Fujitsu MAU3147 (not shown, see the Drive Performance Database) to set a new record in our revised productivity suite. Enabling NCQ slides the 7K500's score down by about 5%, though the resulting score nonetheless is enough to maintain a lead over WD's drive.

Hitachi's latest continues its impressive showing in the High-End DriveMark. At 645 I/Os per second, the Deskstar again wrests the top 7200 RPM slot away from the Caviar. In a showing similar to that found in the Office test, the 7K500's new native SATA design and 16-megabyte buffer combine to deliver an impressive 23% increase in performance over the firm's old design. Activating NCQ results in a slight performance hit.



Gaming Performance

Three decidedly different entertainment titles cover gaming performance in StorageReview's test suite.

FarCry, a first-person shooter, remains infamous for its lengthy map loads when switching levels.

The Sims 2, though often referred to as a "people simulator," is in its heart a strategy game and spends considerable time accessing the disk when loading houses and lots.

Finally, World of Warcraft represents the testbed's role-playing entry; it issues disk accesses when switching continents/dungeons as well as when loading new textures into RAM on the fly.

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The Deskstar 7K500 builds upon its exceptional desktop scores by seizing the top slot in our FarCry capture. A 13% improvement over the performance turned in by its predecessor powers the 7K500 (with NCQ enabled or disabled) past WD's Caviar.

More of the same arises in our Sims 2 recording. The 7K500 again delivers a large improvement over its predecessor and tops the charts after blowing past WD's drive by a comfortable 7% margin.

Finally, the Deskstar completes its sweep of our non-server tests by leading the field in our trace of the ever-popular World of Warcraft. Hitachi's lead here slims down a bit, but the drive's 13% improvement over the firm's older design nonetheless sets the 7K500 apart from most of the competition.




Multi-User Performance

Unlike single-user machines (whether a desktop or workstation), servers undergo highly random, non-localized access. StorageReview simulates these multi-user loads using IOMeter. The IOMeter File Server pattern balances a majority of reads and minority of writes spanning requests of varying sizes.

IOMeter also facilitates user-configurable load levels by maintaining queue levels (outstanding I/Os) of a specified depth. Our tests start with the File Server pattern with a depth of 1 and double continuously until depth reaches 128 outstanding I/Os.

Drives with any sort of command queuing abilities will always be tested with such features enabled. Unlike single-user patterns, multi-user loads always benefit when requests are reordered for more efficient retrieval.

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The Deskstar 7K500's multi-user scores contrast starkly with its desktop prowess. Its relatively swift actuator permits the drive a respectable start at low loads. As queue depths increase, however, the 7K500's modest (and, incidentally, linear) gains grant the drive only a comparatively small rise in overall achieved IOps. Seagate's Barracuda 7200.9, hardly a speedster in this domain, easily overtakes the Deskstar drive with 8 or more I/Os outstanding.

Differences between the NCQ-equipped 7K500 and older, TCQ-equipped 7K400 are striking. The legacy ATA-4 queuing found in the 7K400 exacts an early penalty out of the gate- despite its superior access time, the 7K400 commences far behind any other drive with just a single I/O outstanding. As depths increase, however, the drive's TCQ implementation scales quite well and empowers the 7K400 to keep up the pace with the best of today's NCQ-equipped units. The 7K500, on the other hand, slopes much more modestly and never comes close to matching the performance of its predecessor.




Noise and Power Measurements

Idle Noise- The sound pressure emitted from a drive measured at a distance of 3 millimeters. The close-field measurement allows for increased resolution between drive sound pressures and eliminates interactions from outside environmental noise. Note that while the measurement is an A-weighted decibel score that weighs frequencies in proportion to human ear sensitivity, a low score does not necessarily predict whether or not a drive will exhibit a high-pitch whine that some may find intrusive. Conversely, a high score does not necessarily indicate that the drive exhibits an intrusive noise profile.

Operating Power Dissipation- The power consumed by a drive, measured both while idle and when performing fully random seeks. In the relatively closed environment of a computer case, power dissipation correlates highly with drive temperature. The greater a drive's power draw, the more significant its effect on the chassis' internal temperature.

Startup (Peak) Power Dissipation- The maximum power dissipated by a drive upon initial spin-up. This figure is relevant when a system features a large number of drives. Though most controllers feature logic that can stagger the spin-up of individual drives, peak power dissipation may nonetheless be of concern in very large arrays or in cases where a staggered start is not feasible. Generally speaking, drives hit peak power draw at different times on the 5V and 12V rails. The 12V peak usually occurs in the midst of initial spin-up. The 5V rail, however, usually hits maximum upon actuator initialization.

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The Deskstar 7K500's objective sound pressure measurement of 43.6 decibels weighs in slightly louder than that of its predecessor. Even so, the drive whispers away at idle and does not draw attention to itself when properly mounted in a case. Likely due to its relatively large, swift actuator, the Deskstar's seeks are slightly more audible than the competition. Still, it is just enough to let the user know that the drive is busy fulfilling requests.

Hitachi manages to keep the 7K500's idle power consumption at 8.5 watts, matching that of the 7K400's and placing the drive right in the midst of the competition. When performing a full-bore random seek, however, the 7K500's dissipation rises to 14.6 watts and tops the chart. This is not a total surprise given the drive's 10-arm actuator... but the 7K400 also features a 5-platter design and manages to dissipate nearly a full watt less. The newer drive thus places just a watt or two below the coolest-running SCSI drives. Ensure adequate airflow in potential installations.

The Deskstar's peak power dissipation figures contrast sharply with its operating power numbers. Drawing just 15 watts on the 12 volt rail, the 7K500 manages to spin up its 5-disc assembly with amazing efficiency. Despite a one- to three-platter advantage, none of the competition can match Hitachi's drives.




Reliability

The StorageReview.com Reliability Survey aims to amalgamate individual reader experiences with various hard disks into a comprehensive warehouse of information from which meaningful results may be extracted. A multiple-layer filter sifts through collected data, silently omitting questionable results or results from questionable participants. A proprietary analysis engine then processes the qualified dataset. SR presents results to readers through a percentile ranking system.


According to filtered and analyzed data collected from participating StorageReview.com readers, the Hitachi Deskstar 7K500 is more reliable than of the other drives in the survey that meet a certain minimum floor of participation.

According to filtered and analyzed data collected from participating StorageReview.com readers, a predecessor of the Hitachi Deskstar 7K500, the Hitachi Deskstar 7K400 , is more reliable than of the other drives in the survey that meet a certain minimum floor of participation.

Note that the percentages in bold above may change as more information continues to be collected and analyzed. For more information, to input your experience with these and/or other drives, and to view comprehensive results, please visit the SR Drive Reliability Survey.




Conclusion

Hitachi has made the transition to a native SATA design and a 16-megabyte buffer with aplomb. Though the Deskstar 7K500 lags a bit in the density department and as a result must assemble five platters to hit the half-terabyte mark, the ultimate proof is in the pudding. When it comes to single-user applications, whether productivity, video- and sound-editing, or games, the 7K500 is easily the fastest 7200 RPM SATA drive one can buy. In all five of our non-server tests, the Deskstar bests the Western Digital Caviar RE2, a drive that just a few weeks ago enjoyed its own run at blowing away the opposition.

For multi-user applications, however, a different picture emerges. The 7K500's NCQ implementation simply does not scale well and leaves the drive wanting when compared to the rather leisurely Barracuda 7200.9 let alone the field-leading Caviar RE2. Hitachi, of course, would direct those seeking a large, performance-oriented server drive to the Ultrastar 10K300.

In the end, however, despite the hoopla over SAS's impending arrival and its interoperability with SATA, today's monster SATA drives more often than not still find themselves in power user rigs. Such machines, no matter how heavily taxed, do not parallel the usage patterns found in a server. That leaves single-user results and when it comes to the 7K500's, who can argue? It's perhaps the fastest SATA drive ever.

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