December 1st, 2006 by eugene
Seagate Barracuda 750ES
As a result, Seagate has chosen to revive the Barracuda name for its nearline class of drives with an "ES"suffix, presumably signifying the drive's EnterpriSe orientation. Seagate aficionados may recall that the original Barracuda drives, of course, featured SCSI interfaces and that the final two 36 GB models of that venerable series were called the "ES" and "ES2" to differentiate them from the then recently-introduced ATA series. Obviously, today's Barracuda ES shares little in common with the old SCSI ES except the name... this ES features over 20 times the capacity, after all!
The following performance tests feature the Barracuda ES and other similar SATA drives with NCQ enabled. One can usually toggle SATA NCQ functionality via the controller's driver interface. In the past, we have presented results for drives with NCQ enabled and disabled as not all SATA controllers supported the feature. These days, however, NCQ-enabled controllers are the rule and not the exception.
Let us see how the 750 gigabyte ES stacks up against the following:
|Hitachi Deskstar 7K500 (500 GB)||Previous-generation consumer-oriented unit|
|Maxtor MaXLine Pro (500 GB)||Previous-generation competing unit|
|Seagate NL35.2 (500 GB)||Predecessor of the review drive|
|Western Digital RE2 (500 GB)||Previous-generation competing unit|
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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With an access time measuring in at just 12.3 milliseconds, the Barracuda ES posts an unusually swift access time when it comes to Seagate SATA drives. After accounting for a 7200 RPM spindle's 4.2 ms average rotational latency, we are left with a measured seek time of just 8.1 milliseconds. The ES handily bests Seagate's claim of 8.5 ms and places at the top of the heap when contrasted with its contemporaries. At 13.5 milliseconds, the ES's random write accesses are not quite as impressive yet still compare well with the competition.
The Barracuda ES's outer-zone transfer rate hits 78.5 MB/sec, enough to claw its way to the top of the charts. Though a 7200 RPM record, the number may be slightly disappointing to those expecting a dramatically higher score via the increases in linear data density evidenced by a powerhouse relative to the ES, the Cheetah 15K.5, a drive that incorporates peripendicular data recording techniques like the ES's. Nonetheless, 78.5 MB/sec represents a 23% improvement over the figure turned in by the NL35.2.
Rates decay to an inner-track mark of 44.3 MB/sec, also a record for a 7200 RPM drive.
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!
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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Under a workload drawn from actual office/productivity applications, the Barracuda ES delivers 575 I/Os per second. This Office DriveMark score improves upon the older NL35.2's showing by a healthy 13% yet still leaves the drive far behind designs from the competition.
Perhaps benefiting from its stronger transfer rates, the ES manages to reverse its fortunes in the High-End DriveMark, a pattern of disc accesses that, due to dealing with larger files, tend to feature larger blocks of data transfers. At 606 I/Os per second, the Barracuda builds a 12% lead over most other drives and trails the category-leading Hitachi Deskstar 7K500 by just 4%.
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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In a series of tests that focus on disc access by entertainment titles, the Barracuda ES delivers middling performance at best. In our FarCry trace, the ES ekes out a slight improvement over the NL35.2 yet actually regresses in accesses drawn from The Sims 2 and World of Warcraft and places at the bottom of the heap.
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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Under recommended concurrency levels (with a 7200 RPM spindle, one generally does not want to have an average of more than 4 outstanding operations for extended periods), the Barracuda ES performs quite similarly to the NL35.2. When pushing beyond a queue depth of 8, however, the ES manages to distance itself from the NL35.2, offering an improvement of roughly 10%.
Whether the workload is light or heavy, however, the ES can not quite keep up with the MaXLine Pro and especially the WD RE2, a drive that outguns the ES by a margin of at least 13% when any kind of concurrency is involved.
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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With an objectively-measured sound pressure of 41.1 dB/A, the Barracuda ES exhibits a sound level similar to that of the NL35.2, something also corroborated with subjective listening. The ES is a quiet drive, but its character ultimately remains more noticeable than the WD RE2. Even so, its doubtful that the ES's idle noise would be detectable above other system fans, especially in an enterprise-oriented setting where multiple drives and robust cooling practices are in place.
Dissipating 13.3 watts under a full seek and 9.4 watts when idle, the ES exhibits a power and thermal profile quite similar to that of the NL35.2. While it runs slightly cooler than drives from Maxtor and Hitachi, the ES can not touch the WD RE2, a competitor that weighs in at just 10.6 watts under a full load.
The ES's peak power draw also remains similar to that of the NL35.2, with the 5V rail (usually responsible for actuator initialization but not the more intensive spinning up of platters) exhibiting a slight economy. Here again the WD RE2 comes in noticeably less power-hungry though its the Hitachi Deskstar 7K500 that steals the show.
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 Seagate Barracuda ES 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 Seagate Barracuda ES, the Seagate NL35.2 , 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.
Despite its impressive access time and sequential transfer rates, Seagate's Barracuda ES does not deliver performance that matches that of the competition. Drives from Hitachi, WD, and Maxtor (now part of Seagate's own operations due to a recent merger) all continue to outperform this third-generation Seagate drive.
The drive's size, however, can not be easily overlooked. 750 gigabytes provides Seagate with a 50% capacity advantage over the competition, a margin greater than those found in any of the preceding performance tests. This translates not only to more capacity in the same physical space, but also can yield advantages in other ways- achieving a target capacity with less drives reduces the cost of supporting infrastructure, for example.
As of this writing, Seagate remains the only firm that offers such capacity in the standard 3.5" form factor. Its exclusives like these that again affirm why the company is the first name in disc storage. Review Discussion