The Barracuda ATA IV is the latest in a line of ATA drives that shares a name with a proud, decorated line of SCSI drives. The original 'Cuda ATA proved to be a unique performer, delivering access times that approached SCSI-like levels. Likewise, the drive's successor combined amazing low-level scores with respectable high-level results. It's the third-generation that disappointed many readers. Not only did it claim a much less ambitious seek time, it ended up missing said relaxed claim by a considerable margin. Is the Barracuda ATA line in a downward decline?
In the 'Cuda ATA IV, Seagate was the first manufacturer to ship a 7200 RPM drive featuring 40 GB/platter. Despite the falter of the third-generation, StorageReview.com readers placed unprecedented hope in Seagate's latest. The excitement surrounding the drive hasn't been matched since Maxtor's DiamondMax Plus 40 was announced. And, at least in the latter case, published SR benchmarks existed to fuel the excitement. Unfortunately, Seagate's American division had quite a problem securing samples of this drive for review. Instead, reviews poured in from sites based outside the US.
When SR finally secured a 60 GB sample from HyperMicro, we placed preliminary figures in our member exclusives database. Even then, though some numbers hinted at decidedly average performance, anticipation continued unabated. Since Seagate themselves promised delivery of the flagship 80 GB drive shortly after we received the HyperMicro unit, we chose to hold off on a formal review until tests were complete on the larger drive. All tests are finished. Time to put the 'Cuda IV into perspective and see how it stacks up to the competition!
In the tradition of the Barracuda name, Seagate's latest, of course, features a 7200 RPM spindle speed. The drive is available in one- and two-platter configurations, yielding a flagship capacity of 80 GB. Interestingly, the two-platter models are spec'ed with a 9.5 millisecond access time while the one-platter units are marked at 8.9 ms. A 2-megabyte buffer rounds out the package.
The Barracuda ATA IV holds a distinction as the first drive to ship exclusively with fluid bearing motors (trademark-named "SoftSonic"), as opposed to the traditional ball bearing motors utilized throughout hard disk history. Seagate prides itself in being the first to develop a commercially viable fluid bearing motor... exclusive use in their latest performace-oriented ATA line certainly proves the maturity of Seagate's design. In addition to the bearings themselves, Seagate has taken a host of other steps to try and reduce noise to levels never before plumbed. More details may be found in Seagate's product press release.
Seagate's drive targets high-end desktop machines as well as entry-level server applications. It's marketed as an ideal replacement drive for enthusiasts looking to upgrade to a current-generation unit. The drive features a 3-year warranty.
The 'Cuda ATA IV ships with an ATA-100 interface. Remember, since ATA drives have yet to break sequential transfer rates greater than even 45 MB/sec that ATA-66 (and in many cases, even ATA-33) interfaces will run a drive with optimal performance. Our testbed remains equipped with a Promise Ultra66 controller. The drive will work without a hitch on all modern controllers.
The results that follow were drawn from 80 GB and 60 GB (i.e., 2-platter) Barracuda ATA IV units. Should Seagate wish to send a single-platter unit for review, SR would gladly report results.