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Seagate Barracuda ATA IV
  September 18, 2001 Author: Eugene Ra  

Seagate Barracuda ATA IV Available Capacities *
Model Number
Capacity
ST320021A
20 GB
ST340016A
40 GB
ST360021A
60 GB
ST380021A
80 GB
Estimated Flagship Price: $219 (80 GB)
80 GB evaluation unit provided by Seagate Technology.
60 GB evaluation unit provided by Hyper Microsystems. Remember, mention StorageReview.com in your HyperMicro order and receive free shipping!


Introduction

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.


WB99/Win2k Low-Level Measurements

 Testbed II Low-Level MeasurementsDetails... 
Windows 2000 Professional using NTFS
IBM Deskstar 60GXP (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 12.3|
Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 60 (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 13.1|
Western Digital Caviar WD1000BB (100 GB ATA-100) - 13.4|
Samsung SpinPoint P20 (40.0 GB ATA-100) - 13.5|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (60 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 14.8|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (80 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 14.8|
Windows 2000 Professional using NTFS
Western Digital Caviar WD1000BB (100 GB ATA-100) - 43733|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (60 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 42600|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (80 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 42200|
IBM Deskstar 60GXP (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 39033|
Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 60 (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 38433|
Samsung SpinPoint P20 (40.0 GB ATA-100) - 34500|
Windows 2000 Professional using NTFS
Western Digital Caviar WD1000BB (100 GB ATA-100) - 27900|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (60 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 27300|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (80 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 27200|
Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 60 (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 22900|
IBM Deskstar 60GXP (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 21300|
Samsung SpinPoint P20 (40.0 GB ATA-100) - 20300|

Click here to examine the STR graph for this drive

WinBench 99 measures the Barracuda ATA IV's average access time at 14.8 milliseconds. Subtracting 4.2 milliseconds to account for the average rotational latencyof a 7200 RPM spindle speed yields a measured seek time of 10.7 milliseconds... 1.1 ms off of Seagate's claim. Though this still represents a significant miss, it's an improvement over the Barracuda ATA III, which somehow managed to miss its spec by 2.3 ms. Nonetheless, the 'Cuda ATA IV's lags behind the competition.

Despite its leading areal density, the Barracuda ATA IV is the first 'Cuda ATA that fails to lead the competition in sequential transfer rates. Western Digital's 33 GB/platter Caviar WD1000BB narrowly bests the 'Cuda in both outer-zone and inner-zone transfer rates. To Seagate's credit, however, the 'Cuda does significantly outdistance the rest of the competition. It also maintains > 40 MB/sec transfer rates over more than half its capacity.


WB99/Win2k WinMarks

 Testbed II WB99/Win2k WinMarksDetails... 
Windows 2000 Professional using NTFS
Western Digital Caviar WD1000BB (100 GB ATA-100) - 8693|
Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 60 (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 8193|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (80 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 8067|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (60 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 7840|
IBM Deskstar 60GXP (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 7720|
Samsung SpinPoint P20 (40.0 GB ATA-100) - 5643|
Windows 2000 Professional using NTFS
Western Digital Caviar WD1000BB (100 GB ATA-100) - 22533|
IBM Deskstar 60GXP (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 20733|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (80 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 20500|
Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 60 (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 20333|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (60 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 20033|
Samsung SpinPoint P20 (40.0 GB ATA-100) - 12733|

Seagate's drive delivers a Business Disk WinMark 99 of 8.1 MB/sec, a score high enough to best IBM's Deskstar 60GXP and to come close to Maxtor's Diamondmax Plus 60. Similarly, the 'Cuda's High-End WinMark of 20.5 MB/sec is enough to match Maxtor and IBM. In both the Business and High-End tests, however, Western Digital's WD1000BB maintains a commanding lead over the competition.


IOMeter Performance

 Testbed II IOMeter Normalized GraphsDetails... 
Windows 2000 Professional, Unpartitioned
File Server Index
Workstation Index
Database Index
IBM Deskstar 60GXP (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 153.19|
|
Samsung SpinPoint P20 (40.0 GB ATA-100) - 145.82|
|
Western Digital Caviar WD1000BB (100 GB ATA-100) - 137.55|
|
Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 60 (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 126.56|
|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (80 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 122.15|
|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (60 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 121.47|
|
IBM Deskstar 60GXP (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 166.59|
|
Western Digital Caviar WD1000BB (100 GB ATA-100) - 164.13|
|
Samsung SpinPoint P20 (40.0 GB ATA-100) - 162.47|
|
Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 60 (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 141.96|
|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (80 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 134.17|
|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (60 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 133.70|
|
IBM Deskstar 60GXP (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 151.26|
|
Western Digital Caviar WD1000BB (100 GB ATA-100) - 146.54|
|
Samsung SpinPoint P20 (40.0 GB ATA-100) - 146.32|
|
Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 60 (60.0 GB ATA-100) - 127.74|
|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (80 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 122.29|
|
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (60 GB ATA-100) w/ AAM On - 121.09|
|

The Barracuda ATA IV's relatively high access time hampers its IOMeter indices (normalized averages of SR's various access patterns under Light, Medium, and Heavy Loads). Seagate's drive scores 134.17 in the Workstation index, almost enough to keep up with Maxtor's DiamondMax Plus 60 but nonetheless significantly trailing units from IBM, Western Digital, and Samsung.


Conclusion

Seagate makes a major marketing push when it comes to emphasizing the quiet operation of the Barracuda ATA IV. Have they succeeded? Absolutely. When it comes to both idle and seek noise, the 'Cuda exhibits floors perhaps matched only by Samsung's 5400 RPM drives. Truly an amazing achievement since Samsung's own 7200 RPM drive can't lay such a claim. Ever since Seagate's Medalist Pro ST39140A (the first drive to feature a fluid bearing motor) hit the scene, many have hypothesized that fluid bearings lead to increased heat generation. The two-platter 'Cuda ATA IV, however, became only warm to the touch even after extensive use.

The StorageReview.com Safe Buy Award



Simply put, this designation means we'd purchase this product without regret. Sure, there may be a slightly better, slightly faster, and/or slightly less-expensive model from a competitor, but you can't go wrong with this particular unit. This award is applicable, of course, to all units at the top of their class, but also applies to units that, though not quite best-of-class, provide a strong showing nonetheless. In conclusion, while the Barracuda ATA IV doesn't shatter any records, it undeniably carves out a place for itself on most folks' short list. Though some 40 GB/platter competition looms on the horizon, the 'Cuda, an early arrival, holds its own against current-generation units... while generating significantly less noise. Those who want the utmost in capacity and/or performance should stick with Western Digital's WD1000BB. For all others, however, the 'Cuda IV is a viable option: 80 GB, competitive performance, whisper quiet operation, and last but not least, a reasonable price.


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