We set up a test PC with an MSI K8N Diamond motherboard (nForce 4 SLI) with an Athlon 64 X2 3800+ processor, 1GB of Corsair CMX512 PC3200 memory and Windows XP Pro SP1. We installed the unformatted Hitachi and ran HD Tach 3, and then repeated the procedure on a WD740 Raptor and a 250GB Seagate 7200.8 drive.
The Hitachi achieved sequential read and write speeds that were very similar to the Seagate but which were significantly slower than the Raptor. Of course, the Raptor uses 2.5in platters and has a rotational speed of 10000rpm so you'd expect it to be fast, but even so the Hitachi wasn't as quick as we would expect for such a new design. It's very quiet in operation but it gets fairly hot and runs five to ten degrees hotter than a drive with fewer platters.
HD Tach confirmed that Hitachi's claimed 8.5ms seek time doesn't include the average latency of 4.16ms that you get with a 7200rpm drive so the true figure is actually 12.5ms, which is still faster than the 13.2ms we saw for the Seagate drive.
The HD Tach figures looked perfectly acceptable but we decided to format the drives, install Windows XP and then run PCMark05. This reminded us of one of the issues with high capacity drives as it took two and a half hours to format the 7K500. In the process we lost 35GB of space which is the usual seven percent that you kiss off to formatting, but it seems like a monumental amount when you consider that you have doubtless owned PCs with less than 35GB of storage.
Once we were done we ran PC Mark05 and initially, the results were quite shocking as the Hitachi only scored 1217 marks compared to 1924 for the WD Raptor and 2174 for the Samsung. There's no way that the Hitachi has a mere 55 per cent of the performance of the Samsung so we checked our test results carefully and found that PCMark05 requires a CPU driver patch to make the test recognise dual-core processors correctly. The patch only works with Windows XP SP2, rather than SP1, so we had to reinstall Windows on the Hitachi, Samsung and WD drives but the effort was worth it as the Hitachi managed the same overall performance as the Raptor, which is rather impressive. The 7K500 scored 4892, the Raptor 4810.
Buying 500GB of storage in the form of two 250GB drives or three 160GB drives will currently cost you about £160 or £170 so you're paying a significant premium for a single 500GB drive. Formatting the 500GB drive takes ages. If it fails, you lose everything on it, which is likely to be a huge amount of data. Yet it offers you little in return unless you have small form-factor PC.
Hitachi can legitimately claim that the 7K500 is the first 500GB hard drive on the market, but there's no compelling reason to buy one enormous drive instead of two smaller capacity units.
|Hitachi Deskstar 7K500|
|Price||£225 inc. VAT|
|More info||The Hitachi Global Storage site|