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Monday, July 24, 2006
Seagate ST380811AS

1. Introduction

When deciding to build a new PC, be it for for office use, software development or for playing the latest games, one of the most important factors you have to consider which impacts on the overall performance is the HDD. From booting the operating system, opening text files or loading a presentation, all file I/O operations are directed at the HDD. You therefore need to have a fast HDD to handle the most demanding tasks.

Since the adoption of the SATA interface, most users have preferred to move from ATA to SATA and more recently to SATA2. Since my budget was rather limited, an 80GB HDD seemed to be the best choice. However, there are several manufacturers that offer drives at this capacity. And after looking at the specs, I decided to trial the brand new Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 series. I was also interested in seeing how it compared to my old WD 800JD which I had previously. To be honest, I was not particularly impressed or influenced by the various claims that "SATA2 is better" or "NCQ makes a whole difference". I wanted to see for myself if there really was as big a difference as these claims made out, and in this review I will try to explain the Seagate drive's main features as well as put it through the benchmark tests to see just how good it is.

- Seagate ST380811AS

Seagate currently offers both IDE and SATA Barracuda 7200.9 HDD drives. The entire line up starts from 40 GB and reaches 500 GB, offering SATA/SATAII compatibility and of course, NCQ (Native Command Queuing). As Seagate states: "...Native Command Queuing is a process in which a hard drive reorders outstanding commands to reduce mechanical overhead and improve I/O latencies..."

In order to take full advantage of Native Command Queuing, you must have the following:

  • NCQ supported hard drive
  • Motherboards or PCI controllers with NCQ support
  • Multi-threading software

The ability of an operating system to execute different parts of a program, called threads, simultaneously. The programmer must carefully design the program in such a way that all the threads can run at the same time without interfering with each other. (Webopedia).

What are the advantages of using NCQ?

Some of the advantages of using NCQ supported hard drives are:

  • Improved endurance of the hard drive due to less mechanical wear
  • Higher performance when utilizing multiple command workloads

Will I notice a big performance increase when using a NCQ supported hard drive?

Each hard drive model will have its own product specification which you should use to determine performance. You will not see a big performance increase when using applications that do not utilize multi-threading technology. Performance increase is more noticeable when utilizing transactional workloads.

How do I enable NCQ?

With Seagate drives, Native Command Queuing is enabled at the firmware level of the hard drive and cannot be altered, which means you have support as long as all the other requirements are met. If all requirements are not met, NCQ will not be utilized.

- Features

Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 series provides the following key features:

• Fastest SATA interface (3Gb/s) provides a larger data pipe for fast cache transfers and multi-drive performance.
• Covers your application needs—offering 2- or 8-Mbyte cache and interfaces including ATA/100 and SATA 1.5Gb/s or 3Gb/s
• SATA click connectors and thin cables for easier integrations and better cooling airflow
• Seagate SoftSonic motor enables whisper-quiet operation.
• Enhanced G-Force protection defends against handling damage.
• RoHS-compliant—environmentally conscious product
• Backed by an industry-leading, five-year warranty

Features Benefits
New Low Profile Height
Lighter design weighs less and reduces shipping costs.
Seagate SoftSonic
Seagate SoftSonic motor enables whisper-quiet operation.
Reversed PCBA Electronics
By reversing the circuit board, the drive electronics are protected from handling damage during shipping and integration.
5 Year Warranty
Seagate offers the industry's leading warranty to demonstrate our commitment to product reliability and our customers' success.
Perpendicular Recording Technology
Perpendicular Recording increases data density while decreasing moving parts for a more dependable drive.

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