Processors are incredibly fast, RAM is
rocketing its way through our games, and videocards pack
more punch than ever. With all these screamingly fast system
components available, often the hard drive is neglected.
Itís a commonly known fact that despite of several
improvements in the past years, hard drives are still the
biggest performance bottleneck in desktop systems today.
That is why having a fast, large hard drive should be a
priority for all computer users.
A large, dense and fast hard drive can
become the key difference between a system that is sleek and
responsive, and one that is aggravatingly slow. Even the
fastest hard drives available cannot saturate the ATA bus,
making striping an increasingly popular solution. While the
relative physical size of drives has remained the same,
storage capacity, spindle speed, interface and buffer size
continues to be improved, and therefore the performance of
the hard drives continues to go up.
Today we take a look at two of the
largest desktop drives on the market from two of the most
popular hard drive vendors. From Western Digital, we
received the Caviar SE 4000KD which is a 400GB 4-platter
SATA-II behemoth, and from Seagate, the Barracuda 7200.9
500GB 4-platter SATA-II drive.
This match is most interesting because
of how similar the drives are. Comparatively, a Hitachi
500GB SATA uses a 5-platter design, and other WD drives use
a 3-platter design, which can skew performance. In this
case, both drives feature 4 platters, with the Seagate drive
having a higher density per platter.
The Seagate drive also
sports Native Command Queuing, a SCSI/SATA feature that
helps the disk access data more efficiently in some cases.
The Western Digital drive lacks this, though the level of
performance gain NCQ offers to the desktop is arguable, with
some even saying it can hinder performance in cases. For
straight comparisons, NCQ will be disabled on the Seagate
drive, which will give us a better picture of comparative
Although I use Linux as my primary
operating system, performance variations between Operating
Systems are not commonly encountered; assuming drivers are
functioning properly, of course. Unlike videocards, hard
drive performance is not as affected as much by differences
in drivers, allowing you to get a good grasp of how a drive
will behave in any particular system. Since modern hard
drives cannot saturate the bandwidth they have available to
them in standalone configurations, it is safe to assume that
performance will not be impacted based upon the operating
system you are using.