hard drives, hard drives - It's January 2003 Roundup Time!
(drives merged with Hitachi) QPS
Pentium computer or faster, Windows 95 through XP, 32MB RAM
Street Prices - $90-$300
been testing eight large capacity (60GB and larger) hard drives,
internal and external, for about 6 months. The internal drives
are manufactured by Seagate, Western Digital, IBM and Maxtor;
the external drives are all FireWire-based (IEEE1394), manufactured
by EZQuest, QPS Inc., Iomega and SmartDisk. The drives have
all been purchased for use in our research offices with the
exception of the EZQuest Cobra + which was sent to CompuNotes
we do this? Well, innate masochism actually. Seriously though,
in all the furor over new, gigantic hard drive capacities,
nobody has reported any long term usage impressions. We thought
we'd break that mold and let you know how these big babies
fare under heavy duty use over a period of many months. For
the record, we do use even larger capacity drives in our research
offices - up to 180GB - but we don't feel that any of the
genuine monsters are appropriate for anything other than data
storage on servers.
did not use any special testing procedures or formal test
plans. Each drive was attached to either a high-use graphics
or video workstation, or a high-use word processing or design
workstation. Our definition of high use is a minimum of 2GB
of file loading and saving per 7 hour work day, with no upper
or lower limit on the physical number of files needed to reach
the 2GB minimum. Trust us - 2GB of data per day means a lot
of work for a hard drive moving the information back and forth
from RAM. The average data load these drives actually handle
is closer to 5GB per day.
you're looking for the perfect holiday gift for yourself (or
someone else), have a look at the report and our comments
and decide on something that won't let you (or someone else)
- Seagate Barracuda 80GB ATA IV model ST380021A , 7200 rpm,
2MB buffer. Undoubtedly the quietest drive we've ever had
the pleasure of using, this thing is also fast (although caching
is limited by the small-ish buffer). On the other hand, we
reformatted this drive through four different operating system
installations (Windows 2000, XP, Mandrake Linux and current
Windows XP Professional again), brutalized it under each operating
system, and it stills charges along like it was brand new.
The drive has handled extremely heavy graphic and video editing
loads for about 8 months without so much as a whimper. It's
still ridiculously quiet and we purchased 6 more just like
it (the most recent being the ATA V version which is just
as good if not better). The drive is a reliable, fast workhorse.
Average street price is $120. 3 year warranty.
2 - Western
Digital Caviar 80GB model WD800JB, 7200 rpm, 8MB buffer. It
runs comparatively cool and only a bit louder than the Seagate.
It's also more expensive than the Seagate. The original we
purchased conked out after two weeks and Western Digital replaced
it in three days under warranty. The replacement was identical
and has been operating without problems in a combination word
processing and photo retouching computer which is often running
and in heavy use for 12 hours per day. This drive is the fastest
of the bunch. Like the Seagate, we have several more of these
drives in other workstations and servers - it's another real
workhorse. Average street price is $150. 3 year warranty.
3 - IBM
Deskstar GXP 80GB model IC35L080AVVA07, 7200 rpm, 2MB buffer.
The Deskstars have had a bit of bad rap (particularly the
75GXP). We never owned one of the 75GXPs and we don't want
one, thank you. Too many complaints. This 80GB version however,
is as reliable as anything we've ever tested. It's reasonably
quiet, stable and fast (second overall to the Western Digital).
Despite the comparatively small buffer, read and write caching
are darn near as good as the Seagate and Western Digital models.
It seems to be the most expensive drive of this bunch. Average
street price is $160. 3 year warranty.
4 - Maxtor
DiamondMax D540X 60GB model 4x060H3, 5400 rpm, 2MB buffer.
Noisy and slow. What can we say except to note that the original
Maxtor we purchased failed after 3 weeks. It was replaced
by Maxtor free of charge under warranty. The replacement is
still noisy and slow - too many gigabytes, the spindle speed
is wrong for this size drive and the buffer is too small.
The replacement failed after 3 months and its replacement
is now making ominous noises. It's really not a drive meant
for heavy duty use. Do not store DVDs movies on this drive
- viewing will be choppy. It was being used as primary drive
in a graphics workstation, but it was a bit too slow. The
second replacement is being used as a storage drive in the
same workstation. It seems better suited for home use than
the heavy duty pounding absorbed by the other drives. This
drive is the least expensive of the bunch and has the shortest
warranty. Average street price is $95. 1 year warranty.
1 - EZQuest
model Cobra + 120GB, 7200 rpm, 2MB buffer. When we first reviewed
this chunky baby in March 2002, we gave it a serious thumbs-up.
Our opinion hasn't changed. The drive has done yeoman service
in our long-term testing and is almost as quiet as the day
we unpacked it (almost as quiet as the grave-silent SmartDisk
below). At $259 (street) it's fast and well worth the money.
Our only complaint is that it's a wee bit large for convenient
portability. On the other hand, moving it around the office
for temporary overflow data storage of captured video is really
no problem at all. As usual with FireWire drives, all you
have to do is plug & play - no drivers, no configuration
needed. The drive absorbs the occasional bump and bang moving
from desk to desk without complaint. 1 year warranty.
2 - QPS
M3 80GB model QPM3HD72F80G, 7200 rpm, 2MB buffer. Comparatively
quiet, only slightly louder than the EZQuest. But QPS drives
are getting hard to find since the company started experiencing
Chapter 11 financial problems in August 2002. We've reviewed
other QPS products for CompuNotes and haven't found a serious
problem yet. Any QPS product purchase should be accompanied
by a clear understanding of how the warranty will be fulfilled
if the company closes its doors. This drive is more expensive
per gigabyte ($259 street) than the EZQuest Cobra + but is
also a rock solid performer. We've started to notice a bit
of noisy during drive seek operations, but it's not noticeable
under typical office conditions and it hasn't gotten any worse.
This drive is about the same physical size as the EZQuest.
It's been used for a variety of data offloading and file transfer
tasks including delivering hundreds of large AVI and MPG video
files to outside analysts for review. 1 year warranty.
3 - Iomega
80GB FireWire Desktop Hard Drive, 7200 rpm, 2MB buffer. It's
too noisy. We really didn't feel comfortable using the drive
in a quiet environment. Note that another identical Iomega
drive being used by a musician we know is very quiet. Performance
has been almost identical to the QPS, which is almost as fast
as the EZQuest. The $270 (street) price is competitive (although
the EZQuest is still the best deal). While Iomega is better
known for ZIP and Jaz drives, its desktop hard drive offerings
are really quite solid. We use this drive daily for offloading
WAV audio files for review and analysis at another location.
The drive is working well, travels well and absorbs its share
of bumps and bangs during daily transit. 1 year warranty.
4 - SmartDisk
40GB FireLite model FLFW40, 4,200 rpm, 2MB buffer. At $259
(street) it's the most expensive of the bunch per gigabyte
and by no means the fastest. You're paying for small size
and portability, not performance. On the other hand, it weighs
only 6 ounces (that's less than my Sony Clie PEG-S360 PDA).
The drive is also very small: 5"x3.25"x.5".
What else? It runs cool and quiet - barely audible in fact
- the quietest of the bunch. If speed is not a primary requirement,
this drive is a good choice. Around the office the FireLite
is used to store PowerPoint, word processor and spreadsheet
documents for daily transfer to outside meeting sites. It
has never failed, it's been dropped 8 or 10 times and it still
seems to work just as reliably as the day we bought it. 1
One Made Us Cry? Internal - the Maxtor. We weren't happy with
the performance or the reliability. External - the Iomega.
It is too noisy for comfort.
One Made Us Yell For More? Internal - the Seagates are too
quiet to describe. They're fast, rock-solid stable and the
price is right. External - the EZQuest Cobra +. Quiet, fast
and reliable, competitively priced - the lowest cost per external
gigabyte. What more can you ask?
One Made Us Buy More? Internal - Seagate. With quiet operation
and great speed, the lower price point is too attractive to
pass up. External - the EZQuest Cobra + was sent to us for
review, but we would have purchased it anyway.
The Editor's Favorite? Internal - the Seagate of course. It's
silent, fast and completely competent. Whether you buy it
for yourself or someone else, you won't be sorry. External
- the EZQuest Cobra +. Although it's a teensy bit bulky, it's
also more than a teensy bit heavy duty, fast and quiet. We
like this one a lot. We also like the SmartDisk FireLite because
it's so portable and runs very cool.
you buy, check prices locally. We've quoted a few street prices
- all of these drives are discounted almost everywhere. All
the models reviewed are available in popular computer stores
and online. You'll also find some newer versions of these
models which have larger capacity and slight overall performance
heavy gaming habit? The faster drives with larger buffers
will do nicely. Got a heavy data storage habit? The slightly
slower, less expensive drives will do nicely. Got a server
drive bay to fill? The top of the line internal drives with
large buffers are recommended. Photo and video editing? Fast
drives with small or large buffers will fit the bill. For
typical home, SOHO and small office use, any of these drives
except the Maxtor and the SmartDrive are a good choice. For
light duty use at home at a very low price, choose the Maxtor.
For moderate speed and really convenient portability, choose
watch what you buy, keep your sales receipt and the original
packaging and be careful when you install any drive. Prices
are low, there are sales all over the place and the cost per
gigabyte seems to drop every few months. Enjoy.
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