The 7K500 is Hitachi’s first SATA-II design and the big news with SATA-II isn’t the faster interface but instead centres on NCQ (Native Command Queuing) and Staggered Spin-up Support, though some SATA1 drives also support NCQ. NCQ is a prefetch technology that requires a suitable chipset such as nForce4 to speed up data transfer in a bid to get round the limitations of the mechanical device that lies at the centre of your solid state PC. Staggered Spin-Up enables the computer to turn on the various drives sequentially at start up to give your power supply an easier time. These are SATA technologies so it’s a surprise to see that Hitachi includes a legacy four-pin Molex power connector on the back of the drive.
Take a close look at the power and data connector pins on a SATA drive and you’ll see that they vary in length, so that the electrical connections are made in a specific order in order to protect the drive if you hot-plug it. By contrast a legacy connector slams all four contacts into action simultaneously, increasing the chances of frying your hard drive circuitry unless you first shut the PC down.
We set up a test PC with an MSI K8N Diamond motherboard (nForce4 SLI) with an Athlon 64 X2 3800+ processor, 1GB of Corsair CMX512 PC3200 memory, and installed 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 2.5inch platters and has a rotational speed of 10,000rpm 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.