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It's well over six months since I reviewed the first commercially available 1 terabyte hard drive, the Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000. Back then I predicted all the other big names in hard drive manufacture would shortly be joining Hitachi at this milestone. However, it has actually taken considerably longer and only now are we starting to see alternatives appear on the market, the first one of which is the Seagate ST31000340AS that I'm looking at today.
As I pointed out in my review of the Hitachi drive, you are likely to have pre-judged this hard disk before I even start to tell you about its performance and other technical merits because only you can know if you really need this much storage. With a very decent size digital music collection taking up around 50GB, a Windows installation taking another 5GB, productivity software like image editing, word processing, and email client adding another 10GB, digital images a further 10GB, and dozen of the latest games using around 50GB, you're still only looking at a storage requirement of less than 200GB in total. So, why would anyone need 1 terabyte of storage?
Well, if you're talking high-performance computing, there's probably umpteen reasons, but for the home or SMB user it really comes down to two. The first is simply that you have a Home Server or NAS appliance and you want to upgrade its storage. As the whole family or business regularly accesses these devices there's a much greater chance you'll run out of space and need to upgrade. However, in this multimedia age, the single most common reason for running out of space is all that digital video we store.
When you consider a camcorder's DV tape uses about 13GB for one hour of video and your average DVD movie takes up 4.3GB, if you regularly work with or backup video content you'll very soon run low on space. And, with podcasts and other video downloads becoming evermore popular, the situation is only likely to get worse.
So, now you have a reason to justify buying one - honest, it's for storing all the home video - which is the best 1 terabyte drive to purchase? Well, let's find out.
Considering the Seagate ST31000340AS and Hitachi 7K1000 are both 1 terabyte hard drives that come in the same 3.5in form factor, they're actually about as different as you could imagine and, as we'll see later, some of these differences lead to quite noticeable changes in performance characteristics. Before we go onto that, though, let's take a look at the superficial stuff.
There are a number of touches that make the Seagate drive a little more user friendly than Hitachi's drive, like the clear labelling on the top that tells you the size and operating voltage of the drive and there's also a useful set of installation instructions. The circuit board on the bottom is also inverted so all the delicate components are hidden behind it, helping to ensure you don't cause any damage when installing or transporting the disk. Conversely, Hitachi has added a legacy Molex power connector on its drive so if you have an older power supply you may find that useful. Then again, you could just use a Molex to SATA power adapter instead.