So, most of the changes in the 7200.9 relate to the SATA interface, which means that you need an appropriate motherboard and chipset. Our bitter experience in these matters is that you have to take manufacturers’ specifications with a pinch of salt and it didn’t come as much of a surprise when it became apparent that SATAII drives were invisible to VIA chipsets which supported the original SATA standard without any problem. In the case of the 7200.9 we started by connecting the unformatted 500GB drive to a Windows XP SP2 test PC which was running on an nForce4 SLI chipset and then ran HD Tach 3. The numbers were good and matched the Hitachi 7K500 which we reviewed in August 2005.
We then transferred 4GB of files back and forth between the Windows drive (a Raptor 740) and the Seagate and once again the results were very good but we hit a problem when we came to install Windows on the Seagate so we could run PCMark05. At first the process went smoothly, then the PC refused to start as the drive wasn’t detected. Changing the SATA cable seemed to work but then the drive vanished again, and after that the Windows installation process consistently failed at the point where it examines the hard drive. NForce4 has native SATAII support and doesn’t require drivers to detect hard drives so the fact that this SATA2.5 drive was Absent Without Leave caused some concern.
Seagate told us that the 7200.9 runs at 300MB/sec by default and this may be causing problems. By contrast the SATAII Hitachi is set to 150MB/sec, although you can use a utility on a bootable floppy to change this setting. With the 7200.9 we had to install a jumper that forced the Seagate to run at 150MB/second and after that all was well. The PCMark05 figures were very impressive, but we were unhappy with this apparent issue of compatibility so we ran the same tests on an Intel 975XBX motherboard with i975X chipset and 955XE processor and while the drive performed flawlessly at full speed, the test results were rather confused.