Seagate's 7200.7 series of hard drives are all based on an 80GB per platter areal density and a 7,200rpm spindle speed, hence the name. Drives are available in 40, 80, 120 and 160GB capacities, using both ATA100 and Serial ATA interfaces. The ATA100 drives can be supplied with either 2MB or 8MB cache, although the Serial ATA drives (80,120 and 160GB) all have 8MB cache. In other words, Seagate has cracked the issue of areal density and it is using the basic building blocks of platters and heads to offer a broad range of products.
Seagate's product sheet also mentions a 200GB Serial drive that uses two platters and four heads, but we can't find it on sale in the UK. The same product sheet also claims an areal density of 100GB per platter, but we have seen no evidence that Seagate has achieved this figure.
This is the only Serial ATA drive that we know of that uses a native Serial design, instead of using a Parallel ATA design with a bridge chip to connect to the four pin Serial connector. There is a 15-pin power connector, but no Molex connector, so this really does appear to be a design that uses a clean sheet of paper. In a further break from the past we noted that Seagate's Seashield is absent. This is a cover on the bottom of the drive that protected the electronics from damage.
Once again we see a drive with Fluid Dynamic Bearings, and the quoted maximum shock figure of 350G is high.
On paper the 160GB ST3160023AS has all the features that you could hope for, but we said something similar about the Samsung SP0812C that we tested at the same time, and the Samsung turned out to be disappointingly slow.
We are happy to report that the Seagate performed well in all our tests. When the drive spun up it was as quiet as we could hope for. This used to be a particular strength of Seagate drives but these days all the manufacturers seem to have grasped that quiet operation is a prerequisite for a hard drive.
HD Tach shows that read speeds are good. They're not as fast as the Maxtor Diamond Max Plus 9 or WD Caviar, but the 7200.7 is close behind, and a long way ahead of the Samsung SP0812C. Burst read speeds are higher than the WD and taken together read speeds are very acceptable. Write speeds are very good indeed and they just beat the bizarre write speed graph produced by the Samsung drive.
The proof of those synthetic tests is in our file copying test where the Seagate nearly matches the impressive Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 and beats the WD by a narrow margin.
It's gratifying to see these three leading manufacturers slugging it out, but the real surprise is how cheap this Seagate drive is. You pay less than a Â£10 premium for Serial ATA with Seagate, and we found the ST3160023AS on sale for Â£121, which is only 76p per GB. That's amazingly cheap for such a fast drive and we have no hesitation in recommending it.