PC sales are in a rut. But its not for want of power. Even as AMD and Intel ship faster and faster CPUs, and as graphics cards eat up more power than the AGP port can deliver, hard drive companies have continued to deliver bigger and bigger -- and now megacapacity -- hard disks.
Much can be done with one of these huge drives -- but which is the right one for you? Recently drive companies started shipping hard drives with 60GB per platter (or roughly 45 Gbits/square inch, which compares to about 33-35 Gbits/sq inch a year ago). Thats all we needed, as we decided that now was the right time to check them out.
But being performance-oriented, though, we bypassed the 5400RPM set and waited for the 7200RPM drives to arrive. So we gathered up four of the biggest, and fastest, drives using these new 60GB platters, and put them through our exhaustive tests to help you figure out what to buy.
Theres more to the hard drive decision than raw performance, though. All hard drives make noise, although theyre certainly less noisy now. For example, all the drives we tested offered fluid-damped bearings, which reduce idle noise substantially from past drives.
Another factor is reliability. Surprisingly, some drive makers have recently begun reducing the warranty period for desktop ATA drives from three years to one -- not exactly a ringing endorsement of their products. The good news is that both IBM and Western Digital maintain the three-year warranty period for drives with an 8MB cache.
This hands-on review starts with a look at the specifications for the four drives we tested, then details our exhaustive performance benchmarks. If you just want to know what to buy, head right to the Recommendations and Product Summaries section, where we wrap it all up. Otherwise, lets take a look at the contenders in this head-to-head review.