Top five super-fast hard drives
6th Nov 2008 | 14:50
More size, more speed. The biggest, fastest drives around.
Since Hitachi released the first 1TB sized hard drive a year and a half ago, things have tailed off a bit in the race to be storage king.
Apart from the fact that a terrabyte is an enormous amount of space to fill, the first drives of this size were expensive and not the best performers.
Although only Seagate has topped this so far, other manufacturers haven't been resting on their laurels.
Faster, more reliable and cheaper have been the industry watchwords - and those are three of our favourite entries in the dictionary.
If you're looking to upgrade your hard drive, here's five of the best to choose from.
Western Digital VelociRaptor - £185
What benefits do you get from a fast hard drive?
The obvious answer is that any activity that involves data transfer from system memory to hard drive is sped up.
This is mostly important when loading Windows and opening or closing programs, but huge game worlds often require information about new areas to be streamed in the background, and a slow hard drive can cause a game to pause or hang as you walk about.
That's why Western Digital's VelociRaptor range exists. These are server class parts in which the platters spin at 10,000RPM (compared to 7,200RPM for a desktop drive) targetted at gamers who want uncompromising performance.
They're about five times more expensive than a normal drive per gigabyte, but they're the best there is.
Intel X25 - £460
Solid state storage takes many forms - most commonly memory cards for your mobile phone.
Unlike traditional hard drives, in which data is stored magnetically on metal platters, in a Solid State Drive (SSD) it's kept on microchips which don't lose their memory when the power goes off.
Building a desktop SSD brings many theoretical advantages. They should consume less power and be much faster for all operations barring writing long files - but the first SSDs were disappointing on all counts.
Not the Intel X25 though. It fixes all the problems previously associated with SSD, and while the price for this 80GB model is ridiculous, the performance outdoes even the best tradition drives like the VelociRaptor above.
OCZ Core 32GB - £97
There is one other advantage to an SSD drive. With no moving parts they're virtually indestructible, unlike regular hard drives which can fail if dropped from a great height.
If you're not looking for a top performer, OCZ is leading the way in bringing affordable solid storage to the masses.
Something like this more reasonably priced drive is perfect for a laptop or external chassis that's going to see some abuse. It'd also make a great replacement for the smaller SSDs already commonplace in netbooks.
Seagate Barracuda 1.5TB - £112
If it's size you're after, then this is the big one. Literally. Seagate is the only company currently shipping a 1.5TB, and incredibly it's not using its position to mark the price up a notch or two.
In fact, you can pick the 1.5TB drive up for less than two 750GB drives, which certainly wasn't the case with the first 1TB models when they appeared.
Performance is good, if not the best, but really this is a must-have for people with large media collections. It's amazing how high def movies stored digitally can start to fill even the biggest hard drives up.
Samsung SpinPoint F1 750GB - £64
Prices per gigabyte are falling rapidly at the moment, and it's definitely worth shopping around if you're on a bit of a budget.
You won't go far wrong with this drive from Samsung, though.
Not only is it one of the best value 750GB drives we've found, but we've always been very impressed with the SpinPoint series, and this model boasts a large 32MB cache for speeding up access times to the drive.
It's a perfect compromise between price, performance and size.