Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (80GB review: Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (80GB

3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Affordable; extremely quiet; shielded electronics.

The Bad Mediocre performance.

The Bottom Line The Barracuda ATA IV is an exceptionally quiet, large-capacity hard drive at a nice price, but it's too slow. Choose it for ambience, not speed.

7.0 Overall

The librarian in you will love Seagate's new, ultralow-noise, consumer-friendly, 7,200rpm 80GB Barracuda ATA IV hard drive. Indeed, this drive is as quiet as the reference room on the night before midterms. But if you need top performance, go with the IBM Deskstar 120GXP or the Western Digital Caviar 120GB, both of which handily outperform the Barracuda ATA IV. The librarian in you will love Seagate's new, ultralow-noise, consumer-friendly, 7,200rpm 80GB Barracuda ATA IV hard drive. Indeed, this drive is as quiet as the reference room on the night before midterms. But if you need top performance, go with the IBM Deskstar 120GXP or the Western Digital Caviar 120GB, both of which handily outperform the Barracuda ATA IV.

Easy installation
Seagate closely studied the competition to make its $159 Barracuda ATA IV as user-friendly as possible. The Barracuda's illustrated quick-installation guide covers all the bases, and the box includes mounting screws and an 80-conductor cable. A sticker on the bottom of the drive also provides exceptionally lucid instructions and a diagram for jumper settings; in fact, advanced users can skip the setup sheet altogether. Seagate also bundles its easy-to-use DiscWizard software to simplify installation and help older systems handle larger drives by overcoming certain BIOS limitations.

Shields up, Scotty
The Barracuda offers one unique feature long overdue in consumer upgrade drives: protection for the exposed electronic circuitry. Seagate covers the printed circuit board with a layer of foam and metal that the company dubs SeaShield. In addition to virtually eliminating the chance of damage from electrostatic shock or spillage, the SeaShield muffles sound, so the Barracuda ATA IV is the quietest drive on the block. We do have one complaint, however. The SeaShield traps heat; as a result, the Barracuda runs a bit warmer than the competition. As a precaution, make sure you adequately ventilate your system.

Seagate's SoftSonic fluid-dynamic-bearing (FDB) drive motor also contributes to the Barracuda ATA IV's hush-hush performance by eliminating much of the whine produced by older ball-bearing motors. Seagate claims 2.5 bels when just spinning and only 3.3 bels when seeking. What does this mean in a layperson's terms? In our hands-on tests, we had to hold the drive next to our ears to hear it. The drive also has very good shock ratings, which means that it can take a certain amount of abuse when being handled or installed.

No speed racer
Sadly, the Barracuda ATA IV performed significantly slower than the competition in CNET Labs' tests. WinBench rated its seek time at 14.9ms, a full 1.5ms slower than the Western Digital Caviar 120GB, which was already the slowest high-end, 7,200rpm drive we've tested. The Seagate also trailed the Western Digital on disk-transfer-rate tests. In HD Tach 2.70 benchmarking, the drive fared worse, scoring lower than the competition in all three tests.

The Barracuda ATA IV comes with a reassuring three-year warranty. Free, toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. PT. Toll-free automated help is available 24/7. Plus, Seagate's excellent online support includes software downloads, jumper diagrams, FAQs, and manuals.

While not the quickest drive available by a long shot, the Barracuda ATA IV offers speeds that should be fast enough for the average user. Plus, its low noise factor and friendly packaging will undoubtedly win some fans.

eTesting Labs' WinBench 99 2.0 test
Measured in kilobytes per second; longer bars indicate better performance
Disk-transfer rate: end   
Disk-transfer rate: beginning   
Western Digital WD1200JB (120GB; 7,200rpm; ATA-100)
28,800 
48,900 
IBM Deskstar 120GXP (120GB; 7,200rpm; ATA-100)
24,000 
47,900 
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (80GB; 7,200rpm; ATA-100)
27,200 
42,200 
 
HD Tach 2.70 tests
Measured in megabytes per second; longer bars indicate better performance
Write speed (maximum)   
Read speed (maximum)   
Read burst speed   

IBM Deskstar 120GXP (120GB; 7,200rpm; ATA-100)
30.2 
49.6 
87.6 
Western Digital WD1200JB (120GB; 7,200rpm; ATA-100)
29.6 
50.3 
86.1 
Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (80GB; 7,200rpm; ATA-100)
20.8 
44.3 
69 
 
CNET Labs' tests evaluate the range of performance you may expect from a hard drive. The eTesting Labs' transfer rates are measured at the beginning of the disk (or its outside, where data moves past the read head at a higher rate) and at the end of the disk (or its inside, where data moves past the read head at a slower rate). HD Tach performes similar tests, returning a drive's maximum sustained write and read speeds. In addition, it measures read-burst speed, which evaluates the performace of the drive's read-ahead memory and the drive controller.

The Seagate Barracuda ATA IV trailed the IBM and Western Digital drives in all tests. If you want a drive with leading-edge performance, you'll need to consider other candidates.

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