/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Seagate Barracuda XT ST3 review: Seagate Barracuda XT ST3

Dong_Ngo.jpg

If recently reviewed solid-state drives, such as the OCZ Vertex 3, are notable for their extreme speed and high cost per gigabyte, the Seagate Barracuda XT is distinguished by its extreme storage space and affordability. The drive offers up to 3TB, the largest hard drive currently available, at just around $240 or 8 cents per gigabyte, and its performance is excellent for a traditional platter-based hard drive. Supporting the latest SATA 6Gbps (SATA 3) standard, in our testing it was one of the fastest consumer-grade hard drives we've seen.

Seagate Barracuda XT ST33000651AS - hard drive - 3TB - SATA-600
8.2

Seagate Barracuda XT ST3

The Good

The <b>Seagate Barracuda XT</b> hard drive supports SATA 6Gbps and offers fast performance and a capacity of up to 3TB. The drive is quiet and affordable and its 3TB version supports Windows XP well.

The Bad

The Seagate Barracuda runs rather hot.

The Bottom Line

Storage-hungry users, especially tech-savvy ones, will find the Seagate Barracuda XT a great balance of storage space, backward compatibility, and speedy performance.

If you're looking for a quiet hard drive that offers top capacity, backward compatibility, and fast performance, at a price that won't break your bank, the Seagate Barracuda XT is the way to go. The drive works well as either the main or the secondary hard drive for a desktop, especially one with built-in support for SATA 3 and an EFI-based motherboard.

Design and features

Drive type 3.5-inch hard drive
Connector options SATA 3Gbps, SATA 6Gbps
Available capacities 2TB, 3TB
Product dimensions 3.5-inch standard
Capacity of test unit 3TB
Cache memory 64MB
Spinning speed 7,200rpm
OSes supported Windows, Mac, Linux

The Barracuda XT is the 25.4-millimeter-thick, 3.5-inch standard size, like most other SATA desktop hard drives. On the inside it comes with 64MB of cache memory and spins at 7,200rpm. In addition to supporting SATA 3, the drive also works with the existing SATA standards, including the popular SATA 2 (3Gbps) and SATA (1.5Gbps).

The Barracuda XT isn't the first 3TB hard drive on the market but it's the first that comes with convenient support for Windows XP. Due to legacy standards, Windows XP- and BIOS-based computers can only manage storage devices of up to 2.19GB. For this reason, other hard drive vendors, such as Western Digital, offer a special controller card enabling older operating systems to fully recognize hard drives that are larger than 2.19GB. Seagate Technology, however, takes a different and easier approach.


Seagate's free downloadable DiscWizard software helps Windows XP make full use of the 3TB Barracuda XT.

With the 3TB Barracuda XT comes Seagate's free downloadable DiscWizard software, a rebranded version of Acronis' Disk Director suite that, among other things, enables a Windows XP system to recognize the new 3TB hard drive as multiple partitions or logical drives that have combined total storage of 3TB. Note that the software is not necessary with the 2TB version of the Barracuda XT, which is natively supported by Windows XP.

We tried out a 3TB hard drive with Windows XP and found DiscWizard an easy and interesting fix. We first used the drive as a secondary hard drive and later as the main hard drive hosting the OS. Note that hard-drive vendors use a decimal system for measuring storage space while computers use binary, so what a vendor calls a 3TB hard drive actually offers only about 2.8GB of storage space. This is why the numbers won't seem to add up in the review.

When used as the secondary hard drive, the 3TB Barracuda XT was initially recognized as a 0.73TB drive by Windows XP. Once DiscWizard had been installed on the system, however, Windows XP now recognized the 3TB Barracuda XT as two separate hard drives of 0.73TB and 2TB. These drives could then be formatted and used just like any other hard drives of those capacities.

When we tried making the 3TB Barracuda XT the main hard drive of the computer, the installation process of Windows XP again saw it as one hard drive of just 0.73TB. We proceeded normally and waited till the installation of the operating system was complete to install DiscWizard. After that, the hard drive was now recognized as two separate hard drives as described above. However, the 0.73TB partition (aka logical drive) that hosted the operating system was considered part of the 2TB drive and it wasn't possible to extend it to take over the rest of the unallocated space. The only way to use this space is to turn it into another 1.3TB partition, which we did. In the end, we ended up with three separate partitions: the bootable 0.73TB (for the OS) and the 1.3TB are on the first "physical" hard drive. The third 0.73TB partition belongs to the second "physical" drive.

While this may seem a little confusing to those unfamiliar with the process, it's the easiest way for Windows XP to take advantage of a 3TB hard drive. If you feel this is too much work, however, you can avoid this by using the 2TB version of the Barracuda XT.

(Note that if you move a 3TB Barracuda XT that has been "fixed" by DiscWizard to another computer, it won't be recognized the way it's intended to be until DiscWizard is installed on that computer also.)

Unlike with Windows XP, the 3TB Barracuda XT works very well with Windows Vista and Windows 7. You do need to format it using a GPT partition if you want to use it as a secondary hard drive, and the OS will prompt you to. In order to use the 3TB Barracuda XT as the boot hard drive with its full storage space being recognized as one logical drive, a system with EFI-enabled motherboard is needed.

Cost per gigabyte

The Barracuda XT is a great deal in terms of cost per gigabyte. At about 8 cents per 1GB the drive offers the most storage space for your dollar among drives of its capacity. For comparison, the Samsung 470 has the lowest cost per gigabyte among SSDs, at around $1.95 per gigabyte.

Performance
We tested the Barracuda XT thoroughly both as the main hard drive and the secondary hard drive of the test machine and it offers very good performance for a hard drive, though quite far behind an SSD.

When the drive is used as the main hard drive that hosts the OS, the tests are designed to gauge the computer's performance as a whole. For this reason, the hard drive only plays a small role in the final score.

In the boot time test, the Barracuda XT took 48.2 seconds, significantly longer than an SSD but noticeably faster than Western Digital's 10,000rpm, 300GB VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS, which is the fastest SATA 2 hard drive. Note that this boot time includes the roughly 15 seconds the test machine takes to go through the hardware initialization. To shut down, the Barracuda XT took 12 seconds, about the same amount of time as the VelociRaptor.

In the Office Performance test, in which we time how long the computer takes to finish a set of different concurrent tasks including file transferring and compression and use of Word and Excel, the Barracuda XT took 391 seconds to finish, 2 seconds fewer than the VelociRaptor. The two drives tied in the iTunes conversion test and in the multimedia multitasking test, which gauges the computer's performance at converting a high-definition movie from one format to another while iTunes is doing a heavy job of music conversion in the background, the Barracuda XT scored 340 seconds, 7 seconds more than the VelociRaptor.

In the most important test for the hard drive, throughput performance, the Barracuda XT consistently beat the VelociRaptor. In this test we time how long it takes for the hard drive to finish copying a large amount of data from one place to another. Both as the main drive and as a secondary backup drive, the Barracuda XT's scores were impressive, registering 51.1MBps and 115.71MBps respectively. These were significantly faster than the 47.12MBps and 112.59MBps of the VelociRaptor. Note that these are real-world sustained throughput speeds, after all the software and hardware overheads.

All in all, we were happy with the Barracuda XT and believe it would make a worthy upgrade for computers that support SATA 3. The drive worked well throughout our testing process and remained quiet. It was rather hot, however; not enough to cause worries, but hotter than other hard drives we've seen.

CNET Labs system performance scores (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Multimedia multitasking  
iTunes  
Office  
WD VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS
323 
113 
393 
Seagate Barracuda XT
340 
113 
391 
Plextor PX-256M2S
323 
113 
383 
OCZ Vertex 3
322 
113 
338 

Boot and shutdown time (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Shutdown  
Boot time  
OCZ Vertex 3
5.8 
29.1 

Boot and shutdown time (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Shutdown  
Boot time  
OCZ Vertex 3
5.8 
29.1 

Data transfer scores (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
As secondary drive  
As OS drive  
Plextor PX-256M2S
261 
162.03 
OCZ Vertex 3
260.71 
150.01 
Seagate Barracuda XT
115.71 
51.1 

Service and support
When it comes to storage devices, the length of the warranty is the most important factor, and Seagate delivers: the company backs the Barracuda XT with a generous five-year warranty. At the company's Web site, you'll find a well-organized support area with downloads.

Conclusions:
The Barracuda XT hard drive is a workhorse that offers a top amount of storage space, backward compatibility and good performance for a desktop system. Due to the confusion of the 2.19GB storage barriers, if you choose to use the 3TB version of the hard drive in a BIOS-based computer, it works best to use it as a secondary backup and storage hard drive and use an SSD or a smaller but equally fast hard drive, such as the 2TB version of the Barracuda XT, as the bootable main drive.

Seagate Barracuda XT ST33000651AS - hard drive - 3TB - SATA-600
8.2

Seagate Barracuda XT ST3

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 8Support 9