hard drive history

2000: sea change

Seagate Barracuda ATA III

Photo: Red Hill.

Seagate Barracuda ATA III

A decent enough drive, but clearly not worthy of the Barracuda name. When this drive was announced, the obvious improvement was the extraordinarily high internal data rare — 500MBit/sec, a world record at that time. Not nearly so impressive was the claimed seek time, which was higher than that of the previous model. All the drive manufacturers at around this time were finding head positioning rather difficult as recording density increased year-on-year and the required accuracy increased accordingly, so Seagate were not alone, but there was more to this apparent performance decrease than met the eye.

With the older Barracuda ATA-II, Seagate had claimed 8.0ms seek and actually achieved 8.6ms — the claim was stretching the truth a bit but somewhere in the ballpark. With the Barracuda ATA-III, however, the published claim was 8.9ms. At first we assumed that this was simply a return to the traditional Seagate policy of providing accurate, honest product specifications. It wasn't. On the test bench, Barracuda ATA-IIIs turned in an even higher seek — no less than 11.2ms! This would have been pretty good for a high-performance drive five years earlier; but wasn't anywhere near the standard established by Seagate's own older products, never mind performance drives from IBM and Western Digital.

So why had Seagate introduced a new product with worse performance than the old one? Our guess, much too optimistic, was that the company was repositioning the Barracuda ATA line further downmarket in order to leave room for a serious high-performance 10,000 RPM IDE drive. In fact, there were no such plans. Despite its 7200 RPM spin-rate and incredibly high data transfer rate (which made an excellent choice for A/V work), the Barracuda ATA III was really a decent mid-range drive, not a true high-performance competitor to the Deskstar 60GXP or the WD400BB at all.

Data rate500 Mbit/secSpin rate7200 RPM
Measured seek time11.2msBuffer2MB
Platter capacity20GBInterfaceATA-100
ST-320414A20GB2 GMR heads**
ST-330620A30GB3 GMR heads*
ST-340824A40GB4 GMR heads