64 3.5 inch hard drive round-up: storage wars?

Seagate, Toshiba and WD desktop hard drives compared



For storage of lots of data, a hard drive is the best option for the time being, especially now that SSD prices are rising rather than falling. Luckily there is still enough innovation in the hard disk field. Time for a new comparative test with no less than 64 hard disks from Seagate, Toshiba and WD.

A PC without an SSD for the operating system and daily software cannot be used in 2017. SSD prices fell steadily for years, but due to increasing demand and insufficient production capacity, this trend was at least temporarily halted this year. This means that for the time being, the hard-disk-less PC will remain a dream for most of us, and everyone without endlessly deep pockets will have to move to magnetic storage to store really large amounts of data.

The largest consumer hard disks are now 12 TB

The last time we looked at the hard disk drive market was in 2015. At that time we were able to welcome the first hard drive with a storage capacity of 10 terabytes, but that size is now commonplace. For this test we were able to include no less than seven 10TB drives. Some time ago we also received the first hard drives with a storage capacity of 12 TB, which you can also find in this article.

Although mechanical storage technology has already been called dead by many people, there is certainly still some stretch in the possible capacity. The manufacturers have roadmaps until far beyond 2020. This is not out of naivety - the time when CEOs of hard disk makers laughingly claimed that SSDs would never play an important role, we have really left that time behind us. A typical example is the acquisition of Sandisk, a SSD producer with its own memory factories, by harddisk giant WD in 2016. Seagate is also now active within solid state drive market, albeit mainly in the business market.

Hard drives remain the choice for large-scale storage

Nevertheless, it is simply a fact that the price per gigabyte of hard drives, which is about 3 to 4 cents per GB, will not be matched by that of SSDs in the coming years. For many users, it doesn't matter how fast a film or other large file is read or written, while the linear writing speed of hard drives continues to increase with the higher data density of the platters. While the throughput rate of a SATA SSDs is two to three times higher for such a task compared to a hard disk, the difference is much greater - up to a factor of a thousand - when processing many small files, such as when starting Windows or other software. In such applications, the much shorter access time of an SSD is an enormous advantage. In terms of speed, a hard drive is just fine if you mainly use it for storing large files. Combine that with a much lower price, and you can only come to the conclusion that we will not be able dismiss the hard disk in the years to come, just yet.

Is that really bad? In addition to slower operation due to the much higher access time, hard disks have another disadvantage when compared to SSDs, which is both much more disturbing and more difficult to test. Because they are mechanical devices, they are much more sensitive to interference. As capacity increases, so does the risk of the storage as a single point of failure. If you're storing your really valuable data, then using a RAID 1 (mirroring) configuration is recommended, using two smaller disks instead of a larger one if necessary.


64 products discussed in this review

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