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Review: Seagate's 750GB Barracuda

With 300 GB hard drives all around us, and 500 GB drives gaining traction, it takes a lot of drive to snap ones head around. The 750 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 is that drive. Not only is it the first drive to make it to the market with three-quarters of a terabyte in one case, but it's also the first drive out to use Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) Technology," a neat concept that offers higher data density which results in higher storage capacity, more data, faster read times, and (if done right) greater reliability. But we'll get back to that in a minute.

The 7200.10 is part of a line of Barracuda drives ranging in size from 40GB to 750GB that use PMR. As media moves more and more onto hard drives and as resolutions go up and up, whether you're talking about digital images or HD video, storage space continues to be the final frontier. The challenge is to be able to cross that frontier faster so you don't get bogged down in between bits, and we're happy to report that the 7200.10 provides both ample size and speed to do the job.

From the outside the Seagate 7200.10 looks like just another hard drive, which it is, but more so.

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Perpendicular Recording Technology
PMR is It's made possible by a something called "Tunneling Magnetoresistive Effect" which was discovered back in 1975, but wasn't of much practical value for hard drives until 1995, when a room temperature version was finally developed. The upside of this effect is that you can read data "through" a disk, rather than by just dropping down over it, but the challenge is that you have to get contact to the surface in order to do it. For those of you who were around in the early days of hard drives the thought of something touching the disk should make you want to run screaming out of the room, but these drives have special shielding on the top and bottom of the platters. That said, it's still new tech, and only time will tell, but Seagate's five year warranty, which is considerably longer than most, should at least say something about their confidence.

Back in 2002 Dr. Mark Kryder, Seagate senior vice president of Research waxed enthusiastic about the technology. "Perpendicular recording is projected to achieve real densities as high as one terabit per square inch (Tb/in2) equivalent to storing over one full terabyte (1000 gigabytes) of information or nearly 500 DVD movies on a single 3-inch disc." Looks like they're almost there.

It's a good thing we knew that the 7200.10 was an exciting techno-tour-de-force, or its plain old drive casing would have evoked yawns when we unpacked it. Aside from the still slightly SATA interface there's no outward sign that anything interesting is going on here, which is as it should be. Since it's a SATA drive, there's no master or slave setting, but you can move a jumper to select either SATA 1.5Gb/s or 3Gb/s but we used the default (1.5 Gb/s).

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