Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB Review

ccokeman - 2011-02-05 12:33:51 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: June 1, 2011
Price: $189


As the world we live in continues to become digitized, we have to have a way to store the ever increasing amount of data. Digital cameras and video recorders are increasing in resolution and the resulting increase in file size means that the amount of storage space needed to hold onto these files needs to grow right alongside them. Without the increase in capacity, even more devices are needed for storage, increasing power consumption and heat. The 3TB Barracuda XT is a 50% increase in capacity over the first-delivered SATA 6Gb/s 2TB Barracuda XT released last year. The ST33000651AS is deigned for use in high performance systems with its 7200 RPM spindle speed and 64MB cache buffer with a sustained transfer speed of 138 Mb/s, making it a great option in a gaming rig. A spindle-based mechanical drive will not deliver the ultra low response of an SSD, but so far the SSD does not come close to the cost/capacity ratio presented by the traditional disk drive. Currently retailing for $189, the 3TB Barracuda XT offers costs of roughly 6 cents per GB, or just over $60 per terabyte of capacity. With the introduction of this drive, Seagate offers up a solution to addressing the 2TB storage limitations present in legacy operating systems and hardware with the latest revision of its DiscWizard software. Today I will be looking to find out what kind of performance this drive offers for its $189 price tag and see how it compares to prior generations.

Closer Look:

Aesthetically, the Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB drive is a bare bones basic 3.5 inch form factor hard drive. Not much really changes on the outside to distinguish one of Seagate's 3.5 inch form factor drives from the next, other than the interface and label that shows the capacity of the drive. Internally and on the PCB are where you find the changes to the drive. Inside the ST33000651AS are a series of five 600GB platters to make up the 3TB drive capacity. The PCB attaches to the bottom of the hard drive case and contains the hardware controller and 64MB of cache. Drive specifications from Seagate include sustained transfer speeds of 138MB/s, average latency of 4.16ms, and a 7200RPM spindle speed. Total weight of the drive is 700 grams, or just over 1.5 pounds.












Taking a trip around the ST33000651AS shows the SATA 6Gb/s data and SATA power connection points. Next to the connections are a set of jumper pins that are not used by the end user, but may be used for a firmware update. Mounting the drive is accomplished by using the side or bottom attachment points, much like any standard hard drive.





On paper, the latest hard drive from Seagate looks promising as a drive that can fit into many segments, offering up increased performance and additional capacity. Let's see how it performs.


Model Number
SATA 6Gb/s
Areal density (avg)
Guaranteed Sectors
26.1mm (1.028 in)
101.6mm (4.0 in)
146.99mm (5.787 in)
Weight (typical)
700g (1.543 lb)
Spin Speed (RPM)
7200 RPM
Sustained data transfer rate
Average latency
Random read seek time
Random write seek time
I/O data transfer rate
Unrecoverable read errors
1 in 1014
12V start max current
Average idle power
Average operating power
Environment , Ambient Temperature
5 °C – 60 °C
Non operating
-40 °C – 70 °C
Maximum operating temperature change
20 °C per hour
Maximum non operating temperature change
30 °C per hour
Operating Shock (max)
63 Gs for 2ms
Nonoperating Shock (max)
300 Gs for 2ms
Acoustics (Idle Volume)
2.8 bels
Acoustics (Seek Volume)
3.2 bels




All information courtesy of Seagate @


Testing of hard drives can be done in a couple different ways. One is to leave the drive bare and hook it up as a secondary drive in an already existing system so that you can see the theoretical peaks in performance followed by a cleaning of the drive after each benchmark run through. The second method, and the one OverclockersClub employs, is to load the operating system and benchmarking suite onto the drive being tested. This more closely emulates how the drive will be used so that the performance results are real world, not simply best case scenario results that you may never see unless operating the drive as a bare drive. Testing will be completed with the P67-based system listed below with a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit updated to SP1 and fully patched as of the date of the testing. The latest Intel Rapid Storage technology drivers and software have been installed for this testing, with all tests run on the native SATA 6Gb/s ports on the P67-based motherboard. The connection to the drive from the motherboard is with a 6Gb/s SATA cable. This drive was tested on the platform listed below and was formatted using a GUID Partition Table to take advantage of the entire drive capacity for testing.


Testing Setup:


Comparison Drives:



  1. HD Tune 3.50 Pro
  2. HD Tach
  3. SiSoft Sandra 2009
  4. Crystal Disk Mark
  5. ATTO Disk Benchmark
  6. AS SSD
  7. I/O Meter
  8. PCMark Vantage
  9. Windows Startup / Shutdown


HD Tune 4.60 Pro measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers. In the 4.60 Pro version, the user can measure not only drive performance as a whole, but more precise file benchmarks and a random access benchmark as well.




















File Benchmark:



Random Access Benchmark:



In the HD Tune testing, the 3TB Barracuda XT delivers performance above that of the comparison drives from Seagate. However, the access times are slower, even with the higher throughput.


HD Tach v3.0.4.0: HD Tach is another hard drive benchmark utility, much like HD Tune. This benchmark will measure the average read speed, the random access time, and the amount of the CPU used during operation.






















SiSoft Sandra 2009 SP3: SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful.


Physical Disks



For the HD Tach and Sandra tests, the Seagate 3TB drive delivers higher performance at the cost of increased access time.


Crystal Disk Mark 2.2: Crystal Disk Mark is a hard drive benchmark designed to measure the read and write speeds for the drives in 4k blocks, 512k blocks, and sequential data. For the test, we chose the 100MB option.




















The sequential read and write speeds are faster than the earlier SATA 3Gb/s drives, with the sequential writes delivered by the 3TB drive coming close to the level of the SSD.


Atto Disk Benchmark v2.34: Atto Disk Benchmark is another aged, but good, hard drive benchmark utility designed to test read and write speeds for different file sizes.





















The results in the ATTO testing show that again the 3TB drive is faster than its contemporaries. In the 4K testing, the Barracuda XT 3TB drive delivers more throughput than the SSD.

AS SSD v1.1.3466.29641: AS SSD is a benchmark designed for the speeds of solid state drives. However, it will also work for traditional hard drives. It is designed to measure the read and write speeds and access times for set block sizes. It also assigns a score to the read, write, and overall performance of the drive.






















The latency scoring shows that, while the drive is faster overall, the time to get the data flowing is slightly longer than the rest of the mechanical drives.


IOMeter is an I/O subsystem measurement and characterization tool for single and clustered systems. It was originally developed by the Intel Corporation and announced at the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) on February 17, 1998. Since then, its use has become very wide spread within the industry.
























In the IO Meter tests, the SSD performs above the level of the 3TB Barracuda, as it should. All the mechanical drives perform in a slim envelope. The 3TB drive does perform worse than the field in the average and max I/O response time.


PCMark Vantage: With this benchmark, I will be running the hard drive test suite. The measurement for the hard drive suite will be the total score, then the scoring for each test will be broken down. There are a total of eight hard drive tests within PCMark Vantage and all eight will be run to gauge the performance of each drive tested.





















The SATA 6Gb/s Barracuda XT 3 TB drive delivers a higher level of performance in PCMark Vantage than the other mechanical drives. Again, the addition of an SSD into the comparison chart skews the results, but it does give a valid comparison.


In the world of computing, everyone likes a computer that can start up and shut down quickly. The ability to boot into your system as fast as possible allows you to start the tasks you set out to do that much quicker, not to mention the older you get the greater the chance is that you'll forget what you wanted to use the computer for in the first place! The sweet spot is about 30 seconds or less. With conventional hard drives it is possible, but very hard to attain this "golden" 30-second time. With the speed of SSDs, it should be easier, but there is only one way to tell and that is to test it out. To run these tests, I used a stopwatch to calculate the number of seconds it took from pressing the power button on the case, to having a fully functioning desktop. For the shut down test, I timed from the click of the shut down button in the start menu, until power was off to the system.



















While all the mechanical drives have a 7200RPM spindle speed, the 3TB drive is the fastest mechanical drive to boot to the desktop. Sure, the differential between the highest and lowest mechanical drive is only four seconds, but faster is faster any which way you look at it. Both of the SATA 6Gb/s Barracuda XT drives shut down in the same time frame, with only the Mushkin SSD being faster, as expected.


The Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB drive is the next progression up the scale in terms of performance and just raw capacity. With three terabytes of storage space, this drive can hold just about anything you can throw at it, from music to movies to those treasured family photos. Using it as a storage drive will add storage capacity for your system, but using it as the boot drive will allow programs to load faster with its higher burst speeds and sustained data transfer speeds of up to 138Mb/s. During the testing, this drive delivered close to this number in the benchmark testing. In the majority of the testing, the 3TB drive was faster than the previous generation drives, including the earlier implementation of the 6Gb/s interface used on Seagate's 2TB Barracuda XT drive. Now, all this space does not come without its fair share of intricacies, due to the 2.2 TB limitation in legacy operating systems and PC architecture. Earlier operating systems (ie. Windows XP) cannot use the drive as the primary boot drive unless using Seagate's DiscWizard software to access the additional capacity. However, even with Windows 7 and current hardware, there are specific limitations to be able to use the entire capacity under one partition. You will need to have a motherboard with an Unified Extensible Firmware Interface BIOS and have to format the drive with a GUID Partition table. Simple enough if you have the hardware capable of using it. If not, their DiscWizard software is a viable solution to access the additional drive capacity.

Pricing for the 3TB drive comes in currently at $189, so it is priced competitively in the segment. Considering that a 1TB drive can be had for less than $70, the cost per TB drops with the addition of capacity. Pairing this drive with a Z68 motherboard and a small SSD using Intel's Smart Response technology, would allow both the increased capacity we all want with the responsiveness of an SSD once the technology learns your most used applications. Ultimately, the Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB drive exceeds expectations by delivering a higher level of performance with the extra capacity needed as we progress to ever larger file sizes for our digital media. Higher sustained data flow and an overall improvement in responsiveness are the hallmarks of this drive. Add in a small SSD for some Smart caching on an Intel Z68 based motherboard and you should have the best of both worlds — speed and capacity.