4TB hard disk drives are now a reality: Seagate has unveiled a 4TB whopper and Hitachi were not far behind. It’s probably fair to say the industry has been waiting for the arrival of these high-capacity units for some time. As soon as both Seagate and Hitachi announced their independent development of drive technology capable of storing a terabyte of data on a single drive platter, the release of these massive storage units began to feel inevitable. But, however you look at it, single enclosure 4TB hard drives are still an impressive technological achievement.
These new drives are now the highest capacity 3.5-inch units in the industry and can pack approximately 600 gigabytes of data into each square inch of drive surface. Seagate’s offering is part of their enormously successful FreeAgent GoFlex range and is already available for order via their website. Hitachi, in contrast, say their new drives will begin shipping in the fourth quarter of 2011.
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The Hitachi units will port to eSATA, Firewire 800 and USB 2.0, with a Thunderbolt adapter following shortly after initial release. However, Hitachi have been a little vague when questioned about USB 3.0 compatibility and when they expect it to be available for these drives. The Seagate units, in contrast, come with full USB 3.0 support straight out of the box. Separate FireWire 800 and eSATA adapters are available, and, as with Hitachi, Seagate plan to release a Thunderbolt adapter in the very near future.
Drive form and function
So what about the performance of these hard drives? Well, unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for the Hitachi drives to begin shipping, but the Seagate units are already available for testing and evaluation. Here, I should declare an interest: I have been running a Seagate 3TB drive for almost a year now and I’ve been very pleased with its performance. Because of this, I was keen to get Seagate’s latest offering hooked up to see how it behaved straight out of the box.
Seagate GoFlex 4TB Review
The new 4TB drive has the same distinctive vertical design as its predecessor (and, yes, it still topples as easily), but it now has a much sharper and distinctly functional look. This is the first revamp of the GoFlex range and the new unit presents a slightly smaller footprint than earlier designs. The drive also retains the standard Seagate two-part format that utilizes separate drive and adapter units. The drive unit is housed in a tough chassis with a small opening at the base of the housing that reveals a standard SATA connector. The adapter (base) unit houses the other half of the SATA connector, and these two sections are connected to each other to form the complete external drive unit. There is a basic 4-LED capacity indicator on the front face of the adapter unit to provide a simple but effective indication of how much storage space has been used and what unused capacity remains.
The 4TB Seagate came with a USB 3.0 adapter and cable, and backwards USB comparability was not a problem. I tried plugging the new drive into the old adapter from my existing 3TB drive and it worked perfectly. However, be warned, if you plan to use any of these new drives with eSATA or FireWire connections, you will need to purchase additional adapters units. The upside of this innovative design is that, once you have two or more adapters, you can simply leave them attached to different computers. This means you can then swap your drives back and forth, from machine to machine, without having to worry about any connectors or cables.
The Seagate disc drive arrived pre-formatted with the NTFS file system, but it also came with drivers that enable full read/write access for Mac OS 10.5 or higher. The drive was installed without any fuss or bother and installation was really no more than a straightforward plug and play operation. Once hooked up, the Seagate performed well in testing using both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 adapters. USB 3.0 delivered excellent write speeds of 86.6MB/s and read speeds were as high as 98.5MB/s. Even when the drive unit was swapped to a USB 2.0 environment, the Seagate delivered very creditable read/write speeds of 32.8MB/s and 28.8MB/s respectively.
However, these hard drives are not simply about performance. 4TB hard drives will deliver an enormous amount of storage capacity. These units will be able to store about two thousand movies in any standard high definition format or about one million music files in a compressed format such as .mp3. Seagate say they set out to create a flexible, high capacity, high-performance, cross-platform storage solution. With their new 4TB hard drives, they certainly seemed to have succeeded. I look forward to trying out one of the new Hitachi drives and it will be interesting to run some comparative bench tests. Solid state hard drives have been making a lot of headlines lately, but the arrival of these massive 4TB hard drives is a timely reminder of just how far magnetic storage has really come.
Author Bio:- Thomas Bentley is a technology expert with 30 years of experience. He tends to focus on storage media, privacy, and security. He writes regularly at Disk Disc. You can also find him on Twitter (@diskdisc).