Seagate adopts the 'hybrid' theme for Earth Day with 5900 RPM HDD

On this Earth Day, a number of manufacturers are releasing their "green" product announcements, some believing they're either capitalizing upon, or trying to jump-start, a social trend in smarter engineering. But PC builders and OEMs don't need peace rallies and protest signs to tell them how important it is to make systems and data centers run cooler and with more energy efficiency.

For them, the news from Seagate today about a new class of lower-power Barracuda hard drives that makes an effort to squeeze out a little more performance than low-power drives have before, will make them skip over the whole Earth Day part and go straight to the details. The company's new Barracuda LP series will be unique in that it won't reduce drive rotation as much as other brands and as Seagate's own brands have in the past.

"The classic Barracuda family use 7200 RPM. These drives are 5900," Seagate product representative Anne Haggar told Betanews. "In the green, low-power class, our competitors' drives are 5400."

As a result, there should be much less of a performance sacrifice than you might expect. Here's a comparison: One of 2007's better-selling drives, which has since moved into the value segment of the Seagate product line, is the 3.5-inch Barracuda 7200.10. It's a 250 GB drive that draws about 9.3 watts of power at idle, and as high as 13.0 watts during everyday operation. After it was released, the German enthusiast site gave the standard-power 7200.10 an above-average PCMark05 score of 6045.

Typically, smaller drives should have faster performance scores. But recently, the performance curve on new 3 Gbps SATA drives has tipped the other way, giving builders new reasons to install high-capacity drives even as C:\, where the performance factor is most critical. The new low-power Barracuda LP series will be available in 1 TB, 1.5 TB, and 2 TB configurations. So if you have a system with a 7200.10 now, what would you be sacrificing by moving to an LP? First, you'll spend some money -- we're told there will be a premium for the lower-power edition, though exactly how much is yet to be announced.

But you'll be moving to a drive that draws as low as 3.0 watts at idle, and 5.6 watts at operating maximum. And its PCMark05 score is 8444 in Seagate tests, so you're actually gaining performance and capacity as you slow down rotation from 7200 to 5900 RPM.

As Seagate's Michael Hall admitted to Betanews, the big reason many builders will want to move to lower power has less to do with Earth than it does with space.

"If you look at a either a desktop or a notebook system, you only have so much airspace in there. But the more airspace you have within a system between the components, the more airflow you have," said Hall. "I think it stands to logic that, if the system components are running cooler, yes, you could actually place them in a smaller footprint. Heat, obviously, is the enemy of computer components, so you have to make sure they're running cool enough so that the system will reach its expected shelf life."

[CORRECTION: Barracuda LP series hard drives will not contain the SecureErase feature which enables users to wipe clean and re-deploy hard disks, contrary to what we reported earlier. Only notebook drives will contain this feature; Barracuda LPs are 3.5-inch desktop drives.]

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