After spiking mightily, with prices doubling owing to the floods in Thailand which took out a sizable chunk of the world’s production facilities, Hard Disk Drive prices are coming down again. While my main Hackintosh uses Solid State Drives for the OS and applications, SSDs still remain prohibitively expensive for high volume data storage. Meanwhile, HDD technology refuses to die and just gets cheaper.
Scanning Amazon US I see 3.5″ indicative prices as follows:
- 500mB – $70-90
- 1tB – $100-120
- 2tB – $120-140
- 3tB – $140-160
Current Amazon US 1tB HDD listings.
Now there are drives and there are drives. In the various specs you will find 5400rpm, 7200rpm and 10000rpm, 3gb/s SATA II and 6gb/s SATA III, 32mb and 64mb buffers. You will also find hybrid drives with small SSD front ends and traditional high volume spinning discs doing the heavy lifting. The latter only make sense if you access the same apps (though it’s much more effective to simply buy more RAM and keep the apps loaded all the time) or recurring data frequently; otherwise, the price premium does not solve. And, unless you must have the portability afforded by 2.5″ notebook drives, these also make no sense for high volume storage at home where portability is not an issue, but price is. Further, 2.5″ notebook drives do not come in the higher capacities available in the larger 3.5″ clunkers.
Here’s my experience using a Hackintosh with a current motherboard, a machine superior in most regards to the current, and rather dated, MacPro:
- 6gb/s transfer rates make for the biggest performance increase. I have found that the promise of twice as fast read/write times is largely met in my Hackintosh compared to an older 3gb/s HDD.
- Bigger buffers – 64mb rather than 32mb – make a difference in streaming video applications where the larger buffer mostly obviates occasional pauses for refilling of the buffer with drives in external enclosures.
- Rotational speed makes the least difference. The 7200rpm premium is hard to justify in photo processing applications. Save on your power bill and use 5400rpm if possible.
- 10,000 rpm drives make no sense – costly, noisy, power hungry and with high failure rates.
If your PC or Hack’s motherboard supports 6gb/s connections – as the latest motherboards mostly do – then a 6gb/s drive for internal mounting is the best price/performance option. You get a fast, hardwired motherbard connection and no need for an external enclosure. I still use 1tB drives as the areal storage density is low so the technology is fairly remote from the ‘bleeding edge’. However, 2tB drives have been around a while now and while failure rates are slightly higher, they are more cost effective. At this time I am avoiding anything over 2tB. Most external USB enclosures support up to 2 x 2tB HDDs, but not 3tB.
For external storage eSATA is the way to go or use a USB3 external enclosure – not easy to find – which supports 6gb/s drives.
So its’s good to see that HDDs are becoming affordable once more. They remain an attractive option until SSDs start falling in price, something that is happening at a glacial pace.
Finally, for aficionados of Nikon’s latest, the D800, where file sizes can rise to 75mB, that gets you 13,000 files or so per 1tB. So the upgrade to a couple of 2tB drives should likely be part and parcel of your upgrade to a sensor few realistically need, and even fewer can fully exploit.