- Very large capacity.
- Very high cost per gigabyte.
This drive is a monster. At 180GB it’s the largest-capacity hard disk in this review. However, it’s also an Ultra160 SCSI drive, and as such costs much more than any of the other ATA products we’ve looked at. Although it has a respectable sustained transfer rate, this doesn’t translate into real-world performance in a desktop system.
At a princely £1,610.61 (ex. VAT) for 180GB, the cost per gigabyte of this internal Ultra160 SCSI drive is many times that of the others we’ve looked at. The Barracuda 180 (ST1181677LW) is a half-height drive, meaning it’s 1.6in. high and occupies two standard desktop 3.5in. drive bays. So although it’s the highest-capacity drive in this review, it’s not the highest data density drive: you could put two other drives into the same space as this drive and get a higher overall capacity. However, this would also mean having two separate volumes, unless your operating system supports virtual volumes across more than one physical disk.
The 7,200rpm Barracuda 180's Ultra160 SCSI interface, supports a burst transfer rate of 160MB/s. The drive's claimed maximum sustained transfer rate is 47MB/s, comparable to IBM’s Deskstar 120GXP. A 16MB cache, eight times larger than all the other drives in this review, should help sustained transfer rates, but won’t help where many short, discontinuous files are being read, such as often happens with everyday productivity tasks.
The Barracuda 180 features a system for minimising the effect of vibration from other drives when used as part of an array. Seagate Advanced Multidrive System (SAMS), claims to be able to detect vibration caused by adjacent drives and make corrections, thus avoiding a drop in data transfer rate. This feature, although excellent in a server or high-end workstation, is of limited use in the average desktop PC which doesn’t have large numbers of drives installed.
The Barracuda 180 clearly has a place, but it’s not in an average desktop PC. Even if it performance characteristics were outstanding, the high cost and cost per gigabyte puts it beyond most users' budgets. As part of an array for storing very large amounts of data on a server, this would be a fantastic drive, but it’s just too expensive for everyday use.