By Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.NET In the early 1990s hard disks had capacities no bigger than 100 megabytes and t hese were already called âturboâ back then because these could execute file sea rches in seconds. Take note âsecondsâ is in plural form. These things would cos t P3,000 to P5,000 that time â a fortune in todayâs inflated economy. Fast forward 10 years later most handheld digital music players would have memo ry capacities larger than 100 Mb. Even thumb drives worth P200 hold more data t han pre-2000 hard disks and theyâre faster, too. Expanding Mooreâs Law, technologies double in performance and capacity every18 months. Todayâs current commercial hard disks have capacities ranging from 80 g igabytes to 750 Gb. Many users remain happy with just 80 Gb but the era of high definition is pushing the bar in storage space, thus, terabyte drives are beco ming the norm. In basic speak, 1 terabyte is equivalent to 1000 gigabytes, or a bout a quarter million MP3 songs. High definition videos may perhaps be the single biggest reason for needing ter abyte drives. A 5-minute high definition video can use up as much as 100 megaby tes of hard disk space. Given the expansion of videos to the Internet, more and more people will be posting HD videos online. This is already being seen on Yo uTube, which also features submissions in HD. With hard disk space ever increasing, Western Digital is also pushing forward w ith hard disks that are still beyond (or at least six months) from actually bei ng needed. One of its more recent products is the 2 Tb Caviar Green hard drive, currently its top-of-the-line, consumer level hard disk. WD sent one test unit over to INQUIRER.NET. Unfortunately, there are no compute rs with motherboards that can handle such a size (most boards can accommodate o nly up to 1.5 Tb). We had to scrounge around for a newer motherboard, along wit h newer memory modules and a new processor. Good thing the 2Tb WD Caviar Green only needs 6 watts of power so there is no need for a better power supply. The lower power consumption may perhaps be one of the best features of this model, aside from its storage capacity, since current generation hard disks require ab out 8 watts to run. The 2Tb WD Caviar Green uses a serial ATA connection so it can immediately run once it is installed without the need for drivers or even the dreaded pins to c onfigure multiple hard drives. Upon start up the device barely made any sound w ith only a whisper-like whirr to indicate that it is already operating. Western Digital considers this as a âgreenâ technology due to added power-savin g features. The most notable is its GreenPower, which reduces the spin of the h ard diskâs spindle. This means reduced power consumption. A secondary benefit o f reduced spinning of the hard disk is low heat signature that reduces the heat inside a computerâs chassis. Normally, a hard disk would feel hot to the touch (warning: do not touch any part of an open computer when it is plugged) but th is one remained only slightly warm even after six hours of continuous operation . Still, using the term âgreenâ on a device thatâs not using recycled parts jus t as it should be is still too much exploitation of the term. For most ordinary people revolutions per minute (RPM) does not compute, tech en thusiasts would want a hard disk RPM to be faster. Current standard is 5400 but 7200 RPMs is already catching up. Higher RPMs means faster access time for cer tain files stored in the hard disk. Technically, the more a hard disk stores, t he harder it is for the hard disk to search for files. The speed of the hard di skâs rotation is not always the answer to faster file searches but the WD Cavia r Green has proprietary software called IntelliSeek to improve the search capab ility of the spindle. Users may not notice this at first but those who have lot s of stored files, especially big ones, will find this very helpful. A true test of a full 2 Tb hard disk would be difficult since itâll be hard to put as many files in it, unless I have 40 Blu-ray movies to convert. In fact, e ven with everyone going HD, itâll take some time before anyone could fill up a 1 Tb drive, much less a 2 Tb hard disk. Western Digital is still ahead on this but maybe in about six more months, again using Mooreâs Law, a new model with 4 Tb would come out.
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By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net SEAGA TE was the first to pioneer the large-capacity external hard drive in the l ast few years and most were well-built, truly protecting the sensitive hard dis k inside. However, at the time, their external drives were expensive and still slower in performance compared to internal drives. It took a while before the o ld version of the USB was replaced by the faster performing USB 2.0, which has a transfer rate of 480 megabits per second compared to just 1.5 Mbps in USB 1.0 . A few years later, Seagate starts to change their external hard disk business . This time, they launch a new model called the FreeAgent series, which include s mobile, entry level and professional level drives. Seagate FreeAgent, distributed by Millennium Computer Technology Corp., has been totally redesigne d from the ground up. Thatâs no surprise considering the fact that competitors have begun innovating. Whatâs more, some China-made new drive enclosures have p rovided budget-conscious techies alternative modes to have external drives. The FreeAgent comes in four variants: the FreeAgent Go Small (12 Gigabytes) Fre eAgent Go (80 to 160 Gb), FreeAgent Desktop (250 to 500 Gb) and the FreeAgent P RO (320 to 750 Gb). Apart from the sizes, there are a few differences in terms of extra features, though the Pro variant is the only one with automatic backup software as well as an online backup service. The test was for the Desktop and Pro variants. While all of the variants have a lmost the same look, the FreeAgent Desktop and FreeAgent Pro are the ones with nearly the same design. Both are encased in hard but smooth black aluminum with orange LEDs running down along one side. These are also put straight up on one of their narrow sides on top of a solid base that has the output plugs for the power supply and the USB or Firewire cables. The base itself is not directly c onnected to the aluminum enclosure, making it look like the unit can tip over. However the design is both aesthetic and functional. The difference between the two units is that the FreeAgent Desktop is just basi cally an external hard drive. Connect it to a USB plug and a power source the u nit will be identified by Windows XP or Windows Vista as an external drive, muc h like attaching a USB flash drive into it. After it is identified, the user ca n start copying and pasting content from the PC hard drive to the FreeAgent Des ktop. However, if the user has a third-party backup software, the FreeAgent Des ktop can be used as the primary location for the backup, as long as itâs powere d up. Meanwhile, the FreeAgent Pro works similarly, except for several exclusive feat ures such as the bundled backup software called Memeo, which works pretty well but is almost no different from other backup applications. Memeo, however, has one advantage and that is the Internet Drive option, which allows the user to h ave a 30-day free trial of an online backup and storage service, assuming the c omputer is connected to the Internet. The user can set the FreeAgent Pro to connect and upload files online whenever it is backing up. There is a maximum capacity of 500 megabytes of online space when using the online service. Of course, it is not forever free and after the 30-day trial, users will have to pay around $30 for the same 500 Mb space. The biggest space that can be offered is 5 Gb, worth $120. While the cost of the se rvice may be high, there is no limit to the size of each file that can be uploa ded; thus, it becomes useful for FreeAgent owners who are in the multimedia bus iness where files are usually very large. Other features of the FreeAgent Pro are an extra Firewire and e-SATA plug, depe nding on the connectivity need of the user. Going back to the design, the FreeAgent Pro and Desktop can both last for hours even at room temperature without ever heating up. The only part that does heat up is the stand. As the designers have dictated it, the heat is transferred do wnwards via a series of heatsinks, making the bottom side hot but ensuring that the hard disks are not affected (heat is the worst enemy of hard disks). There are no fans in any of the FreeAgents, unlike in PCs where heat is sucked out b y small fans, thus the unitsâ operations are quiet. The online time there is so und from the external drives is when the plates are rotating, which is almost i naudible as well. The base is extremely solid, enabling the hard disks to stand upright, drawing heat away from the hard disks. Overall, the FreeAgent line of external hard disks is perhaps the best in the b randed category. They have the sleekest designs and deliver performance as prom ised. However, they still face competition from external hard disk enclosure ma kers, some of which have added extra features such as direct play to a TV set. Perhaps Seagate could count on the long-term performance of their device. Iâve personally tested some of the third-party external drive enclosures and there a re times when my hard disk fails due to lack of proper heat dissipation. Seagat e might still win this.