As 4K gaming and content creation push into the mainstream, storage demands are also on the rise. While SSDs are clearly the wave of the future for your most used programs, they’re still not cost efficient enough for mass storage. Today, we’re looking at the first Helium-based HDD we’ve ever tested and at only $.04 per gigabyte, it could be an excellent value if the performance holds up. Read on for our full review.
- Current Pricing: $437.99 (Amazon) - $479.99 MSRP
Over the last year, we’ve looked at a good number of solid state drives based both based on the SATA bus and blisteringly fast PCI-e with some of the most cutting edge NVME M.2 drives. The inescapable fact, however, is that the price per gigabyte still can’t compete with traditional hard drives. As a gamer, I’ve been acutely aware of how big game downloads are becoming (sometimes upwards of 100GB when 4K textures are downloaded). Add in the occasional gameplay capture and you’re forced to start deleting games and files when you want to download something new.
As solid state technology has advanced, companies like Seagate have continued to push forward with hard drive development. It wasn’t long ago that we first began hearing rumbles of helium-based hard drives and, yet, here we are with one in hand. The advantage, if you haven’t kept up with the tech, is that the density of helium allows Seagate to fit additional platters into each hard drive, opening the doors to massive capacities like the one we’re looking at today. Likewise, helium also allows for less drag when accessing data, increasing overall performance.
The 12TB BarraCuda Pro we’re looking at today spins at 7200RPM but promises much better transfer rates than the ~150MB/s read and write speeds of a traditional 7200RPM drive. The BarraCuda Pro instead offers 250MB/s sustained transfer speeds with 256MB of multisegmented cache. It’s also fairly power efficient for that performance, requiring only 7.8W under normal workloads.
The Seagate BarraCuda Pro 12 TB comes to market with an MSRP of $479.99, though is currently on sale for $437.99 through Amazon. Either price puts us at under $.04 per GB which is an inarguably good value if the real world results match the promising specifications.
Test System: Intel Core i7-8700K at 4.7GHz, ASUS Z370 Maximus X Hero motherboard, 32GB DDR4-3200 ADATA XPG Spectrix D41, Seagate BarraCuda Pro 12TB Mass Storage, NVidia GTX 2080 Ti (SLI), Corsair HX1050 - 1050 Watt PSU, NZXT Kraken X72 CPU Cooler, Fractal Define R6 Case.
When testing our drives, we first begin by looking at synthetic benchmarks to cross check the manufacturers claims on speed. We then move into real world file copy tests using a large, heavily modified Skyrim directory. Finally, we look at game loading times in a variety of popular MMORPGs. Since MMOs, particularly in capital cities where our tests are conducted, require large first-time, no-cache loads, this makes for a particularly good test of real world performance implications.
Worth noting in the charts below, we have placed this drive alongside our solid state options for context. Our intention isn’t to imply that the BarraCuda Pro should perform anywhere near a PCI-e drive, for example, but rather to illustrate the difference between the different options. Make no mistake, though: even if 12TB solid state options were available (they’re not) they would cost an absolute fortune, so it’s important bear in mind the different purposes these drives serve.
We always begin our test rounds by looking with several runs of ATTO. ATTO is a synthetic benchmark that offers us a “best case scenario” result for sequential read and write speeds. Here, we see the BarraCuda Pro achieve its transfer speed claims and outperform the 7200 ES drive by more than 100 MB/s. It offers up respectable performance against the SATA SSDs in this round-up as well.
CrystalDiskMark is another synthetic test that evaluates sequential reads and writes as well as random, which is much more in line with real world use. It gives us a counter-point to ATTO and some insight into random performance.
Here, we see the sequential speeds almost validate what we found in ATTO. Our random accesses pale in comparison to any of the solid state options, but the BarraCuda Pro more than doubles the access speeds in the 4K32 tests, as well as 4KQ1T1 writes. At this point, it’s becoming clear that the Pro is wiping the floor with the older ES drive we began our HDD testing with two years ago.
Moving onto real world tests...
File Transfer Speeds
Next we look move into the realm of the real. Synthetics are great but what matters most is the actual performance impact you’re likely to feel in day-to-day use. We begin that testing by transferring a fully loaded Skyrim directory, heaped high with mods. All told, it comes in at just shy of 21 gigabytes. From there, we look at the average transfer speed.
These charts show us just how much faster the BarraCuda Pro really is. Compared to the ES1, its average transfer rate was more than double but even compared to the ~150MB/s that’s common on even more expensive HDDs, it’s remarkably faster. If you’re a content creator, the Pro will make a noticeable difference in your workflow as your move and load files into your projects. Likewise, if you offload less used games or files, you’ll find the experience much more efficient.
Game Load Times
Finally, we come to the bread and butter of our testing: game load times. In my own use case, I have my most frequently played games on my PCI-e SSDs and many of my others loaded into mass storage. Compared to a solid state drive, a traditional hard drive can feel painfully slow but as the results here show, the BarraCuda Pro is a definite improvement. With some variance, games MMORPGs loaded onto the Pro only made me wait around 10 seconds longer than the SATA SSDs in this test and beat the ES 7200RPM drive across the board.
Before picking up my first high capacity hard drive in 2017, I was constantly anxious about how full my drive was. Was I losing performance with it being so full? What’s the tipping point, how much free space should I keep? Those questions stressed me out and picking up an extra terabyte or two in a SSD didn’t help because it was only a matter of time until it too was full. As I got into producing YouTube videos and downloading texture packs, I grew to despise how often I needed to delete games I may not have even been through with just to download a new one.
If you’ve faced the same, the BarraCuda Pro is an effective solution. At $.04 a gigabyte, it’s a cost effective way to wipe those concerns from your mind. If 12TB is too much and, honestly, unless you’re working with video files, it just may be, the Pro line is also available in smaller (and larger) capacities, ranging from 2 - 14TB. While we can’t speak to those other capacities, our results with the 12TB version leave us very impressed. Compared to the prior Seagate we’d been using, probably quite similar to the HDD in most users’ computers, it delivered much better transfer speeds and, though not SSD level, respectable game load times too. This drive earns our full recommendation.
- Very good GB/dollar ratio
- Great performance
- Fairly quiet (typical hard drive sounds)
- Great 5-year warranty
- High capacities are a large upfront investment (but worth it in our opinion)
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.