Desktop Hard Drive Performance
It has been years since Benchmark Reviews has tested a “spinning platter” mechanical hard drive; the plummeting prices of solid state drives (SSDs) have rendered hard drives obsolete as primary drives in enthusiast systems. Even the least expensive, lowest-specification SSD will outperform the fastest hard drive, so there seems little point in comparisons.
However, hard drives still have a place for things like backup and storing large amounts of data; uses where performance is not a priority. Still, it matters at least a little, and we are “Benchmark Reviews”, so I decided to see what I could come up with.
We were asked to test this platform on a computer with a USB-C port, and the one machine we had available was a 12″ Macbook Retina. This computer was the first to offer USB-C, and in typical Apple fashion, they went the full Monty: the single USB-C port is the only external port on the computer aside from an earphone port. The USB-C port is used for charging, connecting external drives, connecting monitors, whatever: the USB-C connector and protocol can handle pretty much anything. Which makes things like, say, charging and using an external device at the same time a little complicated. However, the LaCie Porsche Design Desktop Drive can charge the Macbook at the same time it’s being used as an external drive, all due to the wonders of USB Type C.
Since it’s been so long since we’ve tested any hard drives, we have no historical performance data for modern hard drives, and our storage device test suite is Windows-centric. So I rounded up two more external drives I had that I could connect to the Macbook: a Samsung T3 external SSD, and a Seagate 2TB USB-powered external drive, for comparison, and used the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test utility to gauge performance.
If it’s been a while since you’ve used a hard disk, or perhaps have never used one, you may have forgotten/not know that read and write performance will vary dramatically from the fast, outside tracks of a spinning hard disk to the slower, inside tracks. The difference can be as great as 2:1. The performance numbers I’ll present represent the fastest possible performance from the outer tracks of freshly-formatted drives using the Black Magic disk utility reading and writing over a 5GB section of the disk. First, let’s check the Samsung T3:
Like the LaCie drive, the Samsung is a native USB 3.1 drive, although– again like the LaCie– it’s only running at the 5Gb transfer rate instead of the full 10Gb allowed by the specification. Still, it turns in performance not too far off from a good 2.5″ desktop SSD, with 426MB/s reads and 395.5MB/s writes. Also, unlike the two hard drives I’m using for comparison, the Samsung will maintain this performance across the entire drive, although write performance can drop under heavy continuous loads.
Next, I tested a 2TB Seagate Backup Plus Portable Drive, the kind of thing you’d pick up in an office supply store.
Seagate Backup Plus
While unimpressive by SSD standards, in historical context this is excellent performance, especially considering it’s a tiny, low-power laptop-class drive.
LaCie Porsche Design
The LaCie Porsche Design Desktop Drive turns in a pretty decent score, not too far off what a 10,000RPM Western Digital Velociraptor high-performance drive could provide.
Remember that these results are the maximum the (hard drives) can return; average performance across the entire disk will be less. Also, you can’t compare these results to any results from any other benchmark. Now that we’ve a handle on what the drive can do performance-wise, let’s take a look at the utility software in the next section.