What's the best hard drive you can buy? Your hard drive is out of date if its capacity is measured in Gigabytes. Even a Terabyte of space can seem cramped when you're stockpiling your 4K movies, lossless music, massive games and high resolution photo collections.
2TB isn't a bad starting point unless you're heavily into editing movies, and with prices tumbling, you don't have to pay much to enjoy excellent performance and gargantuan storage space.
At the moment, buying an internal drive gives you exactly three choices: a flash-based SSD, one that blends flash with a classic spinning drive (a hybrid), and a regular mechanical drive. The key difference is that while SSD offers far superior performance, it comes with a price to match and you only get a couple of hundred GBs before the cost ceases to be appealing.
Traditional drives are much slower, but hold far, far more, and in most cases you simply don't need the extra performance. Everything will still work just fine, just not quite as quickly. The cheaper hard disk drives have a 5400RPM spinning speed while their more expensive counterparts spin at 7200RPM, providing a theoretical 33% speed boost.
As long as you're not used to the speed of Windows booting from SSD though, you're unlikely to be put off by even a midrange drive's performance. There's plenty of life in the traditional style of hard disk yet, and it remains the best way to handle your electronic life.
In this article, we've gathered together what we consider to be nine of the best drive offerings currently available, boasting 1.5TB or more at assorted price points, designed for single-desktop use or RAID servers or NASes (Network Attached Storage).
In practice, the main difference between the two types of drive is the tolerances they're built for, which shouldn't be particularly important for the home. However, these drives and their energy saving features can really come into their own in bulk, especially in an enterprise setting.
Best overall value for money: Toshiba 3TB PA4293E-1HN0 DT Series
Price: around £72
If all you care about is getting the most bang (or storage) for your buck, then you can hardly do better than the Toshiba PA4293E. The Japanese company is not well known for its storage devices but this model steals the show by offering the cheapest per TB price on the market at just under £24.
That said, note that external hard disk drives cost even less starting at £22.50 per TB. This Toshiba drive has a 5700RPM rotational speed, with a decent 32MB cache and is relatively quiet when in use at 25dBA. It is unlikely to be the fastest drive around, but if you just want a cheap internal hard disk drive, it's probably your best bet.
Best value performance: Seagate 3TB Barracuda 7200.12
Price: around £80
3TB still appears to be the sweet spot if you are looking for a performance hard disk drive. The Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 fits the bill if you prefer to have a single fast drive rather than, say, an SSD and a slow hard drive. This model has three 1TB platters, 64MB of cache and uses a number of Seagate-specific features (OptiCahe, Acutrac, SmartAlign and DiscWizard) to generally improve performance. Note that Seagate suggests using it in so-called 8x5 environments (i.e. not 24x7) and because of its higher spinning speed, it will be noisier, consume more power and have a higher operating temperature.
Best for NAS: Seagate 16TB Business Storage 4 Bay NAS Solution
Price: around £355
Looking for a NAS drive? Then look no further than this 4-Bay Seagate solution – the STBP16000200 comes preloaded with four 4TB Seagate NAS HDDs (model ST4000VN000) that come with 64MB cache, 7200RPM and a three-year warranty. Why am I suggesting that you buy this solution?
Well, for starters, it is damn affordable at around the £355 mark – that gets you a fully functional, loaded, ready to go NAS with a per-Terabyte cost lower than the PA4293-E drive above. If you only want the drives, keep them and get rid of the enclosure. Compared to traditional drives, NAS-optimised drives are designed to operate on a 24x7 basis while sustaining higher operating temperatures and working in a team rather than solo.
Best for capacity: Seagate Archive Nearline 8TB HDD
Price: around £200
If you want the biggest hard disk drive around – one that will not be used in a NAS, and you don't really care about random writes – then the Seagate Archive Nearline 8TB should be top of your list. Seagate uses SMR technology to cram more storage than ever before in a 3.5-inch form factor – this drive is not cheap at £220, but the cost per TB is still reasonable at £27.50.
You get a comprehensive three-year warranty, the reassurance that this is a drive designed for a 365x24x7 environment, with extremely low power consumption and some exceptional performance, especially on reads, despite a low spinning speed. Just be wary of its only big weakness, which is random writes, as we've already mentioned.