What's the best hard drive type for HD video?
September 2, 2006 11:48 PM   Subscribe

What are the best hard drives these days to work with high-def video files?

The last time I was remotely involved with digital video, you went SCSI or you went home. Standard def digital video files ate up enough capacity as it was, I can only imagine raw high def files needing an order of magnitude more.

I'm going to be purchasing a new Mac Pro and will be working with HD video. My current plan is to get a "stock" Apple drive installed for apps, etc., but then add a 2nd or 3rd drive for digital video files.

I've lost track of all the new acronyms and their seemingly endless varieties (ATA, IDE, SCSI, RAID, Enhanced-this, Ultra-that, etc.) What's the latest/best/fastest hard drive tech? A new flavor of SCSI? I'd like to mount the drive(s) internally if possible, but am not completely opposed to external enclosures if they're recommended for reasons other than portability (which I don't need.) Specific brand/model recommendations encouraged.

I understand that the best drives will have high marks in interface type, RPM (10,000+) and capacity.

This is a "prosumer" environment, budget is open, but not unlimited.
posted by wubbie to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
The internal SATA drive bays on the new Mac Pro are plenty fast, particularly when used in a RAID configuration. Editing HD Video consumes enormous amounts of disk space. For a cost effective solution I recommend that in addition to the Apple supplied boot drive, you purchase two high performance, high capacity 7200 RPM SATA-II (3 Gb/s) hard drives. Use Apple's Disk Utility to configure the two new drives in a two-disk RAID 0 configuration.
posted by RichardP at 1:43 AM on September 3, 2006

Best answer: The hot new thing nowadays is SATA - aka "Serial ATA". It's a relatively cheap technology that provides 90% of the functionality of SCSI, for roughly the same cost as plain old ATA. And in some cases, it's even faster than SCSI. Everyone's going nuts over it.

There are two flavors, internal and external. Take your pick. Your Mac Pro will come with four internal SATA drive bays and one drive (160GB, 250GB, or 500GB). The size will depend on what you pick at purchase.

If performance is a must, and cost no object, some recommendations:

Look for after-market, high-end "10,000 RPM" drives.

Make sure the drives support "native command queuing", an advanced drive feature in SATA-II that used to only be on SCSI. (Your Mac Pro will already support it.)

Consider purchasing a RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks), a RAID card, and extra drives for speed and redundancy. Since digital video is a pretty read- and write-intensive activity, and the video is important to keep backed-up automatically, you'd probably want RAID 5 (one extra disk for a group of 2 disks or more) or even RAID 1 (every disk is mirrored), if you could afford it. Note that this route is substantially more expensive than the others.

Do performance research on sites like AnandTech and Tom's Hardware. Both sites have relatively recent, in-depth coverage of the latest drives.

I highly recommend considering buying your extra drives from someone OTHER than Apple. Run the numbers first. (I'd do that, but their store is down at the moment.) Typically, Apple heavily marks up the upgrade options in the store. It's a big part of their profit margin. Instead, go through a highly-rated vendor from Pricewatch or Google Product.

So, in summary, to buy a disk hot-rod, buy your Mac Pro , find a good RAID 5 card on AnandTech or Tom's, then buy 3 fast, 10,000 RPM, native command queuing after-market 500GB SATA disks to create a 1TB RAID inside the Mac Pro. If you get sticker shock, just buy one fast drive extra, no RAID card.
posted by maschnitz at 1:44 AM on September 3, 2006

Oh wait, 10,000 RPM drives are pretty "small" -- go with 7200 RPM, like Richard P suggests.
posted by maschnitz at 1:47 AM on September 3, 2006

If you intend to use Apple's drive bays, I wouldn't bother with RAID expansion card - Apple's cable-eliminating slide-in drive bays in the Mac Pro prevent access from a RAID card. Fortunately, Mac OS X supports software RAID with Disk Utility. While the software RAID is currently limited to RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and 1+0, this won't really matter for a two-disk RAID setup.
posted by RichardP at 1:56 AM on September 3, 2006

There are a number of 15k RPM drives out now (Fujitsu Max series, Seagate Cheetahs. and Hitachi UltraStars--all SCSI 320). If you drop down to the 10k RPM range, you can expand your options substantially--the Western Digital Raptor is the defacto standard (SATA interface).

You can get these drives in all flavor of gigabytage, but you really pay a premium for the RPM's (figure at least twice the cost of a similar 7200 RPM drive). That's why most people in your situation just get two 7200 RPM drives and use a RAID-0 configuration.

For example, a single Hitachi UltraStar 147GB drive (15k RPM) will run you almost $650. For that money, you could get three Seagate 400 GB drives and a controller card to boot. That's 1.2 TB (terabytes) of storage @ 7200 RPM. You could also get four 300 GB drives and a controller card. Set them up as RAID-0+1 and you've got 600 GB of RAID-0 performance, along with a 600 GB mirror for security.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:34 AM on September 3, 2006

Sigh. What kind of HD video?

If it's DVCPro HD - Most firewire drives (7200 rpm), IDE, SATA and SCSI-3 drives will work.

DVCPro HD is 100Mb/s.

If it's HDV, this isn't even an issue. It's only 25Mb/s.

The real issues come when working with uncompressed HD.

Then you need >700Mb/s and will need a fast connection (SATA or SCSI), but also a Raid.

Of course, I'll throw out there, that the whole reason of going to a Video VAR is to not make these mistakes. (Nor monitoring or scope mistakes, did you buy those too?)
posted by filmgeek at 8:39 AM on September 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

The above posters already recommended 7200rpm drives for best bang for the buck.

Current best deals:
Western Digital 250GB 7200rpm SATA-II for $50 after $90 mail-in rebate at CompUSA ($0.20/GB)
Western Digital 500GB 7200rpm SATA-II for $160 at BestBuy ($0.32/GB)

Get those two above drives and you already have an additional 750GB for about $210. That should give you almost or more than 1TB of disk space total with your existing drive. If you need more space, get more of the 500GB drives at $160 a pop.
posted by junesix at 11:31 PM on September 3, 2006

FYI, Fry's Electronics had 400GB Seagate's for $100 a month ago. Keep an eye out, there are deals to be had.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:34 PM on September 4, 2006

Actually they had those $99 SATA-II 400GB buggers today but they were all sold out by the time I arrived. :(
posted by junesix at 7:24 PM on September 4, 2006

I second Maschnitz's suggestion about buying your spare drives from somebody other than Apple, but I'll go farther:

Don't buy the standard 250gb hard drive with your Mac. Downgrade to the 160gb hard drive and you'll save $70. You can use that to buy the Western Digital 250gb hard drive that Junesix describes. That way, you get 160gb more space total, for $20 less, giving you a NEGATIVE cost-per-gigabyte.

The Mac Pro is a great deal in almost every respect, but they are really overcharging for the hard drives.
posted by yankeefog at 7:14 AM on September 5, 2006

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