Seagate ST1 availability, info, & resources (pre-retail release)

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by, Jan 8, 2005.

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    For those researching and waiting for the Seagate ST1 CF-compliant
    hard drive, as-yet still unavailable in retail form, here is the
    information I've amassed which should help researchers, as there is
    little information available on this drive. Some peopl are ripping
    them out of Rio Carbons, but those models may not be fully-CF
    compatible, and of course there's no warranty there. Most are waiting
    for the retail release but the info provided, especially the links,
    will be of help to those considering busting open their Carbons.

    I have had a few email exchanges with Seagate (see belos) regarding
    product availability and other things (such as noise), and these are
    the highlights. Bottom line is that Seagate itself (at least the ones
    who have contact with real people) appears to be rather unclear about
    availability and details about the drive.

    Here is what I have been able to gather on the ST1 so far:
    - Type II CF-compatible. The (as-yet-to-be-released retail version
    will be fully CF-compliant. It is unknown whether the current OEM
    versions are fully CF-compliant, but it is doubtful as the "CF" logo
    does not appear on the OEM drives, which is typical for any flash-type
    memory made custom for an OEM. On the other hand, people seem to be
    having A LOT more success with the ripped-out OEM ST1's than with the
    OEM Hitachi Microdrives.

    - Acoustics rating: "2 bels (typical)" No mention of distance from the
    drive on that measurement. Seagate's regular 7200rpm hard drives are
    rated at 2 to 2.5 bels in idle spinning, for a reference, which is
    audible in a quiet room, judging from my own. I don't know how much
    noise the Hitachi Microdrive produces, but the ST1 will probably
    (hopefully) be quieter whatever the case. I have never heard anyone
    complain about the noise from Microdrives, even those who take movies
    using them, but this is a big concern for me, and unlike solid-state
    CF cards, they can't possibly be silent, obviously due to moving
    parts. To me, any noise is the biggest apparent downside to the ST1
    and any CF hard drive, as cameras with mics are likely to pick up hard
    drive noise from the housing, even if inaudible in person. Seagate
    makes the world's quietest hard drives (the main reason I am a Seagate
    fan), so they are the best people to make a CF hard drive.

    - 2MB buffer (far bigger than the 128K of other 1" hard drives)

    - Full name: "Seagate ST1 Compact Flash Photo Hard Drive". How
    ridiculous. I emailed a corporate communications exec, John Paulsen
    (see below), at Seagate and made a comment offering to help them redo
    this horrific name, noting amongst other things that there was no such
    thing as "Flash", however there is a standard called CompactFlash (no
    space), and that this was likely to confuse people. Although the
    letter was nice and moderately helpful, he didn't take ownership of my
    comment and said he had nothing to do with the name and didn't put me
    in contact with anyone else, and tried to explain if not justify that
    ridiculous name. They weren't allowed to use the trademarked
    Microdrive name, but weren't smart enough to come up with their own
    creative noun, so instead used a lot of modifiers before "hard drive".

    - There are two sizes currently being made: 2.5GB and 5GB. They are
    both called ST1, differentiated only by their size. The 5GB is
    currently being used in the Rio Carbon, whereas the 2.5GB is
    apparently being used in Seagate's Portable USB 2.0 Storage device.

    - Seagate is satiating all all the OEM's who want a crack at it before
    releasing it retail to the public. That means that those who are
    really desperate for one are gonna have to crack open a Rio Carbon or
    buy one which has already been ripped out off of Ebay, with all
    caveats and risks.

    - The capacity specifications are using the "GB" size as used with
    regular hard drives and flash media: in other words, smaller than the
    "Windows" definition of GB. So a 2.5GB card will really format as
    something closer to 2.38GB by my estimations. This is good for those
    disappointed at Hitachi's release of 2GB cards, which aren't really
    2GB so there is a little space which could be available before the
    card is maxed out. FAT (FAT16) formatting is limited to 2GB (Windows
    definition). The 5-giggers will be able to be formatted in FAT16, but
    most of the space will be wasted; however, they are somewhat easily

    My take on Seagate: Seagate makes not only the quietest hard drives in
    the world, but also (in my opinion) the best (quieter=higher quality).
    Just as noteworthy, Seagate continues to use American customer service
    and tech support!!!! (If this ever changes, let me know.) Their
    customer service did very right by me in a difficult situation once
    when I got screwed-over by a disreputable Ebay seller who was selling
    a Barracuda 7200rpm IDE drive without mentioning that it was an
    Apple-spec drive, and not only that, that it was just out of warranty.
    The two ladies I dealt with were very kind and went the extra mile for
    me, slightly bending the rules as is sometimes necessary in customer
    service. Since it was two people, it seems that good customer service
    is a pattern and that my good experience apparently wasn't just luck.
    Seagate surely lost money on that--in the short run, but won a
    customer for life who other people go to for computer equipment,
    advice, & repair. I believe good things resonate back to those who put
    it out. When you can have the best products combined with the best
    service, that is something, and though times are slim in the cutthroat
    hard drive business, Seagate appears to have a big winner with the
    ST1, tapping into what they were head-shakingly surprised as being an
    overwhelming demand.

    The ST1 will hopefully make the MicroDrive a thing of the past, as
    IBM/Hitachi (and then Sony rebranding) kept the prices on the retail
    versions ridiculously high, while not improving the robustness or
    quality of their product in a major way for a long time now.
    MicroDrives have a reputation of breaking after falling, sometimes
    even onto carpet. I don't know about you, but I have dropped CF cards
    multiple times, which is why I resisted the Microdrive. (I think I
    should also mention that the Microdrive will apparently self-destruct
    or at least not work if used above a 5,000 ft elevation.) Hitachi
    implicitly admitted their unreasonable Microdrive cost when they
    slashed prices around the time the ST1 was supposed to be introduced,
    and introduced big rebates on top of that. Hitachi obviously sees the
    writing on the wall. The problem is that the moment I read about the
    ST1 in the summer of '04, I fully decided against the Microdrive to
    wait, but I am still waiting.

    Here are some links which searchers may find helpful:

    A good computer-oriented review of the ST1 below, comparing it against
    its Hitachi and MagicStor competitors--pretty cool. The reviewer did
    not test acoustics or put ratings in card speeds (i.e. 40x), but
    perhaps we could suggest it on his promised upcoming secondary review.
    From this review, this drive tentatively seems like a real winner.

    Here is a search of dpreview forums for 'Seagate ST1' (some threads
    include camera compatibility experiences with those who have ripped
    out the OEM version from the Rio Carbon): st1&forum=all&fields=all

    Here is a forum thread which includes, amongst many other things,
    hard-to-come-by info about ST1 battery drain and buffer experience:

    Steves-digicams experience on ripping out the ST1 from the Rio Carbon,
    and John Paulsen's official Seagate stance/disclaimer on this

    Steves-digicams forum thread on the same thing:

    Super-long thread on 5GB Rio Carbon ST1 removal/compatibility
    experiences (post below might be of more help than a link at the
    beginning of the thread):

    And, despite the third link above, this is a reply from Seagate
    Pre-Sales (via web form, the only way I saw to get in touch with

    You ask " When will the long-promised ST1 be available in CF
    (CompactFlash) format? "

    We wish we could answer this question. The dates keep being pushed
    out as manufacturers are contracting for our full capacity. We can't
    make these ST-1 variants fast enough.

    It looks like March - April at the earliest.

    Thank you for your inquiry. We appreciate your consideration of
    Seagate products for your storage solutions.

    [name removed; impressive that included a name in the email--a rare
    thing nowadays from email support]
    Disc Presales

    [Note: The way Seagate explained (or didn't explain) availability to
    me means that they will continue to sell to OEM's at full capacity,
    and will not begin to sell retail models until OEM demand falls below
    their full output capacity. This could be awhile, especially
    considered the first availability date of October '04, which was true,
    only for Rio for the Carbon. Seagate pre-sales, by the way is reached
    for further questions via the below url: ]


    This is my 2nd Reply from John Paulsen (1st was an "I'll get back to
    you", where he never got back to me):

    [snip greeting]
    Forgive me for failing to get back to you -- I came up empty on any
    additional specs. Retail availability is murky but I would guess
    you'll have to wait til at least February. So sorry about that. [Note:
    see above letter from Seagate pre-sales further purshing back the

    While I have nothing to do with product naming and can't do much to
    influence it myself, I appreciate your input on the naming. It's
    always a difficult issue. Seagate has a naming standard now in place
    that dictates we use descriptive names, which often make the names
    long. A goal of this standard is to focus on the name Seagate, and
    simply describe the product. I think the decision to include "Photo"
    in the descriptive name results from the camera market being
    essentially the entire market for this product. While we may invite
    some other uses of the product, I guess the reality is that non-camera
    applications are a miniscule percent of the target. So "Photo" is
    designed to make it very clear to camera consumers that's what this
    product is for.

    [Note: If Mr. Paulsen's comment here is true, then Seagate marketing
    (not Seagate design/mfr'ing/support, mind you) is truly clueless
    about their products and the way they will be likely to be used, so no
    wonder the crappy name, it being developed by people who don't even
    know their customers. How about portable media players? The ST1's
    make music-only players obsolete! The ST1 can revolutionize Pocket
    PC's, allowing them them to be nearly as powerful as a laptop, and in
    many ways more versatile! The ST1 will allow Microsoft to produce a
    much-expanded PPC Windows, and now we see on the horizon, PPC's being
    able to load full versions of Windows. Portable storage was the big
    obstacle holding everything back! WTF "Photo" Hard Drive! The ST1 also
    is the link which will finally make solid-state camdorders a truly
    superior competitor to tape! Putting "Photo" in the official name is
    idiotic if they think the product will be around for more than a

    Including "Hard Drive" is a tough call also, but again part of our
    naming standard dictates that all our retail products use that phrase.
    One can of course debate whether the standard will be effective in
    meeting its goals.

    You're right about the phrase "Compact Flash" and I believe the actual
    product materials and packaging will say CompactFlash.

    Some of your questions below I just don't have answers for -- probably
    you should connect with Seagate pre-sales support.

    >"Real" or more-specific availability of ST1's?

    Next quarter

    >What are the respective 2.5 & 5 GB model names?

    It will just list the capacity -- the name will be the same.

    >Are ST1's quieter than Hitachi MD's? How much noise shows up in movie mode
    >in Seagate's experiments w/digital cameras (pleast test if none have been done)?

    I don't know what tests have been done. These specifications wouldn't
    be final until the product is released.

    >What size are the read & write buffers, and how do the buffers
    >(particularly write) & memory controller differ from Hitachi?

    I don't know. There is a 2MB buffer on the ST1 Series hard drive upon
    which this product is based, but I don't know if the CF drive will be
    different. These specifications may not be final until the product is

    >Are the environmental limitations any different than Hitachi's?

    I don't know. These specifications wouldn't be final until the product
    is released.

    >Will Seagate continue to keep low/no noise a priority into the ST1 line
    >and further Type I/II HDD's? Can we expect effectively silent drives
    >soon, or does the ST1 qualify already?

    Noise is always considered. It is also always balanced against other
    performance parameters that may affect it, such as read/write speed.
    , Jan 8, 2005
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