how much earlier?
They were rather solid 10-20y ago-- I still have the 320GB SATA disk I bought for the AthlonXP machine (iirc). It moved around, visited a gaming box which was turned into a HTPC then torn down... now it's mostly a cold store and I forget what's on it. But it works. The 500GB drive I got not long after, was sacrificed -- donated its PCB to a friend's near-identical drive which had a bad time. That one was a single volume with no MBR, all but filled with the one copy of lots of personal stuff after I setup LUKS, until I blew out the header with fdisk or something. Fun fun.
But then Seagate assimilated Maxtor and the word on the street was their drives got crappy all of a sudden. So I quit buying Seagate. Did that change in the meantime?