The Contenders

For this review, we decided to focus on the drives that users may currently have, instead of only the latest and greatest. We basically broke the contenders up into three categories: 10,000RPM Raptors, current generation 120GB 7200RPM 8MB cache drives, and older generation 7200 RPM 2MB cache drives.

The specific drives that we used are listed below:

Western Digital Raptor 1st Generation - 36GB (10,000RPM/8MB/SATA)
Western Digital Raptor 2nd Generation - 74GB (10,000RPM/8MB/SATA)

Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 - 120GB (7200RPM/8MB/PATA)
Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 - 120GB (7200RPM/8MB/PATA)
Western Digital Caviar SE - 120GB (7200RPM/8MB/PATA)

IBM Deskstar 75GXP - 30GB (7200RPM/2MB/PATA)
Maxtor D740X-6L - 80GB (7200RPM/2MB/PATA)

We will be testing more drives with our new benchmark suite as time goes on, so if there's a drive that you'd like to see reviewed, please let us know.

Index The Test
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  • SignalPST - Monday, June 07, 2004 - link

    Great review, I must say. But one thing that would certainly interest alot of people including myself would be using RAID. We know that using multiple hard drives in a RAID array is very popular among gamers and almost every motherboard out now supports RAID as well. I'm sure it'll be quite interesting to see 4 of 74GB Raptors in RAID 0 in future reviews! It would also be interesting to see the different effects of stripe sizes configurations. Reply
  • Doormat - Monday, June 07, 2004 - link

    What about putting some meta-data in there? Like current street price, length of warranty, etc. Also temperature would be nice.

    I'd kinda like to see some RAID tests too, I'm looking at RAID 5 for a bunch big drives for a video on demand system.

    Speaking of, a big-drive comparison would be cool too. Where's that hitachi 400GB drive they announced a while ago?
    Reply
  • Murst - Monday, June 07, 2004 - link

    Hmm,
    well, I'm pretty sure that there should be a significant difference in system performance when your system runs out of RAM. When virtual memory takes over, I have seen the performance of my computer drop significantly. I was hoping that a benchmark could be made showing just how large of a difference could be seen when virtual memory is a significant source of data for program execution. There should be a noticable difference in this performance between different drives.

    Also, it would be interesting to know if the file system on a drive makes a difference in performance. I have a feeling that if it does, it would be unnoticable, but nevertheless, unless its tested, we would never know for sure. I don't neccessairly mean the type of file system, either. Just as RAM can have different latency settings, so can a hard drive have different block sizes (and optimal block sizes).

    Again, I'm not positive if this would make a difference in performance, but I'm just trying to think of practical tests for hard drive performance.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, June 07, 2004 - link

    Murst,

    Sorry, the last response must've been posted at the same time as yours :)

    Both the Winstone and SYSMark tests use multiple applications running at the same time, but I do understand the point you're trying to make.

    We do have a synthetic test that shows the benefit of defragging a hard drive, but I have yet to do significant investigation in to how that affects performance between drives other than it reduces it.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, June 07, 2004 - link

    Must,

    The drives being tested are secondary drives only for the game loading tests and the theoretical IPEAK tests. The remaining Winstone and SYSMark tests all use the drive as the only drive in the system.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Murst - Monday, June 07, 2004 - link

    Hmm... let me clarify that. I believe that all of your tests were probably ran with no other programs executing. It would be interesting to see the difference in performance when a lot of page swapping is occurring (ie, fill up the page table by executing other programs and then run a benchmark).

    Oh, and I just thought of another issue... why not have a benchmark which evaluates a drop in performance of a drive with data that is, say, 60% fragmented as compared to mostly unfragmented data.
    Reply
  • Murst - Monday, June 07, 2004 - link

    Its nice to see a hard drive comparison. I will be building a new comp soon and I always wondered if I'd see a difference between drives.

    I do, however, have one concern. It seems like the drives you used were secondary drives in the system, with the operating system working off a different drive. I have always assumed that the largest benefit of choosing a very fast drive was to minimize the access and read times of a page fault (as I generally do not spend much time at all waiting for something to load). It would seem that none of your tests take this into consideration.

    Thanks
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, June 07, 2004 - link

    #1 - You're correct, the mentions of command queuing were leftover from some early tests on a new SATA controller with support for the feature. Those tests didn't make it into the article, and I've updated it accordingly.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • jliechty - Monday, June 07, 2004 - link

    #1 - I was under that assumption also. I do recall hearing of a controller chip that supported TCQ being in the works (or perhaps already available), but the question remains whether that chip has been put in any controllers that are on the market at this time?

    Anyway, I'm glad that my preciousss... er... my Raptor didn't do too badly, though for what I do I probably could have kept my old WD Caviar Special Edition and not noticed much of a difference, except for my wallet being heavier. :-(
    Reply
  • RyanVM - Monday, June 07, 2004 - link

    Doesn't the WD74GD require a controller which supports command queuing in order for that feature to be of actual use? And I was under the impression that no current SATA controllers support that function. Reply

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