Test Setup - Software

With the variety of disk drive benchmarks available, we needed a means of comparing the true performance of the hard drives in real world applications. We will continue to utilize HD Tach, PCMark05, Disk Bench, IOMeter (enterprise drive comparisons), and our internal timing program for comparative benchmarks; however, we will be also be adding some new tests. Our logical choice for application benchmarking is the Intel IPEAK Storage Performance Toolkit version 3. We originally started using this storage benchmark application in our Q2 2004 Desktop Hard Drive Comparison: WD Raptor vs. the World. The IPEAK test can be used to measure "pure" hard disk performance, and in this case, we kept the host adaptor as consistent as possible while varying the hard drive models. The idea is to measure the performance of a hard drive with a consistent platform.

We utilize the IPEAK WinTrace32 program to record precise I/O operations when running real world benchmarks. WinTrace32 will only record the accesses it makes to the operating system host adapter driver. We then utilize the IPEAK AnalyzeTrace program to review the disk trace file for integrity and ensure our trace files have properly captured the disk activities we are reporting in our benchmarks. Intel's RankDisk utility is then used to play back the workload of all I/O operations that took place during the recording. RankDisk plays back every request exactly as generated in the WinTrace32 capture file.

RankDisk then generates results in a mean service time in milliseconds format; in other words, the average time that each drive took to fulfill each I/O operation. In order to make the data more understandable, we report the scores as an average number of I/O operations per second so that higher scores translate into better performance in all of our IPEAK results. While these measurements will provide a score representing "pure" hard drive performance, the actual impact of a drive's performance in real world applications can and will be different based upon other system level components. However, the Intel IPEAK tool set does generate an extremely accurate capture and playback of any given workload in an application. Based on this testing methodology our results are an actual representation of the drive's performance within the application.

Our IPEAK tests represent a fairly extensive cross section of applications and usage patterns for both the general and enthusiast user. We will continually tailor these benchmarks with an eye towards the drive's intended usage and feature set when compared to similar drives. In essence, although we will report results from our test suite for all drives, it is important to realize a drive designed for PVR duty will generate significantly different scores in our gaming benchmarks than a drive designed with this purpose in mind such as the WD Raptor. This does not necessarily make the PVR drive a bad choice for those who capture and manipulate video while also gaming. Hopefully our comments in the results sections will offer proper guidance for making a purchasing decision in these situations.

The drive is formatted before each test run and 3 tests are completed on each drive in order to ensure consistency in the benchmark results. The high and low scores are removed with the remaining score representing our reported result. We utilize the NVIDIA nF4 SATA ports along with the NVIDIA IDE-SW driver to ensure consistency in our playback results when utilizing NCQ, TCQ, or RAID settings.

Our IPEAK Test Suite consists of the following benchmarks:

VeriTest Business Winstone 2004: Trace file of the entire test suite that includes applications such as Microsoft Office XP, WinZip 8.1, and Norton Antivirus 2003.

VeriTest Multimedia Content Creation 2004: Trace file of the entire test suite that includes applications such as Adobe Photoshop 7.01, Macromedia Director MX 9.0, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9.0, Newtek Lightwave 3D 7.5b, and others.

AVG Antivirus 7.1.392: Trace file of a complete antivirus scan on our test bed hard drive.

Microsoft Disk Defragmenter: Trace file of the complete defragmentation process after the operating system and all applications were installed on our test bed hard drive.

WinRAR 3.51: Trace file of creating a single compressed folder consisting of 444 files in 10 different folders totaling 602MB. The test is split into the time it takes to compress the files and the time it takes to decompress the files.

File Transfer: Individual trace files of transferring the Office Space DVD files to our source drive and transferring the files back to our test drive. The content being transferred consists of 29 files with a data content of 7.55GB.

AnyDVD 5.9.6: Trace file of the time it takes to "rip" the Office Space DVD. We first copy the entire DVD over to our Seagate 7200.10 750GB source drive, defragment this drive, and then measure the time it takes for AnyDVD to "rip" the contents to our test drive. While this is not ideal, it does remove the optical drive as a potential bottleneck during the extraction process and allows us to track the write performance of the drive.

Nero Recode 2: Trace file of the time it takes to shrink the entire Office Space DVD that was extracted in the AnyDVD process into a single 4.5GB DVD image.

Video Streaming: Trace file of the time it takes to capture and record Chapter 11 of Office Space with our NVIDIA DualTV MCE tuner card while viewing Chapter 10 utilizing PowerDVD 6. Chapter 10 has already been recorded and is playing from our source drive while Chapter 11 is being streamed from our Media Server.

Audio Encoding/Video Capture: Trace file of the time it takes Nero Digital Audio to extract all 16 tracks from INXS Greatest Hits CD and convert them into an mp4 format while capturing and recording Chapter 11 of Office Space with our NVIDIA tuner card. We changed the Nero default quality settings to transcoder-ultra, variable bit rate, encoder quality to high, and the AAC profile to LC.

Game Installation: Individual trace files of the time it takes to install Oblivion, Sims 2, and Battlefield 2. We copy each DVD to our secondary Seagate 750GB drive, defragment the drive, and then install each game to our source drive.

Game Play: Individual trace files that capture the startup and about 15 minutes of game play in each game. Our Oblivion trace file consists of visiting 16 different areas within the game, interacting with individual characters, and passing through three different Oblivion gates. The Sims 2 trace file consists of the time it takes to select a pre-configured character; setup a university, downtown, and shopping district from each expansion pack (pre-loaded); and then visit each section before returning home. Our final trace file utilizes Battlefield 2 and we play the Daqing Oilfield map in both single and multiplayer mode.

Feature Set and Options Test Setup - Hardware
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  • Gary Key - Thursday, May 18, 2006 - link

    quote:

    To avoid such errors being made when comparing BETWEEN reviews, please clearly label the audio charts not just "db" but "db(A)@5mm"


    The charts have been changed. :)
    Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Thursday, May 18, 2006 - link

    I like the "db(A)@5mm" sugestion. Reply
  • FallenDeathAngel - Thursday, May 18, 2006 - link

    The Raptor

    WD1500ADFD Western Digital
    Raptor
    WD5000YS

    Yes....
    Reply
  • SpaceRanger - Thursday, May 18, 2006 - link

    That the only drive you tested in RAID-0, was the new Seagate drive. The performace charts are kinda useless when the RAID-0 scores are included, cause it misleadingly shows the Seagate drive on top of a good portion of them. Without examples of RAID-0 performance from the WD1500 Raptor, or the WD5000YS, you are giving the impression of favoritism towards the Seagate drive.

    Reply
  • Gary Key - Thursday, May 18, 2006 - link

    Good Day....

    quote:

    That the only drive you tested in RAID-0, was the new Seagate drive.


    from page 5-
    We are providing RAID 0 results for the Seagate 7200.10 for comparative results to the single drive. Seagate has recently released updated firmware for the 500GB 7200.9 that improves RAID performance; unfortunately we were unable to complete our testing with the new firmware before publication. Our RAID results for the WD1500 series will be published in our next storage article.

    quote:

    Without examples of RAID-0 performance from the WD1500 Raptor, or the WD5000YS, you are giving the impression of favoritism towards the Seagate drive.


    We will have RAID O results for both of these drives in the 500GB roundup. We are not tyring to show favoritism towards the Seagate drive. Our comments are quite clear about the effects of RAID 0 in the I/O operations that while interesting, they do not always translate to actual 1:1 improvements in application usage. Our application timing tests bear this out to some degree.

    We debated on showing the Seagate RAID 0 results as it is a no win situation. I am sure based upon the comments from our last couple of reviews that about as many people would be asking why we did not provide RAID 0 results. We are currently completing the RAID 0 results with the WD1500 drives, we ran into a couple of issues that required technical conversations with WD. Also, the sheer scope of testing every drive in RAID configurations is extremely time consuming with results that are basically the same when compared to the single drive scores.

    My personal opinion is that RAID 0 is only effective in such a limited scope of applications that we should not report it at all. However, this feature has been pushed by the core logic chipset suppliers, marketed by the motherboard suppliers, and eventually becomes a test request by the user community. I would much rather show the benefits of RAID 5, 0+1, 10 in a separate article, which we will in the future. It is difficult at times to procure three samples of each drive. ;-)

    I appreciate your comments, they will probably not be the last on this subject.
    Reply
  • srk052004 - Thursday, May 25, 2006 - link

    Hi Gary (and all). I have been told that for my purposes (manipulating 40gb SAS or SPSS data sets), RAID 0 really would be appropriate. Do you agree? Or, would you say that RAID 10 would still be preferable?

    I, too, would LOVE to see results comparing different capacities of 7200.10.

    BTW, this was an interesting review.
    Reply
  • SpaceRanger - Thursday, May 18, 2006 - link

    Thank you for the quick response :)

    If you wants to show the comparision between RAID-0 and the Single drive, then have seperate charts showing just those 2. It makes the analysis of the performance much easier.

    quote:

    My personal opinion is that RAID 0 is only effective in such a limited scope of applications that we should not report it at all. However, this feature has been pushed by the core logic chipset suppliers, marketed by the motherboard suppliers, and eventually becomes a test request by the user community. I would much rather show the benefits of RAID 5, 0+1, 10 in a separate article, which we will in the future. It is difficult at times to procure three samples of each drive. ;-)


    Now THAT'S an article I'd love to read as well!

    Reply
  • Zoomer - Friday, May 26, 2006 - link

    Ditto. It would be a nice way to split up articles into _more_ managable chunks of work!

    Thanks for the review! Will be looking forward to the ibm (hitachi), seagate and WD shootout.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Saturday, June 24, 2006 - link

    We will change our format in July with the 500GB and 250~320GB roundups. I too would like to manage the chunks of work in different fashion. Reply
  • Questar - Thursday, May 18, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Seagate has advertised that the 7200.10 product is quieter in comparison to Barracuda 7200.9 in both idle and seek modes due to further refinements in their "Softsonic" motor technology. During our testing we came to a slightly different conclusion based upon our test methodology. We found the drive did have slightly better acoustic results than the 7200.9 500GB drive


    Then what was different than what Seagate claimed?

    Reply

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