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. While we will continue to utilize HDTach and PCMark05 for comparative benchmarks 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. The iPeak test can be designed to measure "pure" hard disk performance, and in this case we kept the host adapter consistent while varying the hard drive models. The idea is to measure the performance of individual hard drives with a consistent host adapter.

We utilize the iPeak WinTrace32 program to record precise I/O operations when running real world benchmarks. We then utilize the iPeak AnalyzeTrace program to review the disk trace file for integrity and ensure our trace files have properly captured the activities we required. Intel's RankDisk utility is used to play back the workload of all I/O operations that took place during the recording. RankDisk generates results in a mean service time in milliseconds format; in other words, it gives 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 on the real world applications can and will be different.

Each drive is formatted before each test run and three tests are completed in order to ensure consistency in the benchmark results. The high and low scores are removed with the remaining median 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. Although we test NCQ capabilities, all of our reported results are generated with NCQ off unless otherwise noted.

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 reports 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 gaming 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. 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 file 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 content size 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 source drives, defragment the 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.

Game Installation: individual trace files of the time it takes to install Sims 2 and Battlefield 2. We copy each DVD to our secondary test drives, 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. The Sims 2 trace file consists of the time it takes to select a pre-configured character, setup a university, downtown, business 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.

Features and Hardware Setup Theoretical Performance: HDTune
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  • Genx87 - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    Once you have one you cant go back :D
    They are wonderful drives. The capacity issue isnt a big deal unless you are opting for the 36GB version. I havent had a need for excessive amounts of capacity since I built my sever a couple of years ago.

    I built a server with a pair of the 36GBs with a 500GB array behind it for storage. It is a very nice step up from the pair of 80GB 7200 rpm drives in there before.
    Reply
  • aka1nas - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    They definately make great OS/Applications drives if you back them up with a bigger drive for bulk storage. Reply
  • Genx87 - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    oops forgot to mention my machine at home has the newest 74GB raptor in it. Which is an upgrade from the 1st run 74GB raptor in my old machine.

    Blazing fast, as usual.
    Reply
  • Muzzy - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    "Of course, if you are into benchmarking or run a lot of disk intensive applications, then a pair of Raptors in RAID 0 will be even better."

    Um, aren't you guys contradicting yourself here? In July 1st, 2004 article about Raptor drives in RAID-0, you stated "If you haven't gotten the hint by now, we'll spell it out for you: there is no place, and no need for a RAID-0 array on a desktop computer." I love my 150GB Raptor despite the noise, don't get me wrong. Really do wish though that other company would give WD some competition in this category. $190 for 150GB??
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    Most people don't really care about running benchmarks for bragging rights, and most desktop users do not "run a lot of disk intensive applications". We don't think RAID 0 is even remotely necessary for 99% of people, but there are still benchmarks where it is obviously faster. If you have BitTorrent running in the background with other networked computers streaming data off of the same drive and you start to run games that load off of the same drive, yes, RAID 0 will clearly outperform a single drive. That's more of a server/workstation workload, which is why we say that RAID 0 on a desktop computer isn't needed. Reply
  • Axbattler - Thursday, February 8, 2007 - link

    *Ponders*

    Where RAID-0 excels is in STR performance. Loading of applications that benefit from STR (e.g. XP), copying a large massive file, working with a large massive file (video editing) etc. are applications where you will see a significant gain with RAID-0.

    RAID-0 may well be faster than a single drive identical drive in most applications (you do pay slightly in access time, but the gain from STR can probably offset it more often than not).. But how about a well two individual drives in a reasonably configured system? I am not convinced that in the scenario that you've described (which, I do not believe reflects the nature of the workload in a server in the first place), that you are necessarily better off with RAID-0 than two individual drives. I would rather have one drive running the game, and the other doing the streaming/torrenting. Game loading time is not exactly where I've seen RAID-0 shine the most (and once the game is running, you'll pretty much get no gain from RAID-0).
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, February 8, 2007 - link

    Then carry it a bit further. Basically, I'm saying that if you generate enough concurrent HDD accesses, RAID 0 will outperform single drives. You might get better performance from two drives without RAID 0, but then you need to worry about having separate volumes and what happens if most of the accesses start to target a single drive. Basically, RAID 0 can be faster than an individual drive, but this mostly occurs in unrealistic situations, as you point out. RAID 0 mostly seems to be for bragging rights, and I certainly don't recommend it. Reply
  • lemonadesoda - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    Most Raptorers (the people who love and install them) typically choose a dual drive RAID setup for ultimate HDD performance.

    However, seeing the (very close) performance of Seagate 7200.10, I would be very interested to see Raptors in RAID vs 7200.10 in RAID.

    Would the performance gap INCREASE or DECREASE in such a configuration?
    Reply
  • Le Québécois - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    It's nice to see my WD1500ADFD is still the top gaming drive on the market. Still something has been bothering me for some time now.

    I've always found intriguing that my Raptor temperature is about 40% lower (idle and under load) than the one you post on every HDD articles. I have a 80mm Antec front fan but still the temperature is 40% lower, not 25%.

    What's the room temperature? You always post the base dB of the room but I don't remember ever seeing the temperature.
    Reply
  • jabber - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    Indeed, I bought one of these 74Gb Raptors a few weeks ago and it never gets more than slightly warm. Certainly doesnt warrant an 80mm fan blasting on it.

    I do recommend the WD Secure SATA cable though. Great bit of kit. How the standard SATA cable connection setup got approved I'll never know.

    The niggle I have is that 74Gb is too small? I have a full XP install, several apps and games (BF2/Total War etc. etc. and its still got plenty of space. Why would you bother cluttering up your main system HD with non-essential stuff like media files? Just get a cheap 400Gb+ for that sort of thing where performance isnt an issue.
    Reply

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