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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  • DrMrLordX - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    That article certainly changed my perspective on Raptor performance. It's clear that the older 74 gig Raptor just can't hang with the big boys. I had heard that the new 74 gigger was the fastest, but your results seem to refute that entirely. The 150 gigger wins out more often than not. Reply
  • the Chase - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    Yeah I'm glad AT did this review as haven't seen much on the new 74GIG model. Now what I'd LOVE to see is how the new 36GIG models do in all of this and how 2 of them in RAID would compare to the bigger drives.

    Any chance of slipping in the new 36GIG model sometime Gary?

    Thanks for the review.:)

    Reply
  • Gary Key - Thursday, February 8, 2007 - link

    Hi,

    We will have numbers on the 36GB ADFD in the next roundup. Also, we will be updating our RAID article from 2004 to see if the landscape has changed in regards to RAID 0 performance on the desktop but more importantly taking a serious look at RAID 1, 0+1, 10, and 5 on today's motherboard chipsets. We plan on this in March but the next HD article to go up will include the new 500GB drives from all suppliers.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    I find it surprising that the older model 74GB Raptor beats the new 74GB model in nearly every test. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    heehee Never mind. I got the model numbers mixed up. :-)
    Reply
  • Jedi2155 - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    I find it even more interesting that a 320 GB 7200.10 beat out a 750 GB 7200.10 in a number of benchmarks.

    I also appreciate the mention of the Dell OEM Raptors with myself being a proud owner of a 160 GB Raptor :). (Which I got for a mere $160)
    Reply

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