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: WD Raptor vs. the World. The IPeak test can be designed to measure "pure" hard disk performance, and in this case, we kept the host adaptor consistent while varying the hard drive models. The idea is to measure the performance of individual hard drives with a consistent host adaptor.

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, 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.

The drive is formatted before each test run and three 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 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 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.

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 Anti-Virus 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 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.

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. This benchmark was updated for this article.

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. This benchmark was updated for this article.

Game Installation - individual trace files of the time it takes to install Oblivion, Sims2, 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 gates. The Sims2 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 Daquing Oilfield map in both single and multiplayer mode.

Feature Comparison and System Configuration HD Tach Performance
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  • patentman - Monday, July 31, 2006 - link

    To avoid superparamagnetism, engineers have been increasing the coercivity, the field size required to write a bit, of the disc media. These fields are limited by the magnetic materials making up the write head that will soon effectively limit drive sizes utilizing longitudinal recording. Although additional capacities are still achievable, the drive industry will be moving to perpendicular recording technology shortly as longitudinal recording has basically hit the proverbial brick wall after being utilized for nearly 50 years."

    I wrote a pretty detailed post on the anandtech forums about this a while back. You can check it out http://forums.anandtech.com/messageview.aspx?catid...">here" (I used to post under the nickname "klaviernista"). Considering I examined and issued a lot fo the patents that are the basis of seagate's perpendicular technology, I think I am more than qualified to speak on the matter.

    Oh, and for the record, the "soft" magent under layer is never truly "written to" during the reocrind gprocess. The soft magnetic underlayer is made of a material that has magnetic domains which rotate easily in response to an external magentic field. When the write field goes across any given point in the medium, it induces the field in the corresponding point on the soft magentic underlayer to rotate perpendicular to the medium. The article is correct in saying that the result is a substantial increase in write field intensity, but neglects to mention that the fields of the soft magnetic underlayer to not remain oriented perpendicular to the media surface after the write field from the magentic head is removed, whereas the fields in the magentic recording layer do remain oriented perpendicular to the media surface.

    The whole point of usuing a soft magnetic underlayer is to allow magnetic materials with very high coercivity to be used as the recoprding layer. Why do you need a very high coercivity recording layer in high density recordng media? See the post I linked to above and read the discussed about "intergranular exchange coupling."
    Reply
  • jackylman - Thursday, July 27, 2006 - link

    In the pulldown menu, accoustics -> acoustics Reply
  • SonicIce - Thursday, July 27, 2006 - link

    Even with an extra platter to lug around, the Western Digital was quieter and cooler! Reply
  • madfly - Thursday, July 27, 2006 - link

    if you want to have the seagate hard drive cross shipped where they send you a replacement and you return the defective one back to them they charge $25, considering the hard drive cost $99, that there is a ripoff. I had this happen to me with a 250GB HD that I bought last year, so I'll be spending my money with one of the others unless the deal is ridiculous. Reply
  • Mana211 - Thursday, July 27, 2006 - link

    SPCR uses 1 meter (aka 1000mm or 200 times your stated distance) to measure SPL.

    "Each drive is measured for SPL one meter away from the top of the hard drive. Hard drive noise tends to be directional, the loudest position being directly over the top. SPL readings typically drop by 2~3 dBA/1m when measured from the side of the drive. The drive is placed on a soft foam to ensure that no vibration noise is produced during testing."

    The there is an entire category of sounds you hear at 5mm that wouldn't be noticable from outside a case.

    Take this quote from SPCR: "Consider the distance of Hardware.fr's recording microphone: 5cm from the HDD. This is a serious problem. There's no way the decibel reading can be accurate due to boundary effects. It's the same problem at storagereview.com -- not even relative differences are necessarily correct due to compression effects; the close proximity impacts every measurement similarly, reducing differences."

    http://www.silentpcreview.com/article631-page1.htm...">http://www.silentpcreview.com/article631-page1.htm... shows that the new audio recordings (not to be confused with the SPL Dba numbers) will use two recording distances:

    * One meter so that "nominal" volume, audibility, and sound character can be judged.
    * One foot (or 30 cm if you will) to capture all the details from even the quietest noise sources.
    Reply
  • tuteja1986 - Thursday, July 27, 2006 - link

    Western digital for me since i want a quiet and cool drive. Reply
  • crydee - Thursday, July 27, 2006 - link

    The WD400YR and WD500YS seem very close to performance with the Raptor, but I can't find the WD400YR on pricewatch on newegg also I read about the WD drivers having a high rate of doa? Reply
  • AdamK47 3DS - Thursday, July 27, 2006 - link

    The Seagate drive has a performance advantage with the two 160GB platters. Anandtech is still ignoring the advantages of higher platter densities. Why is that? Platter density is one of the features I look at when purchasing a new drive. It's a good indication of performance when compared to another drive of the same total capacity. You have two 320GB drives reviewed with different number of platters and yet there is no mention of this other than the table. It's very odd. Reply
  • evilharp - Thursday, July 27, 2006 - link

    Check your "price bot" settings. Currently you list the following deals for a "Western Digital Caviar® SE16"

    quote:


    AnandTech Deals

    Western Digital Caviar® SE16

    Prices
    >Buy.com $2,235.99
    >Business Computing Network $2,157.78
    >TECHONWEB $2,189.44
    >Super Warehouse $2,620.99
    >PCNation $2,478.80
    >PhotoAlley.com $2,840.05
    >cameraworld.com $2,840.05
    >iUnitek $2,479.87


    I followed the Business Computing Network link (simply due to the crazy price) and it is for a 20 unit bulk purchase.

    Reply
  • Booty - Thursday, July 27, 2006 - link

    On the last page it should be listed that the WD has a 3 year warranty for retail and 1 year for OEM - you have them switched. Reply

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