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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  • AnnonymousCoward - Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - link

    Good review. I don't think I'll ever buy one of these. For as expensive as they are, the storage size is small and the performance diff is minuscule. Sims2 loading: 30s vs 31s! MP4 conversion: 3:04 vs 3:14! Amazing!

    Then the thermals and acoustics are really bad.
    Reply
  • Lakeshow - Friday, February 9, 2007 - link

    I think 74GB is plenty for an OS drive (hell even 36GB should suffice). Sure a 500 gig is cheaper, but I would never use that as my OS drive: simply too much stuff to back up when doing a reformat. Yeah I can do partitions, but then file transfer between partitions is much slower than between two drives, which is why I have my 74GB Raptor as OS drive, 500 giger as D:/storage drive, and then a 36GB Raptor as E: drive for torrent downloads.
    Reply
  • JonathanYoung - Thursday, February 8, 2007 - link

    I think the graphs look great, but in the ones with minutes and seconds, I would suggest using a colon (e.g. 3:05) to denote minutes:seconds instead of a decimal, which makes me think 3.05 minutes (3 minutes 3 seconds). Thanks. Reply
  • Gary Key - Thursday, February 8, 2007 - link

    We have an updated graphing engine coming on-line in the next few weeks that hopefully will fix that issue. It bugs me to no end to use the decimal point in that way. ;) Reply
  • TheBeagle - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    Gary, as usual, you did a helluva job on a first-class review on these new generation Raptor drives. However, you especially captured my attention when you wrote "Although TLER is disabled by default, a utility is available from Western Digital to enable TLER." The existence of such a "utility" was a revelation to me. I have a couple of these same 74 GB and 150GB drives, each running in pairs in a RAID 1 environment, and I didn't have any knowledge of such an enabling/disabling "utility." Can you share the source for such a little delight and how we mere mortals get our hands in such a thing? Thanks again for a stellar report, and now we can just hope that WD adopts perpendicular recording (ala 7200.10) and SATA II specs for a world-beater drive. TheBeagle Reply
  • TheBeagle - Saturday, February 17, 2007 - link

    I got WD to send me a copy of the TLER "utility." To my surprise, when you run it on new generation Raptor or "YS" series drives, it shows you some very interesting information. First of all there are two (2) separate TLER setting for these drives, namely a read setting and a write setting. On Raptor drives, BOTH ARE DISABLED from the factory! That's right, even though WD advertises this feature as being built into the Raptor drives, it's NOT OPERATIONAL unless you get your hands on the "secret" utility and activate it. On the YS drives, ONLY THE READ feature is activated, and the write feature is disabled. BTW, although WD says that the TLER feature on YS series drives cannot be disabled, the utility has a command that will do just that, disable both the read and write (if you have activated it) feature on those drives. I think WD has some serious explaining to do about all of this, since they (WD) have been creating a false impression to the buying public about these TLER features in these drives! Reply
  • Makaveli - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    he is right it all comes down to your usages pattern, in general home users don't need Raid O. However, if u happen to say be running a webserver from home, or doing alot of Disk intensive stuff its a good investment, but the original Comment still stands.

    I would never go raid 0 in a gaming rig, a 75/150 Raptor + Storage drive is a far more optimal solution.
    Reply
  • Makaveli - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    hey is right it all comes down to your usages pattern, in general home users don't need Raid O. However, if u happen to say be running a webserver from home, or doing alot of Disk intensive stuff its a good investment, but the original Comment still stands.

    I would never go raid 0 in a gaming rig, a 75/150 Raptor + Storage drive is a far more optimal solution.
    Reply
  • Brassbullet - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    So does the fact that I have a WD740ADFD-00NLR as my Windows XP boot drive and a Seagate 7200.10 750 GB as my "My Documents" location mean I'm living the I/O dream? I've had this setup for months and didn't really think much of it, man was this article a PC ego booster!! Reply
  • littlebitstrouds - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    This makes me feel good about the $109 I just paid for my new 150gig at BB because I Vista too. Reply

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