Advances in areal density seem inexorable. We opened the year 2000 with hard drives packing a whopping 10 gigabytes per platter... yet less than five months later, ten gigs a platter seems rather tame. Now we've got drives with 15 gigs on a single disk just around the horizon. Research divisions of manufacturers such as IBM, Seagate, and Fujitsu keep on proclaiming breakthrough after breakthrough in recording technology that just keeps pushing the "superparamagnetic limit" (the theoretical maximum areal density) further and further back. Current estimates imply that 200 gig/platter drives won't be out of the ordinary 10 years from now!
Despite the major breakthroughs that come from the huge conglomerates listed above, the smaller Maxtor Corp. has been the most instrumental in quickly bringing these benefits to bear on shipping products. Shortly after StorageReview.com's launch in March 98, Maxtor was the first to ship a 2.9 gig/platter drive, the DiamondMax 2880. Similarly, the 4.3 gig/platter plateau was broached first by Maxtor with the DiamondMax 4320. The first drive to hit 6.8 gigs/platter? The DiamondMax 6800, of course. Finally, the DiamondMax 40 was the first to break the 10 gig/platter barrier.
The race to deliver the first 15 gig/platter unit is a tight one. Maxtor, Quantum, and IBM all promise delivery of such drives within a couple weeks. IBM's unit, in particular, is intriguing due to its 7200rpm operation. Yet it was little surprise to us that Maxtor was the first company to actually deliver a unit into our hands.
Unlike all other manufacturers, Maxtor has yet to throttle back platter counts in its venerable 5400rpm DiamondMax line. Big Blue, the other holdout, has finally caved, deciding to ship its upcoming 5400rpm drive (20 GB/platter, no less!) with only two disks in the flagship model. As its name implies, however, the DiamondMax 60 in its largest incarnation packs 60 gigs of data into a single 1" high form factor utilizing four platters. Wow!
The 60's other primary specs are right in line with its predecessors. The unit features 5400rpm operation, a 9 millisecond seek time, and a 2 meg buffer. A three-year warranty backs the drive.
Extolling the virtues of quiet operation has become quite popular with manufacturers these days. Maxtor's "Silent Store" technology debuts with the DiamondMax 60. Maxtor describes the two modes of Silent Store as such:
"Performance mode operates in a seek profile that is fully optimized for the fastest possible performance. The quiet mode brings seek acoustics within one dBA of idle acoustics, with minimal change to performance, to accommodate noise-sensitive storage environments."
Simply put, Silent Store allows one to slow down seeks, muting produced noise. According to a Maxtor representative, the mode can't be end-user toggled. Since the drive is marketed towards entry-level rather than performance-oriented situations, it ships by default in "Quiet Mode." OEMs or VARs ordering quantities of the drive can request them to be toggled to "Performance" before shipping from the factory. The reliability hit parade also continues... on this front, the DiamondMax 60 debuts "Adaptive ATA Control," a technology which nebulously senses "environmental conditions" and adjusts ATA timings accordingly. Uh, ok .
So, how does Maxtor's latest and greatest 5400rpm unit perform? Let's move on to some figures!