IBM's Deskstar series has always been highly regarded by both users and hardware sites alike. Classics such as the Deskstar 5 and Deskstar 8 established Big Blue, always a force in the storage industry as a whole, as a contender in the consumer-class hard disk arena. It was therefore with some dismay that many witnessed IBM sit on the sidelines as companies such as Maxtor, Western Digital, Seagate, and Quantum all marched forward with 7200rpm drives storing 10 gigs of data on a single platter.
By mid-March, however, we watched with astonishment as Big Blue announced a 7200rpm drive utilizing 15 gig platters... right around the same time the competition was announcing 5400rpm/15GB disks. IBM has, however, been notorious for getting everyone drooling over specs issued in a press release while literally taking seasons to deliver products to end users. The Deskstar 14GXP (Big Blue's first 7200rpm ATA unit), for example, took no less than eight months to hit wide availability in retail channels. As a result, we regarded IBM's announcement with enthusiasm tempered by skepticism.
"Only" two months later, however, we've been pleasantly surprised by reports that the 75GXP is indeed trickling into the inventories of various resellers. This is no longer that the wait most experienced for, say, the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 40, a drive which inspired a kind of demand we've never quite seen before . And let's not even touch the delays that have hit Big Blue's next-generation 10k units (and those of Quantum's, for that matter).
Veteran readers are probably well aware of our penchant to review the "flagship" model in a given drive family. It's the most consistent method we've been able to come up with. Thus, we've been holding out for a little while, hoping that the 75 gig (!) version of the 75GXP would become available soon. Unfortunately, this hasn't been the case. Further, ASL, a manufacturer of high-performance Linux PCs, had kindly offered to loan us a 45 gig version of the 75GXP. Keeping in mind the hordes of eager readers depending on SR to deliver a timely report on the family, how could we refuse?
15 gigs per platter combined with IBM's exclusive 5 platter ATA designs yields that massive flagship 75 gig capacity. In addition to 7200rpm and sky-high areal density, the Deskstar 75GXP comes to the table equipped with a very attractive seek time. At 8.5 milliseconds, the 75GXP represents IBM's first foray below the "nine ms barrier." The drive also features a 2 megabyte buffer, made standard by its ancestor, the Deskstar 22GXP (and the related Western Digital Expert). A standard 3 year warranty protects the drive.
IBM calls the 75GXP an "ATA-66+" drive. Basically, the units feature an ATA-66 interface that can be upgraded to ATA-100 as such a standard gets hammered out. Such an upgrade, however, won't make a difference in the drive's performance in virtually all applications.
The figures that follow have been taken from the three-platter version of the 75GXP. For consistency's sake, we plan to flesh out the SR Database with figures from the five-platter flagship as soon as possible. In all practicality, however, expect no difference in performance between drives within the same family.