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IBM Deskstar 75GXP DTLA-307045
  May 18, 2000 Author: Eugene Ra  
Evaluation unit provided by ASL.
See also: Rounding Out the Database: The Seagate Barracuda ATA ST320430 and IBM Deskstar 75GXP DTLA-307075

Introduction

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.

WB99/Win2k Low-Level Measurements

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Click here to examine the STR graph for this drive

The Deskstar 75GXP's stratospheric areal density combined with its 7200rpm operation result in a sequential transfer rate in outermost zones of 37.2 MB/sec, the second-highest figure we've ever witnessed (2nd only to the SCSI Quantum Atlas 10k II).

The drive's access time measures in at 12.4 milliseconds, implying that the drive easily beats its advertised seek time. Ignoring overhead, such a figure indicates a seek time of 8.2 milliseconds. Not shabby at all!

So then, how do these blazing figures translate into performance? Read on!

WB99/Win2k WinMarks

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IBM's drive turns in impressive WinBench 99 scores when compared to the Quantum Fireball Plus LM, the Leaderboard champion at the time of this review. The Deskstar 75GXP's Business Disk WinMark 99 score weighs in at over 7600 KB/sec, besting the Quantum's score by a 14% margin.

The 75GXP's performance in the High-End Disk WinMark 99 (a measure chock-full of heavily STR-dependent applications) is even more impressive. Here we find the IBM falling just short of 20 MB/sec, a figure that places it ahead of the Fireball Plus LM by more than 20%.

As impressive as these figures are, however, they must be taken with the knowledge that WinBench 99's Disk Winmarks, by far the most popular measure of HD speed, are over a year and a half old. Thus, it's very important for drives to perform well in the more rigorous IOMeter. Let's see how the 75GXP fares.

IOMeter Performance

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The Quantum Fireball Plus LM's blistering access time (about the lowest we've ever measured in an ATA drive) gives it an advantage in a Linear Load Workstation IOMeter scenario. The Deskstar 75GXP trails the leader by about 7%. This gap shrinks to 6% in Very Light loads, a load reached while starting up such common applications as Windows Notepad or Calculator.

It's in the more meaty Light, Moderate, and Heavy loads that the 75GXP manages to flex its muscles. In these cases, the Deskstar virtually matches the Fireball in performance, lagging by insigificant margins of less than 2%.

As an aside, it's interesting to note that while the ever popular Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 40 manages to keep up with the competition quite well in WinBench 99, offerings from IBM and Quantum hit the next level of IOMeter performance.

Conclusion

In addition to performance, IBM drives have been renown for quiet, unobtrusive operation. IBM's Deskstar 5, for example, was markedly quieter than the competition... and remember, that was a couple years before the emphasis on acoustics currently sweeping ATA drive manufacturers. The Deskstar 75GXP is no exception, turning in muted performance reminiscent of the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 40. In other words, it's a bit quieter than the similarly performing Quantum Fireball Plus LM.

The drive also operates just slightly warm to the touch in our minitower-based testbed without active cooling. Remember, however, that we've deviated from our usual policy of testing flagship models. We're normally able to deliver "worst case" scenarios when it comes to heat and noise projection since it stands to reason that the drive model with the most platters would emit the most of both in the family. The larger brothers of the 45 gig 75GXP (60 gigs and 75 gigs) may be a bit hotter, or a bit noisier than what we experienced here.

-- The StorageReview.com Safe Buy Award --

Simply put, this designation means we'd purchase this product without regret. Sure, there may be a slightly better, slightly faster, and/or slightly less-expensive model from a competitor, but you can't go wrong with this particular unit. This award is applicable, of course, to all units at the top of their class, but also applies to units that, though not quite best-of-class, provide a strong showing nonetheless. Though many seemed to view the 75GXP's imminent arrival as a major revolution in the ATA drive landscape, it turns out that IBM's entry merely matches the top-performing drive that's already been shipping for a while from Quantum. The 75GXP, however, delivers performance matching the Fireball Plus LM in capacities that easily exceed the maximum provided by Quantum's line. Further, it manages to do so while operating a touch more quietly. And let's not forget the record-setting WinBench 99 scores, still important to quite a few. Taken as a whole, the Deskstar 75GXP series offers a mighty attractive package. The only mar in the deal is the somewhat high pricing that initially accompanies the intro of IBM's latest series. Given just a bit of time, however, prices should come right in line.

IBM Deskstar 75GXP DTLA-307045
Estimated Price: $349
Also Available: DTLA-307075 (75 GB); DTLA-307060 (60 GB); DTLA-307030 (30 GB); DTLA-307020 (20 GB); DTLA-307015 (15 GB)
Specifications
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