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Rounding Out the Database: The Seagate Barracuda ATA ST320430 and IBM Deskstar 75GXP DTLA-307075
  June 12, 2000 Author: Eugene Ra  
IBM Deskstar 75GXP provided by Medea Corp.
See Also: IBM Deskstar 75GXP DTLA-307045
Seagate Barracuda ATA provided by Tim Zakharov

Introduction

Readers may recall that our original Deskstar 75GXP article that our sample was in fact a non-flagship representative... to bring a report to our readers in a timely manner, we had to forgo our usual practice of taking a look at the largest drive in a given family (in this case, the 75 gig version) in favor of a smaller capacity (45 gigs, provided by ASL). As part of our ATA RAID investigation, however, Medea Corp has been gracious enough to loan us an evaluation sample of their VideoRaid 4/300 RT. This beast consists of four Deskstar 75GXPs combined with custom electronics in its own chassis. We're thus afforded the opportunity of delivering on our promise of flagship 75GXP results.

Bringing on Associate Editor Tim Zakharov (if you've missed them, make sure you check out his outstanding ATAPI and SCSI CD-ROM Roundups!) has opened his arsenal up for testing. Though we've covered all the drives he possesses, an interesting opportunity has arisen in the case if his 20.4 gig Barracuda ATA. Our previous tests were conducted on the flagship ST328040, a drive that at the time of publication featured a specified seek time of 8.6 milliseconds. As low as that was, after we went to press, Seagate stated that they had revised the seek time down to a cool 8ms (though our own tests showed that the 'Cuda was hard pressed to meet even its original 8.6ms spec). The original 'Cuda ATA series, however, was one of those rare breeds that actually featured different specified seek times between models. Though the flagship 28 gig unit featured an 8ms seek, smaller members claimed an incredible 7.6 milliseconds... easily the lowest yet claimed for an ATA drive. When combined with the fact that the original 'Cuda ATA family had no representation in the new testbed Database, taking it out for a spin was a no-brainer.

The DTLA-307075 shares exactly the same specs as its smaller 45 gig brother, save only capacity. Both drives feature 7200rpm spindle speeds, 8.5 millisecond seek times, 15 gigs per platter, and a 2 megabyte buffer. The standout for the 75 gig model is, well, it's 75 gig capacity. Packing 5 platters into a single one-inch high profile, this 75GXP is currently the highest-capacity drive around, ATA or SCSI. It even edges out 1.6" high models such as the Cheetah 73 or Atlas 10k II 73. In 1999, it took the 5400rpm Deskstar 37GP to edge out the leading 36 gig SCSI drive... and this was in September, no less. In 1998, the Maxtor DiamondMax 4320 shipped in late October, its 17.2 gigs not even displacing the 18.2 gig maximum that SCSI had created. In 1997... there was no StorageReview.com, so it's irrelevant .

The ST320430A, also a 7200rpm drive, features three 6.8 gig platters yielding a capacity of 20.4 GB. Again, by far its most impressive spec is its claimed 7.6ms seek time. Even the drive's successor, the Barracuda ATA II, specifies a seek of 8.2ms. The 'Cuda ATA features a 512k buffer, a size that seems positively paltry these days.

Summarized: We're taking a look at the 75 gig 75GXP to maintain our policy of testing flagship drives whenever possible. The 20 gig 'Cuda, on the other hand, deserves a second look due to its impressive seek time. It's become clear that low access times are of paramount importance in scoring well in our IOMeter suites. Finally, we're simply curious how both drives stack up against the 45 gig 75GXP, a drive adept enough to seize our 7200rpm Leaderboard slot.

Let's take a look!

WB99/Win2k Low-Level Measurements

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Click here to examine the STR graph for this drive

As one might expect, the 75 gig GXP's sequential transfer rates are quite similar to those of the 45 gig version... no big deal. The interesting thing here is access time. Though both the 45 and 75 gig drives are rated at a 8.5 ms seek time (and thus @12.7ms access time), results vary. The 45 manages to actually beat its specified access time by a small amount, while the 75 weighs in a bit above. The net result is a difference of nearly 1ms between the two units- quite significant for two drives within the same family!

Likewise, the 20.4 gig 'Cuda ATA turns in transfer rates comparable to those of its larger 28 gig brother (not shown here- for 'Cuda 28 results, please visit the StorageReview.com Database; interestingly, the smaller drives' innermost transfer rate is almost 1 MB/sec faster). Though the drive's access time is impressively low for an ATA drive (only the Fireball Plus LM beats it), it can't meet it's ambitious specified 11.8ms access time.

WB99/Win2k WinMarks

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Despite the difference in seek time, WinBench 99 heralds the 45 gig and 75 gig 75GXP's as equals. The 75 trails the 45 in the Business and High-End Disk WinMarks by margins of less than 1%. Seagate's older 'Cuda, on the other hand, can't keep up with the newer drives when it comes to this measure. It lags behind the IBM units by margins of 22% and 29% respectively in the Business and High-End tests.

IOMeter Performance

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IOMeter results are what matter most in our eyes. Here the combination of swift seeks and tweaked firmware allows the 45 gig 75GXP to claim top honors. It's here, however, that Seagate's older drive shines. Despite its relative age, the 'Cuda ATA's 12.2ms access time allows it to trail the 45 by margins of 5% or less under all loads. In fact, the margin between the Seagate and the 45 is less in every load than the gap between the 45 and 75 gig 75GXP's, drives ostensibly within the same family.

Conclusion

The 75 gig Deskstar 75GXP utilizes 5 platters in its 7200rpm operation. As a result, it runs a bit warmer than most ATA drives in recent memory (and certainly warmer than its smaller 45 gig brother). Outside of a drive cooler in our midtower testbed, the unit runs quite warm to the touch. Active cooling may be warranted. Seeks are quiet, though not as quiet as the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 40.

The 'Cuda is a different beast. Here we have a drive that runs moderately cool, likely not requiring a drive cooler. Its speedy seeks, however, come at a cost... the drive's seeks are just as loud if not louder than Seagate's current 10k (and 15k!) units.

Hopefully the entry of these two drives fleshes out the StorageReview.com Database. The performance of the 75GXP, though, does raise some interesting questions. Though the difference IOMeter (and certainly WinBench 99) indicates is negligible, the access time difference is significant... the first time we've ever recorded such a gap between members of the same family. The higher seek time, slightly lower IOMeter scores, and hot operation of the 75 gig 75GXP may well mean that prospective purchasers should reconsider the cooler running 45 gig version or (if one can live within 30 gigs) the Quantum Fireball Plus LM. The 20 gig Barracuda ATA, on the other hand, is a different story. In our measure of choice, the drive not only outperforms its own predecessor (the Barracuda ATA II) but also current-generation drives from Seagate's competitors such as the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 40 and the Western Digital Caviar 205BA. If 20 gigs of storage meets your needs and you can find one at a bargain price, go for an original 'Cuda... you'll be pleasantly surprised. Since we unfortunately lack results of the 28 gig Barracuda in our new testbed, well compare the smaller 'Cuda as well as the 75 gig GXP (obviously) to the 45 gig 75GXP, a drive adept enough to seize our 7200rpm Leaderboard slot.

IBM Deskstar 75GXP
Estimated Price: $600
Also Available: DTLA-307075 (75 GB); DTLA-307060 (60 GB); DTLA-307045 (45 GB); DTLA-307030 (30 GB); DTLA-307020 (20 GB); DTLA-307015 (15 GB)
Specifications
Seagate Barracuda ATA
Estimated Price: $150
Also Available: ST313620A (13.6 GB); ST310220A (10.2 GB); ST36810A (6.8 GB)
Specifications

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