The evolution of the PC's operating system into today's sophisticated (and bloated) forms has resulted in disk access patterns that are predominately random in nature. EXE & DLL reads, along with swapfile reads and writes, all occur in small increments. As a result, random access time is the dominant parameter when it comes to performance in most applications.
Despite its specified seek time of 8.2ms, the lowest of the group, Seagate's Barracuda ATA II does not walk away with the access time crown; the title goes to Quantum, whose Fireball Plus LM turns in an access time of just 11.5 milliseconds, almost within SCSI territory. Seagate's unit, along with Big Blue's drive, comes in second with a score nearly a millisecond higher. Maxtor and Western Digital, the two popular retail units, bring up the rear with times as high as 14 milliseconds.
Sequential Transfer Rates (STR)
These days, sequential transfer rates have increased to such high levels (not accompanied by proportional decreases in access times) that they've asymptotically written themselves out of the performance picture for most tasks. Even so, there are certain situations where STR is dramatically important. These cases arise with applications that deal with massive data files measured in megabytes... perhaps even gigabytes.
As one would expect, the Deskstar 75GXP's high areal density gives it a huge advantage when it comes to STR. Big Blue's performer turns in an outer-zone score exceeding 37 MB/sec, the first to decisively surpass the 33 MB/sec ATA-33 barrier. This figure is a full 23% faster than the next closest unit, the DiamondMax Plus 40. The WD Caviar 205BA brings up the rear, delivering outer-zone transfer rates of just 25 MB/sec.
Interestingly, though it weighs in near the bottom of the outer-zone STR test with a score of 27 MB/sec, the Quantum Fireball Plus LM is the only unit to deliver an inner zone STR exceeding 20 MB/sec. Scores within the inner zone are much closer, however, with the category-leading Fireball sporting a 20% lead when compared to the bottom of the pack. Contrast this with IBM's outer-zone margin, nearly 50% faster than WD's offering.
As time passes, manufacturers find more and more ways to optimize results for the most popular disk benchmark around, ZDBop's WinBench 99. One needs to look no further than a comparison between the Deskstar 75GXP and the 15,000 RPM Seagate Cheetah X15 to call into question WB99's validity these days. When it was fresh, WB99 provided accurate results that paralleled real-world performance. Such accuracy has unfortunately decayed over time. We have high hopes for WB2001 or whatever the next iteration will be called. Until then, however, there are still many who value WinBench 99 results. It is for these readers that we present Disk WinMark results.
Business Disk WinMark 99
The Deskstar 75GXP's high STR along with adept firmware power the drive to the top of the charts with a score exceeding 7.6 MB/sec. Maxtor's intrepid DiamondMax Plus 40 and the Seagate Barracuda ATA II come in a close 2nd and 3rd respectively, however, trailing by about 4%. Fujitsu's MPF-AH brings up the rear, 18% behind the Deskstar.
High-End Disk WinMark 99
A suite even more sensitive to STR than the Business Disk WinMark, the High-End Disk WinMark 99 is again led by the Deskstar 75GXP. Big Blue's victory here is quite decisive- the 75GXP leads the 2nd place WD Caviar 205BA by a full 15%. IBM posts a score nearly 40% higher than that turned in by the hapless Fujitsu.
Windows 2000 Professional using NTFS
File Server Index
As we've made clear in the past, we believe that IOMeter currently represents the best way to assess hard disk performance. We realize, however, that the large number of figures turned out by our tests can be quite intimidating. In an effort to make our results more accessible to readers, we've devised our IOMeter indices. For those who are familiar with our IOMeter suite, these single-number results are derived by dropping the linear and very light loads (loads so light that they're seldom if ever encountered in actual use), normalizing the remaining three loads (to prevent the inherent weight that the heavier loads exert via their higher scores) and taking the average. For those who aren't familiar with our IOMeter suite... hopefully this'll make the results more useful.
File Server Index
The Fireball LM's impressive seek time delivers it a first place result in our File Server Index. The Deskstar 75GXP places a close second, however, lagging by a mere 1%. The offerings from Western Digital and Fujitsu bring up the rear, trailing by nearly 20%.
We consider the Workstation Index to be the most important, as it's the test that most represents the average StorageReview.com reader. Here again Quantum rules the roost. And once again, IBM comes in a close second. These two units decisively set themselves apart from the rest of the pack, blowing past the third-place DiamondMax Plus 40 by as much as 16%.
Though it's called "Database" (Intel's name for a 67%/33% read/write random access), this index is really more representative of random access. It differs from ZD's test by including writes in addition to reads. Further, the varying loads (I/O counts) bring firmware optimizations into the act. Here we have the Deskstar 75GXP sliding by the Fireball Plus LM by 4%. Quantum in turn bests the third-place DiamondMax Plus 40 by 14%. The Maxtor, likewise, sets itself apart from the rest, leading the fourth-place Seagate Barracuda ATA II by nearly 14%.