When we first launched SR, IBM easily led the consumer drive density race with its (then massive) Deskstar 16GP. Poor Western Digital, on the other hand, delivered its Caviar AC8400 well after the competition hit similar density levels. Two years ago IBM and WD struck an agreement where the two companies shared technology. The result were drives such as the IBM Deskstar 22GXP and the Western Digital Expert AC418000. Units such as these featured nearly identical performance... and, as one would expect, hit the market at approximately the same time.
That brings us to today. It seems we've come full circle in three years. Last September, Western Digital surprised us with their release of the first 7200 RPM drive featuring 20 gig platters, the Caviar WD400BB. Since then, the industry has seen units from Maxtor (the DiamondMax Plus 60), Quantum (the Fireball Plus AS), Seagate (the Barracuda ATA III), and Fujitsu (the MPG-AT, not yet reviewed). IBM's entry, the Deskstar 60GXP, is just now hitting the channels a full seven months after WD's Caviar reached general availability. And though it shipped first, the Caviar WD400BB has managed to fend off all 20/GB platter challengers, remaining the only unit to offer performance superior to its predecessor in all ways. However, though it offers respectable performance, the WD400BB can't quite match IBM's Deskstar 75GXP in all-around performance. All eyes have thus been fixed on the 75GXP's successor. After all, if it can only equal the 75GXP's performance, it becomes the new 7200 RPM ATA drive of choice.
IBM's nomenclature is bound to catch a few people off guard. How can the numerically lower 60GXP be the successor to the 75GXP? The answer lies in flagship platter count. IBM, ever the bastion of incredible capacities derived from their unique 5 disk assembly, has finally bowed to the realities of the problems that arise when mating high densities with high platter counts. The result is a flagship unit that features a much more conventional three platters. This switch yields a new series that features less maximum capacity than the preceding line... three 20 GB disks results in a 60 gig max.
Seek time remains specified at a relatively peppy 8.5 milliseconds. The ATA standard 2 MB buffer (first introduced by IBM in its 22GXP) rounds out the drive. IBM positions the 60GXP not only as a solution for desktops but also for entry-level server configurations. Expect this to become more common as 7200 RPM SCSI drives are phased out. A three-year warranty backs the drive.
The 60GXP ships exclusively with an ATA-100 interface. Remember, since ATA drives have yet to break sequential transfer rates greater than even 45 MB/sec that ATA-66 (and in many cases, even ATA-33) interfaces will run a drive with optimal performance. Our testbed remains equipped with a Promise Ultra66 controller.
Now let's see how much, if at all, this new unit improves on the 75GXP!