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Maxtor DiamondMax Plus D740X
  October 9, 2001 Author: Eugene Ra  

Maxtor DiamondMax Plus D740X Available Capacities *
Model Number
Capacity
6L020J1
20 GB
6L040J2
40 GB
6L060J3
60 GB
6L080J4
80 GB
Estimated Flagship Price: $240 (80 GB)
Evaluation unit provided by Maxtor Corporation.


Introduction

It's hard to believe that it's been nine months since we last reviewed a 7200 RPM drive from Maxtor. We remember a time when performance releases from the manufacturer were so frequent that they dizzied the average reader. These days it seems like rival Western Digital has been the one refreshing its performance ATA lineup with unbelievable speed. When it comes to areal density, however, it seems that WD has taken a breather of sorts. As a result, Maxtor joins Seagate as the second manufacturer to ship a 40 GB/platter, 7200 RPM drive in volume.

Maxtor's DiamondMax Plus D740X is the first 7200 RPM drive shipped by the company since its acquisition of Quantum's hard drive division. The drive's enclosure, in fact, looks much more like a Fireball series drive rather than a DiamondMax. Just how much product and research did Maxtor inherit? Perhaps they received quite a bit more than the average reader thinks. In the end, though, it's all irrelevant. Does the combined might of Maxtor and Quantum's ATA accomplishments deliver a winner? We'll find out shortly.

Though in the past Maxtor's been notable for sticking to its guns in high platter counts, the flagship D740X features just two platters. At 40 GB each, this yields a flagship capacity of 80 gigabytes. The drive features a specified seek time of just 8.5 milliseconds, Maxtor's lowest claim yet. A standard 2-megabyte buffer rounds out the package.

Maxtor plans to offer the D740X in versions featuring standard ball-bearings as well as purportedly quieter and more reliable fluid dynamic bearings. At the time of this review, Maxtor was only able to supply us an 80 GB drive featuring standard bearings. The D740X is also the first drive to feature the ATA-133 interface, an interface that increases available bandwidth. Though the benefit of such headroom over ATA-100 is questionable (especially in 32-bit, 33 MHz slots), we plan to retest the D740X when Maxtor supplies us with an ATA-133 controller. As part of our upcoming "Testbed 2.5" revisions, we'll also retest other ATA drives in ATA-100 mode.

Unlike other recent Maxtor drives, the 740DX doesn't support write verification. Further, it shipped to us with Automatic Acoustic Management disabled- i.e., maximum-performance mode.

As the manufacturer's new 7200 RPM product, the D740X targets power-users looking to upgrade to the latest and greatest in desktop storage. It also competes in the market for entry-level file and web servers. A 3-year warranty backs the drive.


WB99/Win2k Low-Level Measurements

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Click here to examine the STR graph for this drive

The DiamondMax Plus D740X turns in an amazing 12.2 millisecond WinBench 99-measured access time. Subtracting 4.2 ms to account for the average rotational latency of a 7200 RPM drive yields a measured seek time of just 8.0 milliseconds... a figure that beats Maxtor's claim by 0.5 ms. Very nice! Its score very narrowly bests that of IBM's Deskstar 60GXP to claim the lowest access time among contemporary ATA drives.

Transfer rates, though decent, aren't groundbreaking. The D740X's outer-zone score of 41.7 MB/sec propels Maxtor into the 40+ club, but the figure lags slightly behind drives from Seagate and Western Digital. The DiamondMax's inner-zone rate of 25.4 MB/sec is also a bit lower than the competition.


WB99/Win2k WinMarks

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In WinBench 99's Business Disk WinMark, the DiamondMax Plus D740X's 9.1 MB/sec is an 11% improvement over its predecessor. This catapults the Maxtor in front of all the competition, save only the WD1000BB Special Edition.

The D740X's 21.7 MB/sec in the High-End WinMark is also quite respectable, though it trails the WD1000BB by a small 3% margin.


IOMeter Performance

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The DiamondMax Plus 740DX significantly build's on the Plus 60 in IOMeter to yield a Workstation Index (a normalized average of 16, 64, and 256 I/O results) of 160.24, a score that trails the leading competition by just a few points. Not bad at all in a test where Maxtor's drives have lagged in the past!

It should be noted that the Maxtor's low-load performance (fully viewable through the StorageReview.com database) is exceptionally high. Recent research indicates that low queue depths may in fact be more relevant to performance in a large majority of uses. In an experimental index that emphasizes low I/O counts, the D740X possesses the highest score of any ATA drive.


Conclusion

Again, our review sample features ball rather than fluid bearings. Even so, this D740X is quiet when idle. Though it can't quite compare to the Seagate Barracuda ATA IV (all of which ship with fluid bearings), idle noise should be undetectable in all but the quietest systems. A sample equipped with fluid bearings may exhibit an even lower noise floor. As one would expect from a drive that delivers a best-of-class access time, the D740X is relatively loud when it comes to seeks... a definite notch above what we've witnessed from today's competition. Note that one can mitigate this noise through the use of Maxtor's Acoustic Management utility. When it comes to heat, even after extended use, the drive gets only warm to the touch.

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. Overall, the DiamondMax Plus D740X is an admirable effort from Maxtor. It combines the best Business WinMark score we've recorded from a drive with a 2-megabyte buffer with a respectable High-End showing and top-flight IOMeter scores. Neither Seagate's Barracuda ATA IV nor Western Digital's standard-edition WD1000BB offer quite as attractive a package. Only Western Digital's WD1000BB Special Edition, delivering superior performance and a bit more capacity, holds the D740X at bay... albeit at a hefty price premium. Users looking for a high-performance storage upgrade while not breaking the bank need search no further than the D740X.


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