Ever since the release of the Deskstar 5, storage-savvy folks have paid close attention to IBM's ATA releases. Though not "updated" as often as its competitors (IBM, for example, sat out the wave of the 4.3 GB/platter drives that Maxtor, WD, Quantum, and Fujitsu all participated in), a new Deskstar's release always heralds new frontiers in performance. Though the 5400rpm Deskstar 16GP faded into the background relatively quickly, the 7200rpm Deskstar 14GXP was viewed by many as the drive to compare all new comers against. Now, finally, the 14GXP's successor has arrived: Let's take a look at the 22GXP.
Before we start, I'd like to take a moment to address the availability of this drive. IBM (among several other manufacturers) has this nasty habit of announcing new products months in advance. When production units finally start shipping, large OEMs (Dell and Micron, for example) get first crack at all available drives. This was the case with the 22GXP. As recently as a couple days ago, I've seen assertions in places such as the StorageReview.com's Discussion Forum that the drive has been available for purchase by the end user for "six weeks" or so. Folks, that's simply not true. The Deskstar 22GXP hit wide retail distribution the week of March 22nd, 1999. Most users who possessed the drive weeks before were fortunate enough to receive one as part of a shiny new system. At any rate however, whether for a couple weeks or six weeks now, the drought is over: this drive should be readily available for purchase from your favorite mail-order retailer.
With the release of the 14GXP/16GP series, IBM premiered a 5-platter ATA design, catapulting themselves to the forefront of the capacity race. The 22GXP continues this tradition. Packing five 4.6 gigabyte platters, the 22GXP offers a roomy 22 gigs of space in a svelte 1" profile; that's more available space than any competing drive. As did the previous GXP series, the 22GXP features a 7200rpm spindle speed. Seek time has been shaved down to 9.0 milliseconds. A massive two meg buffer rounds out the package. The drive features a 3-year warranty.
Around this time last year, Western Digital and IBM heralded an agreement where WD would license much of Big Blue's industry-leading drive technology. The result of this agreement has been the Expert AC418000 and the AC420400, both of which deliver stellar performance. A quick look at the specs of the Expert and 22GXP, in fact, suggests that the drives are nearly identical. Construction of the drives appears quite similar; the metal housings and circuit board layouts are identical. Are the Expert and the Deskstar 22GXP the same drive? A look at performance figures should quickly affirm or discount such a premise.
Let's make a quick note here about the drive's ATA interface. Like most new drives shipping these days, the Deskstar 22GXP features the new ATA-66 interface. Our review sample arrived with ATA-66 enabled. As of the time of this writing, I'm not aware of any provisions to disable ATA-66 operation of the drive. This can be an issue to some folks, as certain motherboard BIOSes (such as the one found on our own testbed's Abit LX6) detect the drive properly as an ATA-66 unit yet lack the necessary support in their chipsets for the new protocol. In this review, the 22GXP operated off of a Promise Ultra66 ATA-66 controller.