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IBM Deskstar 22GXP DJNA-372200

  April 14, 1999 Author: Eugene Ra  
See also our Summer 1999 ATA Drive Roundup.
Evaluation unit provided by Dirt Cheap Drives

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.

IBM Deskstar 22 GXPBefore 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.

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As expected, the Deskstar 22GXP delivers bleeding-edge performance. Its performance, however, seems remarkably similar to that delivered by the WD Expert. WinBench 99 Business Disk WinMark tests yield close results. The IBM drive outpaces the Expert by about 3% in the Windows 95. The matchup flip-flops in the High-End WinMark, though, where the Deskstar slipped behind by 4%. The similarities tighten up even more when it comes to NT: In both the Business and the High-End Disk WinMarks, the IBM drive leads by an all-but-undetectable 1%-2%. A look at the individual High-End WinMark tests also yields a very tight correlation between the two drives, with one notable anomaly: in WinBench 99's Adobe Premiere 4.2 disk access test under Windows 95, the 22GXP fell behind the Expert by 17%.

ThreadMark results were rather perplexing. In Windows 95, the Deskstar 22GXP lagged behind the WD Expert by a significant 10% margin. Under Windows NT, however, the margin tightened to a mere 1%. It should be noted that the five ThreadMark trials for the 22GXP under Windows 95 spanned a wide range of deviation while NT tests yielded a much more acceptable spread.

The 22GXP is a quiet and cool drive. Kind of like, well, the WD Expert. Seeks were muted and unobtrusive. The drive runs just slightly warm to the touch outside a drive cooler, quite usable without active cooling in most situations. When it comes to comparisons, however, it's impossible to give the nod to either the WD or IBM in either category: here it's a pure stalemate.

The Deskstar 22GXP succeeds in delivering top-rate performance in the largest 7200rpm ATA drive available. It's apparent, however, that the Western Digital Expert bears more than a passing resemblance to the 22GXP. In most cases, the 22GXP edges out the Expert by margins of 3% or less; in other words, by the same margins one would expect from the same drive with less platters. Thus, if you absolutely need the largest drive around, the 22GXP is your only choice. If you're considering lesser-capacity models of the 22GXP, however, it may behoove you to compare prices between the IBM line and offerings from the Expert series. Spring for whatever costs less.

IBM Deskstar 22GXP DJNA-372200
Estimated Price: $619
Also available: DJNA-371800 (18.0 GB) version
Specifications
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* Note: Threadmark 2.0 and WinBench98 test results are the average of five trials.
WinBench99 test results are the average of three trials.


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