The first test consists of the HDTach v2.52 Burst Read Speed test. To confirm that the Fireball Plus KX was indeed running in two separate modes for our tests, we needed to confirm that Burst Speeds between the two modes did indeed straddle the 33 MB/sec barrier. As we can see, ATA-66 operation nets a 46.7 MB/sec burst transfer rate, ATA-33 a 28.2 MB/sec results. A warning for those of you who like to jump to conclusions: This is a low-level test, a test of buffer-to-host transfer rate. A substantial increase should be expected when jumping from ATA-33 to ATA-66. Lack of a difference would cast doubt on whether the drive was indeed running in two separate modes. Let's take a look at some other low-level figures:
As we can see here, going from ATA-33 to ATA-66 operation results in no changes to mechanically-limited low-level test results.
There's zero change in transfer rate
both at the outside and inside tracks. The Fireball Plus KX is capable of sequential transfer rates up to 23 MB/sec. Should increasing the speed limit from 33 MB/sec to 66 MB/sec result in higher sequential rates? Of course not. Similarly, access time
, which has nothing to do with maximum transfer rates, remains unchanged when going from 33 to 66. Lastly CPU utilization scores remain fairly uniform between the two modes. Reports that heading to ATA-66 from ATA-33 decreases CPU utilization are simply false. Such conclusions, once again, are likely drawn from the variables left uncontrolled by an unaware tester.
Here's the ultimate in results, what most of you have probably been waiting for while wading through this sermon
. As we can see, there's little difference in aggregate high-level scores between ATA-33 and ATA-66 modes. The Business Disk WinMark 99, under both operating systems, reveals a difference of less than 1%. The High-End Disk WinMark 99 posts similar results, the two modes coming within 3% of each other. When it comes to the individual application breakdowns, significant differences arise in only two cases, Premiere and AVS/Express. Differences in Premiere can be dismissed as variation between trials. Our three trials, sufficient for nearly all tests, show one sub-standard ATA-33 score among two other scores that match ATA-66's performance. AVS/Express' results, however, are a different story. Here a consistent and uniform advantage of about 10% is exhibited in ATA-66 operation. Perhaps data visualization is one of those few applications that feature a high hit-rate when searching for data in a disk's buffer. It should be clear from these test results, however, that such applications are by far the exception rather than the rule.
ThreadMark 2.0, a purely synthetic test, displays a negligible difference in Windows 9x between the two modes, but a 6.7% difference under NT. If one insists, he may conclude from this result that ATA-66 is indeed faster than ATA-33. In our book, it's yet more proof that ThreadMark is indeed a flaky benchmark.
The conclusion? Combine these test results along with the "performance increases" we've witnessed from previous jumps (up the PIO ladder and DMA mode 2 to DMA33) and it should be obvious that going from ATA-33 to ATA-66 in itself does not provide statistically significant performance increases. At this point, some readers may be inclined to think "Well, it's obvious that Promise is ripping the community off with its bogus ATA-66 controller, the Ultra66. A real ATA-66 product, such as Abit HotRod, would show the big differences that just have to be there between ATA-33 and ATA-66." A similar cynical accusation could be leveled against the ATA-66 implementation in Quantum's Fireball Plus KX. For our part, we've never had problems with either Promise ATA controllers or Quantum ATA drives. Here we're going to invoke the simple law of parsimony: Is it more likely that Promise and Quantum, two veteran players in the ATA industry, have no idea what they're doing and implemented "crippled" ATA-66 in their products? Or is it more likely that ATA-66, as shown by some carefully controlled tests, provides no significant increase in performance with today's drives?
Is ATA-66 a sham? Absolutely not. ATA-33 first shipped over two years ago in the form of the Quantum Fireball ST. Seagate's Barracuda ATA ST328040A, a drive due to ship in the near future, can push 28 MB/sec of data. ATA drives are coming very close to ATA-33's limits. Introducing ATA-66 drives and controllers at this time simply allows the industry and the community to place next-generation infrastructure in place before drives that truly need it arrive. It's advanced planning, folks, something that will benefit us down the road.