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Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 6800 92732U8

  September 1, 1999 Author: Eugene Ra  
See also our Summer 1999 ATA Drive Roundup.
Evaluation unit provided by Maxtor Corp.
Promise Ultra66 provided by Promise Technology.

The stakes in the 7200rpm drive race are heating up. During the infancy of the 7200rpm ATA disk, the contest boiled down to an IBM vs. Maxtor showdown. The Deskstar 14GXP and DiamondMax Plus 2500 were the two fastest ATA drives around. Our personal favorite, as one can see in the Summer 1998 ATA Drive Roundup, was the DiamondMax. Since then, however, Quantum and Western Digital have entered the race en force, obscuring initial lines. Maxtor's DiamondMax Plus 5120, though delivering great performance, failed to stand out of the crowd like it did with the 2500.

A fast-forward to late 1999 muddies the situation even more. Seagate, the 7200rpm ATA pioneer, has finally rejoined the competition with the release of its awesome Barracuda ATA. Seagate's reentry means that all six major drive manufacturer's are competing for your storage dollar with state-of-the-art 7200rpm drives. Thus far, StorageReview.com has taken a look at two of these new-breed disks, the Quantum Fireball Plus KX and Barracuda ATA. Both have advanced ATA performance to new limits.

Maxtor's entry in this latest battle is the DiamondMax Plus 6800. As its name indicates, this newest Maxtor is a 7200rpm unit featuring 6.8 gigs per platter. Its seek time is specified as "less than nine milliseconds." Unlike its predecessor, the Plus 5120, the Plus 6800 was designed from the ground up to go toe-to-toe with Western Digital's Expert and IBM's Deskstar GXP series. The drive features an ATA-66 interface and a two megabyte buffer. Judging from Maxtor's press releases and white papers issued on the drive, the manufacturer takes great pride in the electronics of the Plus 6800. This newest Maxtor incorporates the company's "DualWave" processor, theoretically increasing performance and reliability through the use of fewer parts. A look at the effects of a simple cache increase (Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 5120, OEM vs. Retail) proved that increasing cache size alone provides little if any increase in performance. Maxtor takes great pains to emphasize, however, that the DualWave controller was designed with two megabytes of buffer in mind. A three-year warranty protects the drive.

As an ATA-66 drive, the DiamondMax Plus 6800 may pose problems to some motherboards running an Award BIOS. We are not aware of a utility to disable ATA-66 operation at the time of this writing [Editor's Note: Maxtor has since informed us that a utility, 66UPDATE.EXE is available from http://www.maxtor.com/library/main.html]. Be sure to upgrade your motherboard's bios to the latest available version before installing this drive.

Our initial Plus 6800 sample proved to be defective. The unit would start out with a transfer rate of about 17 MB/sec on the outer platters (in other words, well below the level of its predecessor) and slowly increase to about 20 towards the middle of the disk. Further, access times weighed in at an unflattering 25 milliseconds. We thus arranged for an exchange. It should be noted that the second unit, unlike the first, didn't arrive in a sealed anti-static wrapper. It did, however, turn in low-level performance figures that matched expectations.

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When compared to the Quantum Fireball Plus KX, the DiamondMax Plus 6800 turns in some impressive figures. Under Windows 95, Maxtor's drive posts a Business Disk WinMark score 7% higher than that turned in by the Quantum. The DiamondMax lags in the High-End test, however, weighing in 9% behind the Fireball.

Windows NT scores, Maxtor's traditional strength, are a different matter. Here the DiamondMax Plus excels, blowing by the Fireball in the Business Disk WinMark by a margin of nearly 15%. Differences in the High-End WinMark were more subtle, with the Maxtor surpassing the Quantum's performance by 6%.

ThreadMark tests under Windows 95 place the Maxtor 4% behind the Quantum. Tests under Windows NT reverse the situation, however, with the DiamondMax leading the Fireball by 10%.

This latest DiamondMax proves that heat continues to become more and more of a non-issue when it comes to 7200rpm ATA drives. Run without active cooling in our testbed's case, the drive became only warm to the touch, well within its 55 degrees Celsius limit. There is no real idle noise to speak of; seeks are rather generic in nature, along the lines of the Fireball Plus KX and the Barracuda ATA- just enough to let you know the drive's doing its job.

In conclusion, Maxtor's latest drive delivers the highest scores we've witnessed for an ATA drive. It's interesting to note that these scores come from a drive whose measured low-level figures don't match those of the competition. Combining this with the pride that Maxtor takes in its electronics, firmware, and cache management, it's evident that such factors may very well have a significant impact on a drive's overall performance. Tests of new drives from IBM, Western Digital, and Fujitsu still wait in the wings, but as it stands now, the DiamondMax Plus 6800 seems to be the drive to beat.

Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 6800 92732U8
Estimated Price: $379
Also Available: 92049U6 (20.5 GB); 91366U4 (13.6 GB); 91024U3 (10.2 GB); 90683U2 (6.8 GB)
Specifications
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* Note: Threadmark 2.0 test results are the average of five trials.
WinBench99 test results are the average of three trials.


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