The Deskstar 34GXP begs to be compared with, of course, the WD Expert WD273BA. Such comparison yields virtually indentical results in the Business Disk WinMark 99 run in either Windows 9x or Windows NT. In both cases, the victor "triumphs" by a margin of only 0.3%! The High-End Disk WinMark exhibits more difference, relatively speaking. Here the Deskstar pulls ahead of the Expert by about 3% in either operating system. Yes, a margin ten times as large as the difference in Business WinMark scores, but still hardly something one should expect to perceive.
Also interesting to note are the low-level results turned in for the two drives. Though both units sport nigh-identical transfer rates, the Deskstar consistently finishes with a slightly faster access time. Interesting, especially in the light of the common wisdom that states all things being equal, the drive with the heavier actuator (i.e., more patters) seeks more slowly.
The reigning 7200rpm drive, however, is not the Expert but rather the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 6800. Here the Deskstar edges past the DiamondMax in the Business Disk WinMark run under Windows 9x by 1%. The IBM drive underscores the glaring weakness of the Maxtor, however, when it comes to the High-End WinMark in Win9x. Here the Deskstar whallops the DiamondMax by a margin of 22%! NT, however, allows Maxtor to flex its muscles. Here the Deskstar trails the DiamondMax by 15% and 9% respectively in the Business and High-End Disk WinMarks.
Perhaps due to its higher platter count, the 34GXP seems to run a bit warmer than the Expert. In our spacious testbed's case, the drive ran rather warmly. It was easily touchable, but may not have been so in a more cramped setup. Active cooling may be warranted in certain cases. Emitted noise, however, is remarkably similar to that of WD's drive: no high-pitch wine and muted seeks.
In conclusion, it again seems that IBM and WD have delivered a pair of drives that perform quite similarly. When first shipping, Big Blue's drives seem to carry a bit of a price premium. As time passes, however, Deskstar prices seem to come more and more in-line with the rest of the competition. Thus (unless you -really- need those extra 7 gigs), price may be the primary consideration when it comes to choosing between IBM and WD. Of course, prospective purchasers shouldn't forget about the DiamondMax Plus 6800, which may very well prove faster than either for their uses.