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Maxtor DiamondMax 80 98196H8
  September 5, 2000 Author: Eugene Ra  
Evaluation unit provided by Maxtor Corp.


Over the course of the SR's two-year history, Maxtor has always been at the forefront of drive capacities. We remember the monstrous DiamondMax 2880, an 11.5 GB drive that shipped back in March. From that point, the capacity crown would always flip back and forth between Maxtor and IBM. While Maxtor had a more frequent release schedule when it came to next-generation drives (Big Blue sometimes sat out an iteration), IBM's unique, five-platter design allowed it to keep up in the capacity race.

Now, however, things have taken an interesting twist. For whatever reason, IBM decided to scale back its newest-generation 5400 RPM unit to just two platters, leaving the door wide open for others to seize the capacity crown. It's unsurprising that Maxtor has stepped into the void. While other manufacturers are backing down their 5400 RPM (and 7200 RPM for that matter) lines, Maxtor has chosen to stick with its four-platter design to yield a flagship capacity in its 20 GB/platter unit of 80 gigs. This makes the DiamondMax 80 the largest hard disk available... edging out the 7200 RPM, 75 gig IBM Deskstar 75GXP and the 73 gig (not to mention 1.6" tall) Cheetah 73 and Atlas 10k II.

The DM80 doesn't skimp when it comes to other specs. Seek time is specified at 9.0 milliseconds, compared to the Deskstar 40GV's 9.5 ms. The buffer remains at a now-standard 2 MB... again better than the 40GV, which has scaled back to just 512k. A three-year warranty backs the unit.

In recent times, Maxtor has joined the fray in catering to users looking for quieter drive operation with its "Silent Store" operation. It modifies seek and cache patterns to minimize noise in favor of performance. The manufacturer initially intended to leave the option of toggling quiet operation at the factory level. Since then, however, they've decided to leave it to end-users. A utility may be downloaded from Maxtor's site to switch quiet mode on or off here. For the purposes of this review, quiet mode was disabled (amset /off in the utility).

The DiamondMax 80 is the first of a new breed of drives that will ship exclusively with the ATA-100 interface. Remember that since IDE drives have yet to break sequential transfer rates greater than even 40 MB/se that ATA-66 (and in most cases, even ATA-33) interfaces will run the drive at optimal performance. Our testbed remains equipped with a Promise Ultra66 controller.

Let's turn now to some benchmarks and see how this monstrous drive fares!

WB99/Win2k Low-Level Measurements

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Click here to examine the STR graph for this drive

Low level tests using ZD's WinBench 99 show that, in outer zones, the DiamondMax 80 clocks in with a sequential transfer rate of just under 30 MB/sec... about 10% slower than the IBM Deskstar 40GV. The DM80, however, maintains its transfer rate more proficiently as we advance inwards through the cylinders. Inner-track rates come in at 17.5 MB/sec, 17% faster than IBM's unit.

WB99 measures the DM80's access time at 15.5 milliseconds... subtracting a 5400 RPM rotational latency of about 5.5 milliseconds, this figure comes in a millisecond higher than Maxtor's specification of 9 ms seek time. Interestingly, this figure is also a millisecond higher than that of its predecessor, the DiamondMax 60. Maxtor indicates that it scaled back its next-generation 7200 RPM unit, the forthcoming DiamondMax Plus 45, due to concerns of combining high areal densities with swift seek times. The three-platter version of the DM80 may turn in slightly faster seeks.

WB99/Win2k WinMarks

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The DiamondMax 80 forges ahead into record territory for a 5400 RPM unit in the ZD WinMarks. The unit posts gains of 5% and 11% respectively in the Business Disk WinMark and High-End Disk WinMark over the Diamondmax 60, itself a record-setting drive.

These figures are even more impressive when compared to a spunky yet relatively unknown drive, the Samsung SpinPoint V10200. In such a comparison, the DM80 annihilates the SpinPoint by a margin of 51% in the Business Disk WinMark... amazingly, it gets even better in the High-End test, where Maxtor's drive trumphs by an incredible 73%.

Let's see if the DM80 can maintain its impressive showing in IOMeter.

IOMeter Performance

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Due to its increased access time, the DiamondMax 80 suffers somewhat under our IOMeter suite. Its score in the IOMeter Workstation Index (a normalized average of Light, Medium, and Heavy loads) is 117, a figure that falls about 4% behind the DiamondMax 60. The margin is even greater with a category-leading drive such as the IBM Deskstar 40GV, which the DM80 lags by a significant 15%.


Though our tests were conducted with silent operation disabled, the DiamondMax 80 was nonetheless fairly quiet. Seeks are muted, noticeable only in seek intensive tests such as ZD's Disk Access test. We recommend that the drive be run with quiet mode disabled outside of noise-sensitive applications. Though it is one of the few drives that maintains four platters, the DM80 nevertheless runs only warm to the touch even after hours of thrashing. It's easily incorporated into any system.

The Safe Buy Award

Simply put, this designation means we'd purchase this product without regret. Sure, there may be a slightly better, slightly faster, and/or slightly less-expensive model from a competitor, but you can't go wrong with this particular unit. This award is applicable, of course, to all units at the top of their class, but also applies to units that, though not quite best-of-class, provide a strong showing nonetheless. Overall, the DiamondMax 80 provides acceptable though not overwhelming performance. Its main claim-to-fame is its staggering capacity. If you want 80 gigs in a low profile drive, it's your only choice. The 75 GB IBM Deskstar 75GXP will deliver similar capacity, but it's much more expensive in comparison... one pays dearly for the 7200 RPM operation. As a result, the DM80 is currently one's premiere (and only) choice for huge, inexpensive, mass storage.

Maxtor DiamondMax 80 - 98196H8
Estimated Price: $349
Also Available: 96147H6 (61.4 GB)
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