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Same Drives = Same Performance?
  January 21, 2001 Author: Terry Baranski  

Perfect Timing?

A short while ago, I was approached by regarding RAID reviews. Since I'm extremely interested in hard drives and related technology, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to join the SR team. Since then, I've been putting a few cards through their paces... and dealing with the inevitable issues that arise in IDE RAID (and perhaps RAID in general).

Promise Technology was kind enough to send us four Maxtor DiamondMax 80 drives along with their RAID adapters. A few weeks ago, the issue of performance differences between multiple samples of a given drive arose. These four DiamondMax 80's give us a perfect opportunity to shed some light on the issue. With that in mind, I began testing the four samples in both Winbench and IOMeter. Would all four drives perform about the same? Or would there be significant performance variations between two or more drives? We'll find out shortly, but first, let's outline the testbed.

Testbed Specs

  • Operating System: Windows 2000
  • Motherboard: Abit SL6, BIOS revision SX (10/26/00)
  • Processor: Celeron 600
  • RAM: 128MB Generic PC100
  • Floppy Drive: 1.44MB
  • Boot Drive: Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 6800 13GB (single NTFS partition)
  • RAID Drives: Four Maxtor Diamondmax 80's (80GB)
  • CD-ROM: Lite-On 32X
  • ATA Controller: Intel 82801AA (DM+ 6800 on primary channel, CD-ROM on secondary channel)
  • Drive Cooler: PC Power & Cooling Bay-Cool III
  • Display Adapter: Intel 82815 Graphics Memory Controller Hub (GMCH)
  • Network Card: Intel EtherExpress Pro 100 (Only used for downloading drivers, BIOS updates, and applications. It is removed from the system prior to any benchmarking.)
  • Keyboard: Micro Innovations Standard Keyboard
  • Mouse: Logitech Wheel Mouse
  • Case: Enlight Endura EN-7237
  • Power Supply: Enermax EG351P-VE 330W

RAID OS, Drivers, and Benchmarks

The first step in testbed configuration was OS (Windows 2000) installation. The procedure was straightforward -- a single 13GB NTFS partition was created on the DiamondMax Plus 6800 after booting from the Win2000 CD. The rest of the installation went as smoothly; nothing more than your run-of-the-mill OS installation.

After the installation was complete, the latest drivers were installed for the Intel EtherExpress Pro 100, and the Intel i815 chipset (including graphics and storage drivers). The motherboard BIOS was flashed to the most recent available at the time, version SX. The Promise Ultra66's BIOS was also flashed to the latest available version, v2.0. Due to issues we had with the then-current Ultra66 drivers, we stuck with the drivers inherent in Win2000.

Next, screen resolution was set to 800X600, with refresh rate at 85Hz. Auto-insert notification was disabled via RegEdit. Through Windows Update, Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 and the current Windows 2000 Critical Updates Package were both installed.

Then the following benchmarks were installed: ZD's Winbench 99 v1.1, Intel's IOMeter v1999.10.20, and TestaCD Lab's HDTach v2.61. WinBench and IOMeter results will be formally presented in reviews.

Finally, the boot drive was defragmented using Windows 2000's built-in utility.

RAID cards will be evaluated in PCI slot 1 (next to the AGP slot). Because the SL6 has integrated video and sound, all other PCI slots (as well as the AGP slot) are empty during benchmarking. Three of the four DiamondMax 80's were attached to the drive cooler, with the final unit in a standard 3.5 inch bay.

And now, for the DiamondMax 80 tests...

With all of that settled, we can return to the topic of this article: performance variation between multiple samples of the same drive. The following benchmarks were run with the boot drive on the primary channel of the motherboard's ATA controller, the CD-ROM on the secondary channel, and each DiamondMax 80 on the primary channel of the Promise Ultra 66 (in PCI slot 1) during testing.

 WinBench Results...


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