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IBM Deskstar 34GXP DPTA-373420

  September 21, 1999 Author: Eugene Ra  
See also our Summer 1999 ATA Drive Roundup.

With the releases of IBM's Deskstar 22GXP and Western Digital's Expert AC418000, two major drive manufacturers seemed to stake remarkably similar paths in the 7200rpm ATA contest. Though Western Digital's design topped out at four platters, thus falling a bit short in terms of capacity, the disks display remarkably similar performance patterns. Business and High-End Disk WinMarks in both Win9x and WinNT, for example, exhibit differences of less than 4% between the two units. We've recently examined WD's next-generation Expert, the WD273BA. Now, as many have pointed out, it's high time we take a look at the largest 7200rpm ATA drive around, the monster Deskstar 34GXP.

As its name implies, the flagship of IBM's latest 7200rpm line weighs in at a massive 34.2 GB of space, six gigs greater than the nearest competitor. IBM continues to leverage its ability to churn out five-platter designs to trump the competition when it comes to capacity. IBM rates the disk's seek time at 9.0 milliseconds. The familiar 2 megabyte buffer introduced with the 22GXP remains in this successor. IBM backs the Deskstar with a 3-year warranty.

Let's take another moment to reflect on the size of this drive- 34 gigs in a 1" profile. The Deskstar 37GP (review coming shortly) is even larger. Some users question the necessity of so much space. There used to be a time where users could be sure they'd rue the "when will I ever need so much space" thought on a regular basis. These days, however, many enthusiasts point out that application bloat simply hasn't kept pace with hard disk capacity growth like it has in the past. continues to standardize on the largest member of given families not because we believe everyone should go with the largest disks, but rather since such methodology requires the least amount of arbitrary decisions. Standardizing on drive size is nearly impossible.

As an ATA-66 drive, the DPTA-373420 may pose problems to some current motherboards running an Award BIOS. If you don't have a dedicated ATA-66 drive, we recommend disabling ATA-66 operation with this utility. No loss of performance will occur running this drive in ATA-33.

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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.

IBM Deskstar 34GXP DPTA-373420
Estimated Price: $450
Also Available: : DPTA-372730 (27.3 GB); DPTA-372050 (20.5 GB); DPTA-371360 (13.6 GB)
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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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