Our first look at a Serial ATA drive, quite frankly, was a little less than inspiring. That is to say that, even though the SATA 150 standard offers a higher bandwidth interface and those tidy, thin little cables, the performance of the first drive to hit our bench, a Seagate Barracuda V, was about on par with the average ATA100 or ATA133 drive on the market. However, as we all know, in this game of technological leapfrog, it doesn't always pay to be too early to adopt the latest and greatest architecture, for your own personal use. Many times, it pays to sit on the sidelines, as OEMs and Manufacturers iron out the kinks in their designs and tweak them for optimal performance and stability. What may not be obvious to the average consumer, regarding Serial ATA, is that drive manufacturers have to tune their drive circuitry to efficiently and robustly take advantage of the higher bandwidth associated with Serial ATA, as well as its radically different I/O structure. As we've seen many times before, anytime a groundbreaking architecture is introduced to the PC, you can be sure it's going to take some time for the product to reach its full potential.
A couple of months have passed since we spent quality time with Seagate's first SATA offering. Today, Maxtor steps up to the plate with their Diamond Max Plus 9 entry into the SATA market. Maxtor has had the luxury of the past three months, to let their first SATA driven Desktop/Workstation drive mature and evolve. The DiamondMax lineage has always ranked well in performance and reliability but perhaps not in the upper echelon with Western Digital's top end 7200 RPM ATA100 product. On the other hand, SATA technology brings in a new frontier.
Today, we've pitted this new DiamonMax Plus 9 Serial ATA drive from Maxtor, up against a Western Digital Caviar Special Edition drive and a Seagate Barracuda V SATA drive as well. First let's take a look at the Diamond Max Plus 9 and show you what it's made of.
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| Specifications of the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 |
| Desktop or Workstation Performance Now Available In SATA |
60GB, 80GB, 120GB, 160GB and 200GB
ATA/133 2MB buffer
ATA/133 8MB buffer
SATA/150 8MB buffer
Rotational Speed 7200 RPM
Buffer Size 2MB and 8MB cache
External Transfer Rate (MB/sec)
ATA/133 133 - SATA 150
Average Seek (ms) 9.4
Average Latency (ms) 4.2
Bytes per Sector/Block 512
Logical CHS 16,383/16/63
Start/Stop Cycles (min) >50,000
Component Design Line (min) 5 years
Data Errors (non-recoverable) <1 per 10E 15 bits read
Annualized Return Rate (ARR) <1%
Mode 5V 12V
Seek (mA) 858 662
Idle (mA) 668 334
Standby (mA) 90 37
Height (max mm) 26.1
Width (typical mm) 101.6
Length (max mm) 147
Weight (LB/g) 1.27/630
Idle (sound power: bel) 2.7
Seek (sound power: bel) 3.5
Operating (°C) 5 to 55
Non-operating (°C) -40 to 71
Operating Mechanical Shock 2ms (G) 60
Non-operating Mechanical Shock 2ms (G) 300
Generation 1 Serial ATA Technology - 150MB/Sec
Once again, looking at the specs of this new Maxtor SATA drive, reveals nothing too surprising or impressive, in all honesty. On the other hand, this drive does boast some of the latest compliments and enhancements to ATA drive technology, including an 8MB Buffer Cache and of course its 7200 RPM spindle speed. What is perhaps more impressive than at first glance, is Maxtor's "FDB" Motor technology that this drive is built on. "Fluid Dynamic Bearing" is what the acronym stands for and it's safe to say that it delivers some of the quietest 7200 RPM operation we've heard in a drive to date. There is very little, if any spindle whine, as we've heard for so long from many an IBM or WD drive and the read/write head chatter is also much improved over the Seagate Barracuda V SATA drive, we reviewed back in January.
CLICK ANY IMAGE FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW
The DiamondMax Plus 9 SATA drive is constructed well and fairly stout for a mainstream desktop unit. There are no breather holes on the casing of these drives, so you need not be concerned with accidentally covering one up during installation. The drive does get fairly warm during operation but no more so than the average 7200 RPM unit. The circuit board is exposed on the underside and you'll note this Marvell chip provides a bridging functionality for the SATA interface. It seems as though this drive isn't a "native" Serial ATA drive per se but rather a parallel ATA drive, that has been converted to interface to SATA. We've got mixed emotions about this. On one hand, the serial to parallel conversion, with Marvell's Phy chip, is a well known high speed, high quality implementation. Marvell easily has some of the best SERDES (Serializer/Deserializer) technology in the business. This setup also allows Maxtor to configure base units and then set them up for either standard ATA or Serial ATA, depending on demand.
On the other hand, what are we missing by not utilizing a true serial implementation from the main controller ASIC, on back to the actual link level? Frankly, we're not sure if there is a tangible benefit with a "native" SATA implementation or even if one exists at this point in time. In addition, as you'll see in the following pages, this performance of this drive shows no limitation, that one could attribute to the parallel to serial conversion, that is done on board.
Setup And Preliminary Testing