Testing and Windows Vista Performance
In order to test these drives properly, we brought in Adaptec’s new 3400-series Serial Attached SCSI RAID card. This model runs about $400 at most retail stores, and is equipped with a PCI Express x4 interface with 128 MB of DDR2 memory as its cache buffer. It supports all the well known RAID levels, and some which are relatively unknown. According to its docs, it supports RAID levels 0, 1, 1E, 5, 5EE, 6, 10, 50, 60, and good ole’ JBOD if you just want to run them as standard hard drives. It is equipped with a hardware RAID processor which requires a dedicated heatsink, which gets toasty (understatement) warm during testing. It also has a nifty SAS 8087 connection at the end, which combines four SAS cables worth of data into a single connector, and splits them out when you get to the individual drives – helping to keeping your chassis internals nice and clean.
We should also note that these tests were delayed by one month due to a faulty firmware revision on our first batch of drives. Seagate claims that these drives are not shipping to market in large volumes of yet, so drives with the early 003 firmware should not be hitting consumers' hands. Our full tests were done with the later released 004 firmware, which performed perfectly. If your 15K.6 drives have the 003 firmware, be sure to run disk write benchmarks to see if you have any performance anomalies.
For testing, we ran a series of benchmarks with our drives as a secondary hard drive (in order to keep the discs clean from OS level performance degradation) – along with a series of tests with the OS on the drive itself in order to test real world performance scenarios.
- Intel Core 2 Quad QX6700 (3.0 GHz) Processor
- XFX Nvidia nForce 780i SLI Motherboard
- 4 x Kingston XMS DDR2-800 Memory (4 x 1 GB, CAS 4-4-4-12)
- 1 x Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT 512 MB
- 1 x Plextor PX-755SA DVD+/-RW Drive
- 1 x Corsair HX620W 620W Power Supply
- Windows Vista Ultimate Edition (32-bit with SP1)
- Adaptec 3400 PCIe x4 SAS Controller Card (for SAS drives)
- Seagate Cheetah 15K.6 450 GB (x4) SAS
- Seagate Barracuda ES.2 1 TB SAS
- Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1 TB SATA-II
- Western Digital VelociRaptor 300 GB SATA-II
- Western Digital RE2 750 GB SATA-II
- Western Digital Raptor 74 GB SATA
With the operating system installed on each of the test hard disks, the Western Digital VelociRaptor drive was able to get into the operating system the fastest of our lot. Our 15K.6 and ES.2 SAS drives are held back by our SAS controller, which takes an extra minute during the boot process to start up and initialize. This particular controller was fairly slow in this regard, and most SAS controllers can cut this time down by about half. If you reboot your system a lot, keep in mind that SAS configurations do typically take longer to boot up.
For the record, once inside the OS, each of these drives was able to score a perfect 5.9 in Windows Vista's integrated "Experience" benchmark for storage performance.