Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 200GB SATA Hard Drive
Date: September 2003
Price: £150 at time of writing
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Hard drive capacities have grown considerably over the last few years, and with ever increasing program and game disk space demands more and more people are looking for larger and faster drives.
An example of this space demand could be that a average Windows XP install with a few applications can easily take up around 1.5Gb with Office and other programs you could easily be using 3-4Gb. Computer games are also becoming more complex and space hungry, Medal of Honour allied assault recommends around 1.5Gb of space just to install it.
Traditional hard drive technology ATA (Parallel ATA) has been around since the early days and has evolved from 66 & 100 modes to the current 133 ATA format. These speeds relate to the External Transfer Rate (MB/sec) so the 133 format has a theoretical rate of 133/MB/sec.
Newer technology which offers faster transfer speeds is now emerging and is being included on several motherboards is Serial ATA (SATA) If you don't have a enabled board you can buy a PCI adapter card to connect the drives, most adapter cards also allow you to connect your existing ATA drives to the SATA interface via a converter.
As already mentioned more and more vendors will be moving over to more SATA interfaces and phasing out the older PATA formats. Like most new standards a group of companies combined forces to produce the new format some of these were Intel, Maxtor, and Seagate.
If you are into video or music editing then you will appreciate the need for large amounts of space.
This drive features a massive storage capacity of 200GB, it also comes with Fluid Dynamic Bearing Motors. The RPM speed of this unit is 7200 and the drive also comes with 8Mb of cache. 8MB of cache aids in reducing the time it takes for data to be read from or written back to the hard disk.
As already mentioned this is a SATA drive so it needs a chip to process the SATA side of things, on this unit it is handled by a Marvell chip, Marvell are well known for producing chips which are in many RAID and similar devices.
The main connectors on the rear of the unit are the common Molex connector, the bank of jumpers then the Serial cable connector, and the Serial Power connector.
Well from the outside it looks fairly standard and similar to a usual 3.5" drive. The drive we looked at come encased in a rubber slip which like many drive now do as it helps reduce any vibrations from the drive through the case.
Installation is similar to the older PATA standards you still need to secure it to a drive bay and you can change jumpers if needed or just use the good old cable select option. Connecting the cables is easier with SATA as the cables are much thinner and easier to connect than the standard IDE connectors.
The drive was fairly quiet and had a slight 'hum' to its operation. With the side of the case back on you could barely hear the drive, drives used to be notorious for noise and some drives are well known that the noise is a downside to the faster speeds.
To Test this drive I used it with the following setup.
Athlon 1800 XP
Windows XP + SP1
512Mb RAM 2100
Highpoint SATA PCI card 1520
I firstly decided to install XP from scratch so began the install by setting up the SATA card during the installation so that the card could see the drive and then installed XP as normal. My reasons for doing this to check how simple the install was from within XP set-up rather than a XP system already running, and to see if any problems arose.
No problems occurred and within a short time I had a blank installation, of course you need to remeber the bits/bytes so that you wont think you should get 200gb of usuable space. On this installation I ended up with 187GB.
If you have experienced the problems when trying to connect a normal drive into the connector on wither the board or the drive then you don't need to worry.
The cables are so much thinner and the reduced size of the connector head allows for quick connection rather than having to ensure the cable is the right way round and ensuring that the pins were not being bent or stressed. They also have a small groove which ensures that it can only be connected one way round.
Once all connected it was time to power up. The drive runs very quiet and once I had replaced the case side window the noise was barely auditable. Maxtor are one of the leading hard drive vendors and in this rang of drives have included Fluid Bearing motor technology which allows for smother and quieter operation.
The spec sheet quote an Acoustic value of 2.7 (bel) idle and 3.5 (bel) seek which is quiet but unfortunately I have no means to test this.
The drive was tested on the above set-up for a couple of days without any problems, I then tested it by ripping a dvd to the drive to see how long it took compared to the usual set-up. I found that around this drive allowed the data to be copied 15 mins faster than the usual drive.
The great thing about the price of hard drives per/Gb now is that space is so cheap and fast, if your not ready to switch to SATA then you can still get a PATA version of this drive. The amount of space needed per user will depend on each individuals use and needs but for gamers who often now need 2-GB just to install the latest game + patches + the usual office and other applications several GB is easy to build up.
If you're into video/dvd editing than again the space needed even if it's just for a buffer for the system to encode can be massive as well as the space per/hr etc. This drive provides a large capacity from a well-known and highly regarded vendor.
The benchmarks below give some indications on the performance, however I believe they could easily be higher if the drive was connected directly to the motherboard rather than through the Highpoint PCI SATA card (not supplied)
This drive is fast and provides plenty of space for your system to grow into. Price wise at the time of writing this series of Maxtor drives were several £ cheaper than their rivals on like for like models.
Warranty has been reduced to 1yr as inline with other hard drive vendors, but the drive performs well and is quiet although to me it did become a bit hot but then it is spinning and working at a high RPM etc.
I would like to re-run and update the review using the drive connected directly to a SATA connector on a motherboard to see if it improves. As I feel the drive has more to give and could be hindered by the use of the add-on card.
It would also be interesting to have 2 drives on review set-up as an array and again directly to a motherboard to see how they perform. I don't think you can ask for more space / £ and from a vendor this well known, highly regarded.