Maxtor's MaXLine III 250GB: Bringing 16MB Buffers and NCQ to Hard Drivesby Anand Lal Shimpi on June 25, 2004 12:03 AM EST
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Maxtor's MaXLine III: NCQ EnabledThe first drive that we've had a chance to test with NCQ enabled is Maxtor's new MaXLine III, a brand new SATA drive that should be shipping in the coming months from Maxtor.
The MaXLine III uses 100GB platters and is available in both 250GB and 300GB flavors. The performance difference between the two is negligible and for this test, we used the 250GB version as that was what was provided to us. The 300GB version would have performed identically in our tests.
Maxtor is also going to be releasing a PATA version of the drive; however, the SATA version of the drive is Maxtor's first native Serial ATA solution with no PATA-to-SATA bridge.
Both the PATA and SATA versions of the drive feature a massive 16MB buffer, double the size of any of Maxtor's previous offerings as well as any competing 7200RPM drive available today. The larger buffer should help out in sequential access performance and when NCQ is enabled, random access performance should be improved as well.
The MaXLine III drives come with a full 3-year warranty; pricing and shipping information is not yet available.
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broberts - Friday, June 25, 2004 - linkWhile the the article stresses that the tests attempt to duplicate real world conditions I noticed that, at least for the one benchmark, the o/s is on a separate drive. IMO most "real world" systems contain one drive, or at least one logical drive (RAID). Having the o/s and swap file on the same drive would, I suspect (and even with 1GB of RAM which is a little over the top), tend to highlight the difference between NCQ and TCQ performance.
NCQ should only make a real difference when disk head movement is the bottleneck. A test such as loading a big program isn't going to really test anything unless the program is fragmented or some o/s activity (like swapping) concurrently takes place on the drive.
I also wonder how much of the advantages of NCQ are negated by the bigger cache? 16MB in a desktop environment is significant. It may well account for the closeness of the numbers reported.
Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, June 25, 2004 - linkThanks for the responses guys, we're committed to making our storage coverage top notch on par with the articles in our other sections so it's going to take lots of constructive criticism to make sure we're providing that; keep it coming.
You've already noticed that there were no sound/heat tests in the article. We got great response from the MP3s I posted of the drives in our first HDD roundup under the new suite, but we're still lacking a good quantitative way of comparing the sound levels of these hard drives. In the worst case scenario I could always just use a trusty SPL meter, but I want to do something a little more useful. Give me another week or so and I'll see if I can't at least have a prototype of what I'm trying to do.
In terms of our excitement about NCQ, the conclusion never stated that NCQ increased performance tremendously across the board. But also remember that we only had three heavy-multitasking benchmarks, and the performance boost we saw in one of them (a very common scenario, who doesn't copy a file and browse the net or check email?) was nothing short of outstanding. NCQ is sort of like Hyper Threading in the sense that it doesn't improve performance by 20% across the board, but in a few very real world scenarios, the performance boost is nothing short of impressive. And as workloads become more parallelized in nature, we'll continue to see bigger benefits from NCQ. For current sequential desktop applications, NCQ doesn't do anything at all; but remember that AMD and Intel are both going down the multicore CPU route for a reason - desktop usage patterns are changing. We're very excited about NCQ as a technology because it anticipates that changing environment and definitely improves performance in it.
Will you see a performance boost from NCQ today? If you're a heavy multitasker at all, then yes. Otherwise, no. Just ask yourself, how many times have you copied a file while doing other things in the background. A 10% performance gain in that one test is much more than any other real world hard drive performance improvement we've seen in recent history.
Operandi - Friday, June 25, 2004 - linkI thought it was a pretty good article. I don't know where your people are coming from saying sounds like Maxtor PR paper. It may not be as fast as the raptor but then again it's a 250-300 gig drive not 74, fair trade if you ask me.
As far as noise goes it should be identical to Diamond Max series. There is no reason for it to be any louder, aside from the 16 meg buffer and NCQ the drive is most likely identical mechanically.
GhandiInstinct - Friday, June 25, 2004 - linkSo, I am also curious, how loud is it? How much will it cost?
MaxLine or Raptor?
Seems to me, as a gamer, Raptor won in all the gaming related benchmarks.
Pariah - Friday, June 25, 2004 - linkI agree with #11. I got the same impression aftering reading the conclusion which didn't seem to take any of the rest of the article into account. The conclusion seemed to be based in wishful thinking of what he had wanted to see, rather than being based on the numbers his article actually produced, which were not nearly as positive.
The Raptor does not support NCQ. It supports the old ATA TCQ which is inferior in its implementation. However, looking at the lackluster performance of NCQ, it's not hard to believe the even worse #'s that StorageReview just posted on the Raptor's TCQ performance in workstation benchmarks.
Also, the 7200.7's do not support NCQ either. Seagate announced a new version of the 7200.7 that will, but has not reached the market yet.
Jeff7181 - Friday, June 25, 2004 - linkWhat would make it any louder than Maxtor's other 7200 RPM drives? I doubt they'd go back to using ball bearings and noisy servo's just to give us NCQ.
T8000 - Friday, June 25, 2004 - linkIt would indeed be interesting to see how other drives that support NCQ, like the Seagate and the Raptor 74 GB would benefit from it.
Altough, I am not sure if the Raptor has NCQ or TCQ, but that could make it even more interesting, as NCQ and TCQ could be compared.
QuaiBoy - Friday, June 25, 2004 - linkThis article reads like Maxtor promotional copy, giving the Maxtor high praise in tests where it fails to even outpace it's 7200RPM competition. Also, like #9 said, how loud is it? Vibration? Heat? Interesting omissions to the article... bet it sounds like a jet turbine given my past experiences with Maxtor.
bwall04 - Friday, June 25, 2004 - linkI'm not sure why this was overlooked but the 74GB Raptor supports NCQ. I think it would paint a clearer picture of the performance of NCQ and situations where it is beneficial if the review could be edited to add in these results.
Kudos to Maxtor for stepping up with something to compete with my Raptors, and with 3x the storage!!
jcromano - Friday, June 25, 2004 - linkHow loud is it?