Maxtor’s DiamondMax 11 hard drive

Manufacturer Maxtor
Model DiamondMax 11
Price (street)
Availability Now

SEAGATE RECENTLY ACQUIRED MAXTOR in a stock deal worth close to $2 billion, but instead of assimilating the company and its products, Seagate looks prepared to let the Maxtor name live on. With Maxtor increasingly focused on external storage devices, there isn’t as much overlap between the two companies’ product lines as there once was. However, there’s still plenty of potential for clashing on the desktop hard drive front, where Maxtor’s DiamondMax 11 sits opposite Seagate’s latest Barracudas.

The DiamondMax 11 has everything you’d expect from a current-generation desktop Serial ATA drive, including a fluid dynamic bearing motor to lower noise levels, 500GB of capacity, a 16MB cache, and support for 300MB/s transfer rates and Native Command Queuing (NCQ). Maxtor’s NCQ implementation has proven to be particularly potent in the past, as well; the DiamondMax 10 is approaching two years old, but it’s had no problem keeping up with the multitasking performance of even Western Digital’s most recent Raptors.

Can the DiamondMax 11 extend Maxtor’s streak of surprising multitasking dominance? How does the drive compare with the latest competition, including its new step-siblings from Seagate? Newegg hooked us up with a 500GB DiamondMax 11 so we could find out, and we’ve run it through our grueling series of hard drive tests—with surprising results.

The drive
Hard drive manufacturers have become increasingly sparing with the hard drive performance specifications they publish, and Maxtor is no different. Fortunately, we have plenty of performance tests that should easily highlight the DiamondMax 11’s strengths and weaknesses.

  DiamondMax 11
Maximum external transfer rate 300MB/s
Average seek time <8.5ms
Average rotational latency 4.17ms
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Available capacities 400, 500GB
Cache size 16MB
Platter size 125GB
Idle acoustics 3.1-3.2 bels
Seek acoustics 3.5-3.6 bels
Idle power consumption 8.1W
Seek power consumption 13.6W
Native Command Queuing Yes
Annualized Return Rate <1%
Component design life Five years
Warranty length Three years

On the surface, the DiamondMax looks like a pretty complete offering. Essential features like a 16MB cache, 300MB/s Serial ATA interface, and Native Command Queuing (NCQ) support are all there, although the drive is only available in relatively large 400 and 500GB capacities. Maxtor’s DiamondMax 17 line occupies the space below 400GB, with drives sized at 80, 160, 250, and 320GB.

Interestingly, the DiamondMax 17 actually features higher capacity platters than the 11, whose capacity per platter is limited to 125GB. The DiamondMax 17 boasts 160GB per platter, and Seagate’s latest perpendicular-powered Barracudas have pushed platter capacity to 188GB.

Platter capacity determines how many disks it takes to hit a drive’s target capacity, and fewer is generally better. Adding disks increases the odds that a catastrophic head crash will cripple a drive. Additional disks also add weight, which takes more power to spin, usually creating more noise in the process.

Perhaps more importantly, platter capacity can have an impact on drive performance. Higher capacity platters allow the drive head to access more data over shorter physical distances, so they tend to offer higher sequential transfer rates. That puts the DiamondMax 11 in a bit of a hole to start, although it’s worth noting that Western Digital’s latest Caviar SE16 and RE2 have done quite well for themselves with only 125GB per platter.

Rather than pegging the DiamondMax 11’s reliability to a Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) spec, Maxtor uses an Annualized Return Rate (ARR). Hard drive manufacturers seem to prefer measures like ARR to MTBF, although it would be more meaningful if Maxtor published the drive’s AFR, or Annualized Failure Rate. A failure rate would communicate more about the drive’s reliability than how many failures were actually returned.

If your DiamondMax 11 happens to fail in its first three years, the drive will be covered under warranty. The three-year warranty is a couple of years short of the drive’s five-year design life, but that’s consistent with what most hard drive manufacturers offer for their desktop products. You generally have to step up to an enterprise-class product to get five years of warranty coverage on a Serial ATA drive, although we should note that Seagate offers a five-year warranty with all of its internal hard drive products.

For those who are curious, the DiamondMax 11 uses a Samsung K4D261638F-LC50 memory chip for its cache and an Agere “Seaglet” storage controller. Interestingly, “Seaglet” is just two letters shy of Seagate. Let the conspiracy theories begin.

 

Test notes
We’ll be comparing the performance of the DiamondMax 11 with that of a slew of competitors, including some of the latest and greatest Serial ATA drives from Hitachi, Maxtor, Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital. These drives differ when it comes to external transfer rates, spindle speeds, cache sizes, platter densities, NCQ support, and capacity, all of which can have an impact on performance. Keep in mind the following differences as we move through our benchmarks:

  Max external transfer rate Spindle speed Cache size Platter size Capacity Native Command Queuing?
Barracuda 7200.7 NCQ 150MB/s 7,200RPM 8MB 80GB 160GB Yes
Barracuda 7200.8 150MB/s 7,200RPM 8MB 133GB 400GB Yes
Barracuda 7200.9 (160GB) 300MB/s 7,200RPM 8MB 160GB 160GB Yes
Barracuda 7200.9 (500GB) 300MB/s 7,200RPM 16MB 125GB 500GB Yes
Barracuda 7200.10 300MB/s 7,200RPM 16MB 188GB 750GB Yes
Barracuda ES 300MB/s 7,200RPM 16MB 188GB 750GB Yes
Caviar SE16 300MB/s 7,200RPM 16MB 83GB 250GB No
Caviar SE16 (500GB) 300MB/s 7,200RPM 16MB 125GB 500GB Yes
Caviar RE2 150MB/s 7,200RPM 16MB 100GB 400GB Yes
Caviar RE2 (500GB) 300MB/s 7,200RPM 16MB 125GB 500GB Yes
Deskstar 7K500 300MB/s 7,200RPM 16MB 100GB 500GB Yes
DiamondMax 10 150MB/s 7,200RPM 16MB 100GB 300GB Yes
DiamondMax 11 300MB/s 7,200RPM 16MB 125GB 500GB Yes
Raptor WD740GD 150MB/s 10,000RPM 8MB 37GB 74GB No*
Raptor X 150MB/s 10,000RPM 16MB 75GB 150GB Yes
Raptor WD1500ADFD 150MB/s 10,000RPM 16MB 75GB 150GB Yes
SpinPoint T 300MB/s 7,200RPM 16MB 133GB 400GB Yes

Note that the 250GB Caviar SE16 and the Raptor WD740GD lack support for Native Command Queuing. The WD740GD does support a form of command queuing known as Tagged Command Queuing (TCQ), but host controller and chipset support for TCQ is pretty thin. Our Intel 955X-based test platform doesn’t support TCQ.

We have test results from older and newer versions of Western Digital’s Caviar SE16 and RE2. To avoid confusion, we’ll be referring to the newer drives as the Caviar RE2 (500GB) and Caviar SE16 (500GB), while the old drives will appear as the Caviar RE2 and Caviar SE16.

Since Seagate makes versions of the 7200.7 both with and without NCQ support, the 7200.7 in our tests appears as the “Barracuda 7200.7 NCQ” to clarify that it’s the NCQ version of the drive. The Caviar RE2, Deskstar T7K250, DiamondMax 10 and 11, 7200.8, 7200.9, 7200.10, ES, SpinPoint T, Raptor X, and Raptor WD1500ADFD aren’t explicitly labeled as NCQ drives because they’re not available without NCQ support.

Finally, we should note that our WD1500ADFD has a slightly newer firmware revision than the Raptor X sample we’ve had since February. The drives still share identical internals, but firmware optimizations could give our newer Raptor an edge over the X in some tests.

Our testing methods
All tests were run three times, and their results were averaged, using the following test system.

Processor Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4GHz
System bus 800MHz (200MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard Asus P5WD2 Premium
Bios revision 0422
North bridge Intel 955X MCH
South bridge Intel ICH7R
Chipset drivers Chipset 7.2.1.1003
AHCI/RAID 5.1.0.1022
Memory size 1GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Micron DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz
CAS latency (CL) 3
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 3
RAS precharge (tRP) 3
Cycle time (tRAS) 8
Audio codec ALC882D
Graphics Radeon X700 Pro 256MB with CATALYST 5.7 drivers
Hard drives Hitachi 7K500 500GB SATA
Maxtor DiamondMax 10 300GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 NCQ 160GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.8 400GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 160GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 500GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 750GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar SE16 250GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar RE2 400GB SATA
Western Digital Raptor WD740GD 74GB SATA
Western Digital Raptor X 150GB SATA
Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar RE2 500GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar SE16 500GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda ES 750GB SATA
Samsung SpinPoint T 400GB SATA
Maxtor DiamondMax 11 500GB SATA
OS Windows XP Professional
OS updates Service Pack 2

Thanks to the folks at Newegg for hooking us up with the DiamondMax 11 we used for testing.

Our test system was powered by OCZ PowerStream power supply units. The PowerStream was one of our Editor’s Choice winners in our last PSU round-up.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1280×1024 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

 

WorldBench overall performance
WorldBench uses scripting to step through a series of tasks in common Windows applications. It then produces an overall score. WorldBench also spits out individual results for its component application tests, allowing us to compare performance in each. We’ll look at the overall score, and then we’ll show individual application results.

The DiamondMax doesn’t get off to a particularly good start, managing only the middle of the field in WorldBench. Scores are relatively close, of course, but the Maxtor drive is slower than the latest from Seagate, Samsung, and Western Digital.

Multimedia editing and encoding

MusicMatch Jukebox

Windows Media Encoder

Adobe Premiere

VideoWave Movie Creator

With the exception of Premiere, scores are bunched tightly together throughout WorldBench’s multimedia editing and encoding tests. In the one test that does give the drives a little room to play, the DiamondMax finishes near the front of the pack.

 

Image processing

Adobe Photoshop

ACDSee PowerPack

ACDSee stresses the drives a little, and the DiamondMax falls towards the back of the field.

Multitasking and office applications

Microsoft Office

Mozilla

Mozilla and Windows Media Encoder

Performance doesn’t vary much between the various drivers in WorldBench’s office and multitasking tests.

Other applications

Winzip

Nero

WorldBench’s Nero and WinZip results have plenty of variety, though. The DiamondMax 11 doesn’t perform particularly well in WinZip, but at least it’s a big improvement over its predecessor. In Nero, the DiamondMax struggles to make it to the middle of the pack.

 

Boot and load times
To test system boot and game level load times, we busted out our trusty stopwatch.

The DiamondMax 11 is quick to boot our test system into Windows, but slower than the competition when loading game levels in Doom 3 and Far Cry.

 

File Copy Test
File Copy Test is a pseudo-real-world benchmark that times how long it takes to create, read, and copy files in various test patterns. File copying is tested twice: once with the source and target on the same partition, and once with the target on a separate partition. Scores are presented in MB/s.

Maxtor doesn’t fare well in FC-Test’s file creation tests, but what’s more striking is the fact that the DiamondMax 11 is consistently slower than the DiamondMax 10.

Fortunately, the DiamondMax 11 bounces back with a much stronger performance in the read tests. It easily beats the DiamondMax 10 across each test pattern, and even keeps up with the best the competition has to offer.

Comparatively slow file creation speeds are likely the culprit behind the DiamondMax 11’s relatively low copy performance. In the straight copy test, the drive is again slower than its predecessor. That changes in the partition copy test, where the DiamondMax 11 ekes out a victory over the 10, but the Maxtor drives are still slower than the competition.

 

iPEAK multitasking
We’ve developed a series of disk-intensive multitasking tests to highlight the impact of command queuing on hard drive performance. You can get the low-down on these iPEAK-based tests here. The mean service time of each drive is reported in milliseconds, with lower values representing better performance.

DiamondMax drives have always performed well in our iPEAK multitasking tests, and the 11 is no exception. The drive dominates our first round of tests, and although it doesn’t pull off wins across the board, it never places lower than third. That’s a stark contrast to Seagate’s Barracudas, which perform well with some multitasking loads but poorly with others.

 

iPEAK multitasking – con’t

The DiamondMax 11 owns our second round of iPEAK tests, taking top honors in three of four multitasking scenarios. This is Native Command Queuing at its best.

 

IOMeter – Transaction rate
IOMeter presents a good test case for command queuing, so the NCQ-less Western Digital Caviar SE16 and Raptor WD740GD should have a slight disadvantage here under higher loads.

It may have won our multitasking tests, but the DiamondMax 11 is no match for Western Digital’s latest Caviars under multi-user-style IOMeter loads. The DiamondMax puts up a decent fight, and its performance is a huge improvement over that of the DiamondMax 10, but it can’t outmuscle the Caviars when faced with increasing numbers of outstanding I/O requests.

To its credit, the DiamondMax 11 still turns in higher transaction rates than a stack of Barracudas, including the enterprise-oriented ES.

 

IOMeter – Response time

The DiamondMax 11’s IOMeter response times sit in the middle of the pack, but the drive does manage to beat most of its 7,200-RPM competition.

 

IOMeter – CPU utilization

CPU utilization is low across the board, even at higher loads.

 

HD Tach
We tested HD Tach with the benchmark’s full variable zone size setting.

These relatively slow average transfer rates go a long way toward explaining the DiamondMax 11’s poor showing in FC-Test. The drive’s lower capacity platters certainly don’t help it here, although Western Digital’s 500GB Caviar RE2 and SE16 manage higher sustained throughput with the same 125GB per platter.

Maxtor and Seagate are the only ones who seem to be pushing the 300MB/s Serial ATA interface. The DiamondMax 11 almost leads the field here, but it’s still nearly 60MB/s shy of the interface’s peak theoretical speed.

For a drive that performs so well under multitasking and multi-user loads, the DiamondMax 11’s random access time is surprisingly high.

CPU utilization results are within HD Tach’s +/- 2% margin of error in this test.

 

Noise levels
Noise levels were measured with an Extech 407727 Digital Sound Level meter 1″ from the side of the drives at idle and under an HD Tach seek load. Drives were run with the PCB facing up.

The DiamondMax 11’s idle noise levels aren’t particularly low at idle, and although the drive fares comparatively better under load, it’s still several decibels off the lead.

Power consumption
For our power consumption tests, we measured the voltage drop across a 0.1-ohm resistor placed in line with the 5V and 12V lines connected to each drive. Through the magic of Ohm’s Law, we were able to calculate the power draw from each voltage rail and add them together for the total power draw of the drive.

With four 125GB platters, the DiamondMax 11 has plenty of weight to spin around, and its power consumption is among the highest we’ve seen. Note that four-platter drives like the 500GB Caviar RE2 and SE16 manage lower power consumption with the same number of platters.

 

Conclusions
With the DiamondMax 11’s street price dipping into the low $200s, the drive costs about as much as 500GB drives from other manufacturers. Unfortunately, the DiamondMax 11’s strengths don’t really play to a big segment of the market. The drive’s slower sequential transfer rates, unimpressive WorldBench performance, and relatively high noise levels make it less suitable for desktop or home theater environments than several of its competitors. A couple of those competitors, most notably Western Digital’s latest Caviars, also boast better performance under the kinds of multi-user workloads common in demanding enterprise environments.

Of course, the DiamondMax 11 isn’t technically an enterprise-class hard drive, so it isn’t entirely appropriate to expect it to run with enterprise drives like the Caviar RE2. Maxtor has a family of MaXLine drives that are more specifically tuned for enterprise workloads.

The DiamondMax 11’s one saving grace is its exceptional performance in our iPEAK multitasking tests, where it consistently beats everything from 7,200-RPM desktop drives to 10K-RPM Raptors. That certainly makes the drive appealing for the kinds of single-user multitasking that’s common among power users and PC enthusiasts. What’s more, it gives Seagate a potential ace in the hole.

Seagate already has an impressive desktop product in the Barracuda 7200.10, but that drive’s inconsistent multitasking and poor multi-user performance are a liability under more demanding workstation and server loads. Conveniently, the DiamondMax 11 is considerably more comfortable in those environments, likely due to superior command queuing logic. One can only imagine the kind of well-rounded performance that could be had from a drive that combined the Barracuda’s perpendicular recording technology with the DiamondMax’s command queuing—and one company now owns them both. 

Comments closed
    • albundy
    • 14 years ago

    hopefully seagate will bring quality to these drives. I have to say that their reliability is among the lowest I have ever worked with, even worse than the deathstars.

    • ludi
    • 14 years ago

    Three general comments:

    1. Seaglet is actually just one letter off from Seagate, although a couple of the letters are reversed. </penatic_gripe>

    2. Personally, I would prefer to see the graph scales cropped so that the relative differences are more visible. I /[

      • IntelMole
      • 14 years ago

      I disagree on point 2.

      Surely by only showing the relative difference like that, you’re in effect showing differences that really aren’t there. Yeah it looks nice and all, but the fact is that in those benchmarks there is practically no difference in all of the drives.

        • Stranger
        • 14 years ago

        I agree with you mole. I can’t explain how annoying it is when some fanboy proclaims some product smashs another one even though it won by 3% which is probably way within margin of error and easily within 1 screwed up setting.

          • Buub
          • 14 years ago

          Agree the graphs should *[

    • Cript
    • 14 years ago

    What’s that warranty void sticker covering? Seems more logical to put it on the seam of the top and side, or on the PCB, if someone tries to take it apart.

      • ludi
      • 14 years ago

      Typically, a sticker in that position is covering a screw head. If a sturdy adhesive was used, you ain’t getting inside the device without destroying the sticker.

    • Furen
    • 14 years ago

    Blah, 300MB/sec transfer rates… I wish manufacturers stopped quoting the interface speed and quoted the ACTUAL speed of the damn things.

    • indeego
    • 14 years ago

    The three failures I’ve seen this year have been Maxtors. I know that my personal experience doesn’t account for much, but I’ve seen more failures of this manufacturer than any other. it shows. Retail warranties: Maxtors have 1 year, Seagate 5.

    There is no price difference that would cause me to switch from seagate to Maxtorg{<.<}g

      • tcunning1
      • 14 years ago

      I have had several catastrophic failures of Maxtors in the last few years, and will never buy anything with their name on it again, even if it operates at the speed of light (until just after the warranty runs out).

        • Saribro
        • 14 years ago

        I on the other hand have no complaints. Once, my noname PSU even fried my entire box, except my 2 maxtors.

    • Bensam123
    • 14 years ago

    Someone should make a program that constantly does random access operations on the hard drive, then you guys should try running it for a day and see how long a Maxtor lasts.

    Don’t know of any other way to test the reliability of hard drives, which is the real differentiating point between these drives.

    • DrDillyBar
    • 14 years ago

    Good review, but I must admit I’m not finding HDD’s all that interesting now a days. I read the intro’s and generally skip to the power consumption, noise levels and conclusion.
    But for some reason, this made me think of that i-RAM thingamajig again. A 10MB HDD was SOO much faster then a FDD (360K), but other then sheer capacity those fractions of a percent don’t matter all that much.

    • eloj
    • 14 years ago

    Most drives features an acoustics setting (“low noise”/”full speed”). Is there any review which shows the/a difference in both speed and noise from changing that setting? Are drives reviewed with their default setting throughout?

    • R2P2
    • 14 years ago

    So this one doesn’t exactly go to 11, eh?

    • tempeteduson
    • 14 years ago

    Maxtor’s drives are getting less appealing every day. For well-rounded performance and low acoustics, Western Digital’s Caviars are the most attractive choice.

      • Corrado
      • 14 years ago

      I haven’t touched anything but seagate in the past 3 years and have yet to have a drive fail on me.

        • Jigar
        • 14 years ago

        add me in that list but make it 6 years….. Seagate is going cool without single failure…..

        • eloj
        • 14 years ago

        I have both Maxtors and WDs and none have failed me either (one of each of which is running 24/7).

        Haven’t lost a drive since the Deathstar fiasco.

          • Bensam123
          • 14 years ago

          You’re not part of the norm then.

          I’ve had 3 Maxtors die on me and 2 WDs. I have over 9 Seagates running, none of which have failed (including the one I used for all my p2p traffic, which has been doing it since 80GB was the biggest drive you could buy).

          FYI the longer you run a drive without shutting it down, the better. What raises hell with drives is turning them on and off.

            • eloj
            • 14 years ago

            So you’re the norm then? I was wondering who’s anecdotal evidance made the norm.

            • zqw
            • 14 years ago

            NORM!!!!! CLIFF!!!!

            • Bensam123
            • 14 years ago

            No, I’m part of the norm.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 14 years ago

            q[

            • Buub
            • 14 years ago

            Actually, I think it’s more of a mechanical thing than an electrical thing. Power cycling the drive also heat cycles it. The platters are supported by bearings. Heat cycling the bearings is what causes the most wear on them. Leaving them spinning non-stop is a lot less stressful. At least, that’s what I’ve been lead to believe — I have no first-hand scientific evidence to back this up.

            • Taddeusz
            • 14 years ago

            It may be true that a drive will run for a long time without being shut off but that is a low load situation for the drive. A drive pulls more power on spinup than during any other time in it’s operation. The drive could partially fail during a long run and still keep working till it’s powered off or when the system encounters a power failure. Then the next time the drive is powered on the failure may be enough to cause a full failure.

            Of course, this is just a possible example to say that just because a drive is running and seems to be fully operational for some time doesn’t mean that it hasn’t already failed to some degree.

            I would actually like to see some statistical information that definitively proves that power cycling a drive often causes more failures. While it is true that most drive failures are detected during spinup due to the highe stress on the drive that does not necessarily mean that the spinup is what actually has caused the failure.

        • adisor19
        • 14 years ago

        Unfortunetly i lost 2 80G IDE Seagate’s in the last 2 years :S but thank GOD for that wonderfull 5 year waranty 🙂

        As far as Maxtors go, i’m not touching them again ever since that time when they installed a 1 year warranty period. I lost a brand new 80G right after the 1 year warranty was over..

        Adi

          • eloj
          • 14 years ago

          Their server (MaxLine) HDDs have 3 or 5 years, which is what I buy.

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