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 testswith surprising results.
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.
|Maximum external transfer rate||300MB/s|
|Average seek time||<8.5ms|
|Average rotational latency||4.17ms|
|Available capacities||400, 500GB|
|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.
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 7200.9 (160GB)||300MB/s||7,200RPM||8MB||160GB||160GB||Yes|
|Barracuda 7200.9 (500GB)||300MB/s||7,200RPM||16MB||125GB||500GB||Yes|
|Caviar SE16 (500GB)||300MB/s||7,200RPM||16MB||125GB||500GB||Yes|
|Caviar RE2 (500GB)||300MB/s||7,200RPM||16MB||125GB||500GB||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.
Thanks to the folks at Newegg for hooking us up with the DiamondMax 11 we used for testing.
We used the following versions of our test applications:
- WorldBench 5.0
- Intel IOMeter v2004.07.30
- Xbit Labs File Copy Test v1.0 beta 13
- TCD Labs HD Tach v3.01
- Far Cry v1.3
- DOOM 3
- Intel iPEAK Storage Performance Toolkit 3.0
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
Windows Media Encoder
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.
ACDSee stresses the drives a little, and the DiamondMax falls towards the back of the field.
Multitasking and office applications
Mozilla and Windows Media Encoder
Performance doesn’t vary much between the various drivers in WorldBench’s office and multitasking tests.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 queuingand one company now owns them both.