Single page Print

Maxtor's DiamondMax 10 hard drive

NCQ gets 16MB of cache

ModelDiamondMax 10
Price (300GB)

LIKE IT OR NOT, the latest hard drive technologies aren't nearly as flashy as those from the processor, graphics, or even chipset worlds. Hard drives occasionally get a spindle speed or cache size boost, but for the most part, they're only treated to expanding storage capacity—not that more storage capacity is a bad thing; it's just not that exciting.

Thankfully, Native Command Queuing (NCQ) brings a little spice to the otherwise drab world of desktop hard drives. NCQ intelligently re-orders I/O requests to minimize the performance penalty associated with a drive's rotational latency. That's not the sexiest sales pitch, but for PC enthusiasts, NCQ's potential performance benefits are certainly tantalizing.

Maxtor's first NCQ-enabled desktop drive is the DiamondMax 10. Available in capacities up to 300GB, the DiamondMax 10 comes equipped with as much as 16MB of cache and the promise of improved performance. Read on to see how command queuing affects the DiamondMax 10's performance and how the DiamondMax 10 stacks up against the competition.

The specs
Before we tackle the DiamondMax 10's performance, let's see how the drive's specs compare to its predecessor, the DiamondMax Plus 9.

  DiamondMax 10 DiamondMax Plus 9
Maximum external transfer rate150MB/sec
Average seek time
Average rotational latency4.17ms4.2ms
Spindle speed7,200-RPM
Cache size16MB (250 and 300GB)
8MB (80, 120, 160, 200GB)
Platter size100GB80GB
Available capacities80, 120, 160, 200, 250, 300GB60, 80, 120, 160, 200, 250GB
Idle acoustics2.9 bels2.7 bels
Seek acoustics3.8 bels3.5 bels
Idle power consumption6.7W7.3W
Seek  power consumption14.5W12.2W
Native Command Queuing (NCQ)YesNo
Component design lifeFive years
Warranty lengthOne year (Retail)
Three years (Bare drives)

Like its predecessor, the DiamondMax 10 has a 150MB/sec Serial ATA interface and spins at 7,200 RPM. The drive's seek time and rotational latency are a little faster than the Plus 9, but not by much. The DiamondMax 10 does manage to pack an additional 20GB or storage per platter, though.

Additional cache is one of the DiamondMax 10's more notable features, but it's limited to the largest drives. 250 and 300GB DiamondMax 10 drives come with 16MB of cache—twice what's available with 80, 120, 160, and 200GB drives.

The DiamondMax 10's most intriguing new feature is support for Native Command Queuing (NCQ). NCQ minimizes the performance impact of a hard drive's mechanical latencies by queuing I/O requests and intelligently executing them in a more optimal order. Command queuing can improve performance in multi-user environments and with randomized access patterns, but it doesn't do much for streaming transfers.

Maxtor's warranty policy for DiamondMax drives is a little odd. Units sold as bare drives are covered by a three-year warranty, but those sold in retail packaging only get a one-year pact. It seems counter-intuitive that the retail drive kits would get less warranty coverage than bare drive equivalents, but there's no reason for enthusiasts to buy more expensive retail kits, so I can't complain. Perhaps Maxtor is only serving up extra warranty coverage for bare drives because it knows that those who buy bare drives are conditioned to expect better warranty coverage. It's unfortunate that the unwashed masses who are buying retail drive kits get shafted with a single-year warranty, though.

Although it's nice to see bare drives getting a little extra warranty love, three years isn't all that special. Seagate covers all its desktop hard drives with a five-year warranty, which equals the design life of the DiamondMax 10. Maxtor offers a five-year warranty on its higher end MaXLine "Enhanced-reliability" drives, though.

The DiamondMax 10 from above...

And below

You'll need a Serial ATA power connector for this one