SATA… either you’ve got it or you want it, right? Well, at least that’s how it seems. Quick adoption of SATA technology will help lead to the death of the PATA interface, which is just a good thing. Check out this review of Maxtor’s DiamondMax Plus 9 120GB SATA drive.
Is there anyone out there who isn’t looking forward to the day when the PATA (parallel ATA) interface is completely replaced by the SATA (serial ATA) interface? I seriously doubt it. Lucky for us, that day is probably not too far away. I have read some estimates that claim more than half of new systems could be shipping with SATA by the end of 2004. Just the thought of not seeing any more of those flat, beige ribbon cables brings a smile to my face. Good bye boring PATA cables; hello blue, red and orange SATA cables! Maybe I’m getting a little melodramatic, but the benefits and potential of SATA are just too geekalicious(TM) not to get excited about.
Thanks to Maxtor, I finally have a SATA hard drive in my possession. Many people have made the switch from PATA to SATA and are never looking back, especially for RAID systems. Smaller cables, no more master/slave worries, greater data transfer rates… what’s not to love? In this review, I’ll do a quick comparison of my new 120GB Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 SATA HDD to one of my 80GB Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 PATA HDDs. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the SATA drive will outperform the PATA drive. The real question is by how much, so keep reading to find out.
Features and Specs
The drive featured in this review is Maxtor model number 6Y120M0, which features an 8MB buffer (like all of Maxtor’s current SATA drives). As mentioned above, this drive is a member of the DiamondMax Plus 9 family, Maxtor’s “high performance, high-reliability storage” line. Let’s take a quick look at the features and specs offered by this drive.
- Serial ATA interface for transfer speeds up to 150MB/s
- 100% FDB (fluid dynamic bearing) motors
- 8MB cache buffer
- Shock Protection SystemTM
- Data Protection SystemTM
The FDB motors help the drive operate at very low sound levels. Maxtor’s SPS (Shock Protection System) and DPS (Data Protection System) work together to provide the drive with enhanced protection against operating and non-operating shock to eliminate costly drive returns.
- Model #: 6Y120M0
- RPM: 7200
- Capacity: 120GB
- Interface: SATA/150
- Seek: Acoustics: Buffer: 8MB
For a more exhaustive look at the DiamondMax Plus 9 line’s specs, read this PDF found on Maxtor’s web site.
SATA Benefits – Quick Overview
Plenty of other articles have gone into the tech behind SATA and provided detailed explanations of each benefit, so I’m going to keep this short and simple for this review. Here is a quick list of SATA’s benefits over PATA (source: Maxtor).
Serial cables and connectors are thinner and smaller
Maximizes system air flow
Greater productivity when reconfiguring a system
Better signal integrity
Reduced data crosstalk
Point-to-point helps “isolate” failures
Cyclical Redundancy Checking protects data
Point-to-point architecture dedicates bandwidth to a device
“Slow” devices do not impact “faster” devices
As devices are added, performance is not degraded
You can see all of the connectors offered on the Maxtor SATA hard drive. From left to right, they are the SATA power connector, serial data interface connector, diagnostic jumper settings and the legacy power connector. Look closely and you can see that there are no master/slave jumpers any more. Isn’t SATA great? One more thing worth noting about Maxtor’s current SATA line-up — they include the legacy power connector and the new SATA style power connector while some manufacturers only include the SATA style connector.
Performance / Benchmarks
Overall, the Maxtor 120GB SATA drive (model 6Y120M0) has proven to be a solid performer. I didn’t have any problems installing and using it on my Chaintech 7NJS nForce2 system. Thankfully, it’s pretty darn quiet — I put my ear very close to it and couldn’t distinguish its noise from the rest of my case’s noises (fans, video card, etc). I did notice the drive getting warm to the touch though, so I’ll be sure to keep a case fan pushing air over it, like I do with all my HDDs to keep them as cool as possible. Let’s move on to the benchmark results. Here are the specs of my test system.
- Chaintech 7NJS Zenith nForce2 motherboard
- AMD Athlon XP 2500+ @ 3200+ (2.2GHz, 400MHz FSB)
- 2 x 256MB Corsair XMS3500 DDR
- Leadtek GeForce FX 5950 Ultra
- Western Digital 80GB SE 8MB Buffer HDD
- PlexWriter 40/12/40A CDRW
- Pioneer 16X Slot DVD
- Windows XP Pro SP1, ForceWare 52.16, DirectX 9b
- Memory Timings: 2-2-2-5
For testing, I compared the 120GB SATA drive to Maxtor’s own 80GB ATA/133 8MB buffer DiamondMax Plus 9 HDD (model 6Y080P0), which has proven to be a great performer for many months now. Both drives include an 8MB buffer. My tests included the following benchmarks: Futuremark’s PCMark2002, SiSoftware Sandra 2004, HDBench and HD Tach 2.70.
PCMark2002 HDD Score
SiSoftware Sandra 2004
HD Tach 2.70
With better performance, smaller cable, no more jumper setting and other benefits, what’s not to love about SATA? In my opinion, nothing. Maybe the performance isn’t blowing us away yet, but it will in coming generations. SATA 2 will provide 300MB/s transfer rates! For the current SATA generation, Maxtor has produced a strong series of drives in the DiamondMax Plus 9 line. After using the 120GB DiamondMax Plus 9 SATA drive for over two weeks now, I’m very pleased with the drive and its performance.
You can see from the benchmarks that the 80GB PATA drive scores pretty high in benchmarks, but the 120GB SATA drive scores 15-19% better in some of the tests. That’s enough for me to be convinced to spend a little extra for SATA versus PATA. SATA drives really shine in a RAID configuration, so if you really want to use your new motherboard to its full potential, grab a couple SATA drives if you can afford it. Maxtor drives are quite affordable, and as this review shows, they perform pretty well too.
I’m awarding Maxtor’s 120GB DiamondMax Plus 9 SATA HDD a 9 out 10. It’s easy to recommend because of its affordability, high performance and low noise level.
A bare drive (like the one I reviewed — doesn’t include cable, software, etc) can be found for around $100 at your favorite online shops, like Newegg.com, which is about $10 more than its PATA counterpart.