September 27, 2001

Reviews: Maxtor D540X/536DX 80/100-gigabyte hard drives

Author: JT Smith

- By Jeff Field -

Today, I'm reviewing two of the latest hard drives from Maxtor, the D540X 80-gigabyte drive and 536DX 100-gigabyte drive. With Maxtor announcing its new 160GB drive, prices for drives in the range of 80 to 100 gigabytes will drop in price, making drives in this range an excellent choice for those are are in need of more space but don't necessarily need 160 gigabytes of it. Read on to see how these two particular drives stack up.The 536DX and D540X are both 5400RPM drives. Because of that, they seem to be aimed more at the consumer market than at the workstation market, where storage speed is much more of a factor. For the average PC user, 5400 RPM drives are fine, with most of these drives used for storage of MP3s, and things of that nature. Those who need this sort of capacity for things such as video editing and other disk-intensive tasks are going to want higher speed drives.

The 80-gigabyte D540X has two platters of 40 gigabytes each that give it the 80-gigabyte capacity. The 536DX, on the other hand, has three 33-gigabyte platters that make up its 100-gigabyte capacity. The 536DX, which is being succeeded by Maxtor's new D540X Ultra 133 line of drives, will only be available until October 31st.

When I reviewed the Seagate Barracuda ATA IV, I discussed Seagate's various technologies aimed at a quieter, more reliable drive. Maxtor certainly wasn't going to rest on its heals, as it is now using its own Silent Store technology. These drives are as unobtrusive as the Barracuda IV. Maxtor is also using what it calls Quiet Drive Technology in newer models, which is the same type of Fluid Dynamic Bearing motor used in the Barracuda IV. Such developments are most welcomed by people like myself, who value quiet computers.

Performance

System Configuration
Athlon 1.4GHz
256 Megabytes DDR RAM from Crucial
Gigabyte 7DXR motherboard
Slackware 8.0
Kernel 2.4.9
Filesystem used is ReiserFS
bonnie++ results
Bonnie++ is a hard drive benchmark that tests the writing and reading
from both a single large file (such as that of a database) and many files (like a proxy, or mail program). It is
useful for simulating performance under such applications. Bonnie++ was run

Bonnie++ results
Sequential Output
Drive Per-Character Block Rewrite
536DX 12468 K/sec, 77% CPU 14587 K/sec, 9% CPU 7345K/sec, 04% CPU
D540X 15835 K/sec, 99% CPU 36753 K/sec, 23% CPU 9901K/sec, 05% CPU
Barracuda IV 15883 K/sec, 98% CPU 46820 K/sec, 30% CPU 10171K/sec, 06% CPU
Sequential Input Random
Drive Per-Character Block Random
536DX 12818 K/sec, 70% CPU 29723 K/sec, 11% CPU 155.7 Seeks/sec, 0% CPU
D540X 10032 K/sec, 54% CPU 32319 K/sec, 12% CPU 162.8 Seeks/sec, 0% CPU
Barracuda IV 10622 K/sec, 58% CPU 40949 K/sec, 15% CPU 210.9 Seeks/sec, 0% CPU
Sequential Create
Drive Create Read Delete
536DX 21025 /sec, 100% CPU none 25278/sec, 98% CPU
D540X 20000 /sec, 92% CPU none 26391/sec, 99% CPU
Barracuda IV 21993 /sec, 99% CPU none 26431/sec, 100% CPU
Random Create
Drive Create Read Delete
536DX 20198 /sec, 99% CPU none 20394/sec, 99% CPU
D540X 20896 /sec, 100% CPU none 21217/sec, 101% CPU
Barracuda IV 16810 /sec, 84% CPU none 20601/sec, 100% CPU

You can see here that for the most part, these drives can keep up with the Barracuda IV from Seagate, with the exception of a few key places, namely seeks per second and block transfers. Overall, the bonnie performance of both the D540X and the 536DX is very good for drives of their class.

hdparm results

The hdparm tests give you the raw throughput of the device -- essentially, the best you can possibly hope for. Uncached is
the buffered speed of the disk, without the use of the operating system cache. Cached results test the perform of the RAM
and CPU more than they test the drive itself.

hdparm -t (Uncached)
Results
536DX 29.36 MB/sec
D540X 32.16 MB/sec
ST380020A 37.43 MB/sec
hdparm -T (Cached)
Results
536DX 206.45 MB/sec
D540X 203.17 MB/sec
Barracuda IV 181.51 MB/sec

Here we find that the 5400-RPM drives do lag quite a bit behind the 7200-RPM Barracuda, by about eight megabytes per second. We also see how varied cached results can be, once again pointing out that cached drive results really only reflect memory and CPU performance, and can vary due to the slightest factor. While both of the Maxtor drives lag behind a 7200-RPM drive, they do very well for 5400-RPM drives. I'd go as far as to say that the speed on these is excellent for drives of their size and type. I would think the average PC user would be fine with the performance either of these drives.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a lot of capacity, with decent performance and a low price, you should seriously consider these two drives from Maxtor. Both offer capacity and performance to satisfy most Linux users. Just think of all the different distributions you could fit into 100 gigabytes. Or all the MP3s and other such things you could use to fill even the biggest drives. The 80-gigabyte D540X is available for $174 on Pricewatch, while the 536DX can be found there for around $240.

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