SATA drives have been a blessing, not only for their ease of use and ergonomics but for ease on the budget as well. While they don't approach the speed of their SCSI cousins they don't approach the cost either and can store vast amounts of data. Maxtor has been manufacturing Hard Drives since 1982, in early 2001 Maxtor literally swallowed the competition acquiring Quantum HDD and in September 2001 acquired MMC Technology, Inc.. With these resources Maxtor has become one of the most innovative hard drive manufacturers on the market. In the last few years storage devices have begun to take every conceivable form and since the advent of the digital camera storage needs have increased exponentially. Regardless of size the demand for rapid retrieval is a constant and SATA drives are fast replacing Parallel ATA drives. Today we take a look at Maxtor's ULTRA 16 (Diamond Max 10) 300GB SATA Hard Drive kit.
To secure their drives during transport Maxtor has replaced thick foam inserts with a new molded plastic packing material. While this may seem a trivial point I did prefer their earlier packaging, however; when you’re shipping 100,000 pieces several ounces per box makes good business sense. Of course if 50,000 units arrived damaged the cost could be devastating, not to mention the consumer confidence loss. Nonetheless the molded plastic held the drive securely and I've never had a Maxtor drive arrive damaged. Included in the box are clearly printed instructions, cables, MaxiBlast driver CD, everything you need to get your HDD up and running.
The platter technology which has allowed Maxtor to reach the 300GB capacity resulted from their collaboration with the subsidiary MMC. The 80GB limit was surpassed now approaching 175GB per 3.5" platter. Maxtor and MMC have developed a technology known as PMR (Perpendicular Medium Recording
) which is more efficient then LMR (Longitudinal Media Recording) this due primarily to it's smaller grain size of 6nm compared to 8nm in diameter. Since changes have focused on platter capacity only, the cost has remained relatively unchanged from previous SATA drives. Technology such as controller chips, power requirements, etc. remain basically unchanged. Maxtor's ULTRA 16 Hard Drive Kit
aka Diamond Max 10 300GB/7200RPM SATA is now one of the largest SATA drives on the market.
Maxtor ULTRA 16 HDD Specifications
|Interface ||Serial ATA 1.5Gb/sec. or Parallel ATA|
|Average Seek Time ||9.0ms (Max)|
|Rotational Speed ||7200RPM|
|Data Transfer Rate ||SATA Up to 1.5 GB/sec, PATA up to 133MB/sec|
|Cache Buffer ||16MB|
The Diamond Max 10 is actually a member of the ULTRA 16 series of SATA drives intended for the Desktop user.
Below we place the Diamond Max 10 and Diamond Max 9 side by side. The Diamond Max 10 (left) which is a native or proprietary SATA drive. Absent are the additional Molex power connector as seen on it's predecessor the Diamond Max 9 (right).
Taking a closer look at the Diamond Max 9 Plus 120GB which we'll use in this review as a performance comparison, note the Molex power connector in addition to the SATA power connector. Since the Diamond Max 9 is a Parallel ATA drive it still retains its jumpers as it can be configured as Master or Slave if the ATA adapter is used.
Below our Diamond Max 10 300GB SATA hard drive with its single SATA power connection, in this case note the absence of pins and jumpers since as a Serial ATA drive it is a proprietary unit.
Installing the drive was simple enough and as I mentioned earlier its a blessing to be rid of the obtrusive flat ATA ribbons.
Although I installed the drive as a data device Windows XP SP2 still didn't recognize the drive at it's full 300GB capacity. Windows read the drive at 137GB, however; this is common and was easily remedied by downloading and installing Maxtor MaxiBlast
. MaxiBlast-4 software makes the appropriate registry changes to Windows XP thereby recognizing the drive's 300GB capacity. If you’re installing your Maxtor Diamond Max 10 as the primary hard drive with either a fresh Windows install or as the primary boot drive containing the OS, a CD is provided to aid in the process. The screenshot below provides an example of MaxiBlast-4 conforming our drive as a secondary data drive.
Maxtor equips their Diamond Max 10 with an Agere Oscar E5-D4
host controller chip, this microchip is analogous to the HDD's "brain." The Oscar host chip has been used in previous Maxtor hard drives its responsible for features such as NCQ, S.M.A.R.T. capability and other essential functions. Below we take a closer look at the controller chip.
Ramping up and maintaining stable platter rotation at 7200RPM is a critical function for any drive regardless of speed, Maxtor utilizes an ST
Microelectronics SMOOTH L7250E
motor controller chip for this purpose. As the name suggests a "SMOOTH" spinning up and winding down of the spindle motor to which the platters are mounted will ultimately determine your hard drive's life span. The redundant operation must be trouble free over many thousand data retrieval instances. These seemingly benign operations are at the heart of hard drive reliability since any undue friction would increase heat, stutter, etc. all equally important to the drive's "smooth" and quiet operation (or lack thereof).
Responsible for the 16MB cache buffer the ULTRA 16 / Diamond Max 10 spec's Samsung TC60
DRAM with a speed of 166MHz.
If one were to look back several revisions Maxtor has used same or similar electronics on previous hard drives. It’s in keeping with these basics, making only the most necessary changes which have allowed the company to keep prices at a relatively even keel. The approach is sound economically because it benefits both the consumer and manufacturer alike. Maxtor is squeezing every bit of platter density they can out of current technology while still using the same basic housing (mechanics) for their drives.