200GB of UltraATA 133 Maxtor disk is a very good thing. Is 400GB really twice as nice? We found out when we took two and set them up in a RAID 0 configuration.
We reviewed a 200GB Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 Series hard drive in July 2003. We found it to be a very fast drive that works great for multimedia storage and streaming video. All that speedy storage raised our interest in a RAID solution, and we began to wonder how two of the 200GB drives would perform in a RAID 0 configuration.
If you’re not familiar with the RAID concept, start with the meaning of the acronym: Redundant Array of Independent Disks. A disk array stripes data across multiple drives, increasing performance by balancing I/O processing. A RAID 0 configuration is the simplest form of a disk array; data is striped across the drives, which appear to the OS as a single disk unit. It should be noted that RAID 0 really isn’t redundant – data is not duplicated on either drive. If one drive crashes, the data is still gone. There are multiple RAID configurations, but we are only going to look at RAID 0 since its emphasis is speed, and our emphasis is on performance as it relates to gaming.
A RAID configuration requires a RAID controller. Many new motherboards come with a RAID controller, but we used one from Promise for this analysis. The FastTrak TX2000 Pro is a PATA (Parallel ATA, as opposed to the new Serial ATA spec) controller that supports the Ultra ATA 133 spec and promised top throughput for the Maxtor drives.
Features & Specifications
Promise FastTrak TX2000 Pro
- Supports Ultra ATA/133 drives; backward compatible with older Ultra ATA and EIDE drives
Data Transfer Rate
- Up to 266MB/sec
- RAID 0 striping of up to 4 drives for performance
- RAID 1 mirroring of 2 drives for fault tolerance
- RAID 0+1 striping/mirroring of 4 drives
- JBOD spanning of up to 4 drives for capacity
Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 Series (200GB)
- Rotational Speed 7200 RPM
- Buffer Size 2MB and
- 8MB cache
- External Transfer Rate(MB/sec) ATA/133 133
- SATA 150
- Average Seek (ms) <= 9.3
- Average Latency (ms) 4.2
Disk Drive Configuration
- Bytes per Sector/Block 512
- Logical CHS 16,383/16/63
Use & Performance
We installed the controller in the same Leadtek nForce 2 system we used for the original Maxtor drive test. We also used the same WinXP Pro image in the PC so this is extremely close to a back-to-back comparison, albeit with a bit of wear and tear on the test bed.
Tools used for testing were PCMark 2002, SiSoft Sandra’s File System Test and Passmark’s Performance Test. We also tested the drives and the RAID configuration’s multi-tasking ability by running the Sandra File System Test while watching a 500MB recorded video.
Leadtek K7NCR18D PRO II nForce 2 Ultra 400
Athlon Barton 2800 @ 3200 (11x200FSB)
1GB Crucial DDR 3200 2x512MB
PC Mark 2002 HD Test
|2 w/RAID 0||1409|
Sandra 2003 HD Test
|2 w/RAID 0||42890|
|RAID w/Streaming Video||36981|
Passmark Performance Test
|HD||Avg. Write Speed (MBytes/Sec.)|
|2 w/RAID 0||52.8|
The RAID 0 configuration has given our test system some great performance increases. Even while streaming video, the RAID config is faster than a standalone drive. With the cost of disk storage continuing to drop, I think any serious enthusiast needs to have a RAID system in their PC. Many, if not most, of us already have multiple hard drives in our systems so it makes sense to purchase and configure matched drives. Here is a pricing break down:
Promise TX2000: $80.00
2x 200GB Maxtors: $344.00 for the pair
RAID System Total: $424.00
If you do a lot of gaming or movie/music editing, the speed of a RAID 0 system can really increase your performance. You also effectively double your disk space by running two drives in a system. Having them in a RAID setup makes things easy to manage since the OS treats them as a single physical drive.
We will be using this RAID system in our upcoming NVIDIA ForceWare Microsoft Media Center Edition tests. We will fill you in as we get this testing done.
We’d like to thank Maxtor for supplying us a second DiamondMax Plus 9 200GB drive for this article.