Mega-Hard Drive Shoot-Out

By Loyd Case  |  Posted 2002-12-03 Print this article Print

Review: We beat-up on the biggest and fastest hard drives on the planet -- each offers 60GB or more per platter. Huge capacities have never been more affordable-- we help you choose the right drive.

Hard Drive Shoot-Out
Size (GB) Price
Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 200 $340
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Western Digital WD2000JB 200 $325
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IBM Deskstar 180GXP 180 $300
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Seagate Barracuda V ATA 120 $180
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The "More"Syndrome PC sales are in a rut. But its not for want of power. Even as AMD and Intel ship faster and faster CPUs, and as graphics cards eat up more power than the AGP port can deliver, hard drive companies have continued to deliver bigger and bigger -- and now megacapacity -- hard disks.
Much can be done with one of these huge drives -- but which is the right one for you? Recently drive companies started shipping hard drives with 60GB per platter (or roughly 45 Gbits/square inch, which compares to about 33-35 Gbits/sq inch a year ago). Thats all we needed, as we decided that now was the right time to check them out.
But being performance-oriented, though, we bypassed the 5400RPM set and waited for the 7200RPM drives to arrive. So we gathered up four of the biggest, and fastest, drives using these new 60GB platters, and put them through our exhaustive tests to help you figure out what to buy. Theres more to the hard drive decision than raw performance, though. All hard drives make noise, although theyre certainly less noisy now. For example, all the drives we tested offered fluid-damped bearings, which reduce idle noise substantially from past drives. Another factor is reliability. Surprisingly, some drive makers have recently begun reducing the warranty period for desktop ATA drives from three years to one -- not exactly a ringing endorsement of their products. The good news is that both IBM and Western Digital maintain the three-year warranty period for drives with an 8MB cache. This hands-on review starts with a look at the specifications for the four drives we tested, then details our exhaustive performance benchmarks. If you just want to know what to buy, head right to the Recommendations and Product Summaries section, where we wrap it all up. Otherwise, lets take a look at the contenders in this head-to-head review.

Loyd Case came to computing by way of physical chemistry. He began modestly on a DEC PDP-11 by learning the intricacies of the TROFF text formatter while working on his master's thesis. After a brief, painful stint as an analytical chemist, he took over a laboratory network at Lockheed in the early 80's and never looked back. His first 'real' computer was an HP 1000 RTE-6/VM system.

In 1988, he figured out that building his own PC was vastly more interesting than buying off-the-shelf systems ad he ditched his aging Compaq portable. The Sony 3.5-inch floppy drive from his first homebrew rig is still running today. Since then, he's done some programming, been a systems engineer for Hewlett-Packard, worked in technical marketing in the workstation biz, and even dabbled in 3-D modeling and Web design during the Web's early years.

Loyd was also bitten by the writing bug at a very early age, and even has dim memories of reading his creative efforts to his third grade class. Later, he wrote for various user group magazines, culminating in a near-career ending incident at his employer when a humor-impaired senior manager took exception at one of his more flippant efforts. In 1994, Loyd took on the task of writing the first roundup of PC graphics cards for Computer Gaming World -- the first ever written specifically for computer gamers. A year later, Mike Weksler, then tech editor at Computer Gaming World, twisted his arm and forced him to start writing CGW's tech column. The gaming world -- and Loyd -- has never quite recovered despite repeated efforts to find a normal job. Now he's busy with the whole fatherhood thing, working hard to turn his two daughters into avid gamers. When he doesn't have his head buried inside a PC, he dabbles in downhill skiing, military history and home theater.

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