Testbed and Benchmark Setup

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

We tested on an Intel Pentium 4 system, running an 845PE chipset with 512MB of RAM. Heres the actual system configuration:
Component Intel D845PEB2 System (DDR333)
CPU 2.8GHz Pentium 4 (533MHz FSB)
Motherboard and Chipset Intel D845PEB2, Intel 845PE chipset
Memory 512MB Corsair XMS3200 DDR memory (run at DDR333, CAS2, "aggressive" timings)
Graphics Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600 (30.82 driver)
DVD-ROM Toshiba SD-1502
Audio Sound Blaster Audigy Gamer
Ethernet Intel Integrated
Operating System Windows XP Professional, Service Pack 1 installed
(Note: the Intel Application Accelerator was not installed because Intels caching algorithms can sometimes mask true disk performance.)
As a baseline, we benchmarked our winner in last years big drive shootout, the Western Digital WD1000BB. This drive, which is still available, offers 100GB in three platters (33.3GB per platter), and a 2MB buffer.
The one potential limiting factor was the ATA/100 interface built into the ICH4 I/O controller hub on the Intel motherboard. Given that we were running single drives, not RAID configurations, this really wasnt really a big issue, since the maximum transfer speeds off the physical drive surface for sequential reads on outer tracks is well under 100MB/sec. However, the extra burst speed in ATA/133 drives to and from their 8MB drive cache can help performance during repeated random accesses when data is resident in the cache.
The hard drives were mounted in a removable drive cage with four screws, and installed into a Chieftec aluminum case. The hard drive cage was firmly clamped into the case. We ran three sets of benchmarks, plus two environmental tests:
  • Winbench 99 version 2.0 Disk Tests. We ran the two Winmark tests (Business Disk Winmark and High End Disk Winmark. We also ran the CPU utilization, access time and transfer rate inspection tests. The transfer rate was normalized to 8MB (8000KB), as suggested by the designers of the Winbench 99 disk test -- that is, the transfer rates for the applications playback tests were set to 8000 kilobytes per second.
  • Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2003, to see how the drives performed under a set of real-world applications, executing scripts that represent real user workloads.
  • Business Winstone 2002, to test performance with a standard suite of desktop business applications.
  • Thermal test. We collected thermal data using a Fluke 189 digital multimeter and thermocouple assembly. The thermocouple was attached directly to the non-PCB side of the hard drive. The ambient air temperature was also recorded.
  • Audible noise under max load was tested using a Tenma 72-860 sound level meter. The microphone was mounted on a tripod six inches above the surface of the drive. For this test, we removed the drive from the drive cage. The drive was somewhat isolated from the test system with a long IDE cable and power extension cables (only for the sound and thermal tests). Ambient noise without the hard drive present was also recorded to establish a baseline for comparison.

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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