First Serial ATA Drive: Expectations Exceed Results

Review: We install and benchmark one of the first Serial ATA hard drives. Performance is a mixed bag, but the future looks bright.

Note: for an in depth look at how Serial ATA really works, check out our companion story explaining the details.

Product:

Seagate ST3120023AS

Web Site:

www.seagate.com

Pro:

Surprisingly speedy -- slightly better than the ATA version; less cable clutter; easy configuration.

Con:

Requires BIOS support or PCI host adapter; power adapter necessary; still slower than the fastest Parallel ATA drives.

Summary:

Seagates Serial ATA drive bests its parallel ATA sibling. But true performance gains wont happen until the core logic supports Serial ATA.

Score:

Street Price:

$175.00, check prices

The Drive

Seagate sent us their latest Serial ATA drive, the ST3120023AS. The drive mechanism is identical to the ST3120023A parallel ATA drive we recently tested -- right down to the 8MB buffer. So we thought it would be eminently fair to compare the performance of the two drives.

We also tossed in benchmark results from the other 60GB/per platter drives we reviewed recently for good measure.

We were able to use the same testbed as we did with the original large hard drive roundup, since the Intel D845PEBT2 motherboard has a Silicon Image 3112 PCI S-ATA controller soldered to the board, and support in the BIOS for booting from a Serial ATA drive.

Here are the testbed specifications:

Component

Intel D845PEBT2 System (DDR333)

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CPU

2.8GHz Pentium 4 (533MHz FSB)

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Motherboard and Chipset

Intel D845PEBT2, Intel 845PE chipset

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Memory

512MB Corsair XMS3200 DDR memory (run at DDR333, CAS2, "aggressive" timings)

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Graphics

Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600 (30.82 driver)

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DVD-ROM

Toshiba SD-1502

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Audio

Sound Blaster Audigy Gamer

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Ethernet

Intel Integrated

Operating System

Windows XP Professional, Service Pack 1 installed

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Note: the Intel Application Accelerator was not installed because Intels caching algorithms can sometimes mask true disk performance.