The progress is inevitable. Hard disk drives are certainly no exception to this rule. Of course, this field of computer technology has been following an extensive path lately. But let’s not forget about a well-known law of quantity transformation into quality. So, far we can single out four major ways the HDD industry can go:
- Increasing platter storage capacity (and data density per platter);
- Enhancing the performance of HDD mechanics (increasing spindle rotation speed, shortening positioning time, etc.);
- Improving controllers (speeding up the HDD processors, increasing controller cache-memory size, increasing the interface bandwidth);
- Firmware optimization for the given tasks.
If the first three ways aim at improving the consumer characteristics of the devices (the storage capacity and performance in the first place), or at least at retaining them on the same level, then the situation with Firmware optimization is not so simple at all. However, the hard disk drive manufacturers tend to resort to this tuning method more and more often today. Of course, it doesn’t make much sense to guess what the tuning like that could lead to, but you should definitely keep this “feature” of different HDD models in mind when you are making the decision about a solution you are going to use in a small server or graphics workstation, for instance. Let’s try to find out how big is the influence of these features on the hard disk drive models within a single product family (for our investigation we took four Maxtor hard disk drives with 120GB storage capacity). I wonder which of the above mentioned factors will have the most crucial influence on the overall performance of the tested solutions.
As is known there are four members in the 6Y120xx HDD family from Maxtor. They differ from one another by the size of the cache buffer and per platter density (60GB and 80GB per platter). Moreover, there are “professional” hard drives with different data density (6Y120P0) with 8MB cache buffer as well as “lite” models with 2MB cache-buffer (6Y120L0). Those of you who have been reading our site regularly, should remember that the data density per platter can be read from the HDD serial number. The first digit after the “Y” letter indicates the number of platters and consequently, their density. The fewer platters are used for the HDD of the same storage capacity, the higher is the actual data density per platter. This way, the serial number for 120GB models with 80GB platters will start with Y3…, and that of the HDD with 60GB platters – with Y4… respectively. Those of you who would like to learn more about it, should definitely consult our article called Real Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 HDD with 80GB Platters Reviewed!)
What other peculiarities the reviewed HDDs can boast besides higher storage capacity? The remarkable thing about these hard drives is the fact that the platters used in them will not be “cut off” according to the number of tracks, so the results of the average access time tests can be considered pretty objective this way.