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Along with the benefits of using 1394 based hard drives, there are also a couple downsides. Although 1394 is quoted as having a 400Mb/sec throughput, that's only a burst transfer rate. Sustained transfer rates are in the 30MB/sec range. Drive access times are also affected, higher latencies are inevitable when the drive has to communicate across an additional bus and 2 controllers.

The other performance bottleneck on Maxtor's 1394 drive is the 1394 to ATA bridge, which only supports ATA33 for reads and PIO Mode 4 for writes. We spoke to Maxtor about their reasoning behind the Symbios adapter, and their response was the same as our research indicated. There are simply no IDE to 1394 adapters which support modes faster than ATA33.

In our SiSoft Sandra 2001 benchmarks the drive posts respectable numbers, slightly above an those of a ATA66 drive. These results are quite surprising considering that 1394 to IDE adapter supports only ATA33 mode. This just goes to show that hard drives still have quite a bit of performance bandwidth even on 'aging' standards like ATA33. With only a single drive on the IDE chain there is little need for more bandwidth as the fastest IDE drives are just beginning to push the 33MB/sec sustained transfer rate.


Using Winbench 99 we see the sequential read performance across the entire 80GB of the Diamond Max 80 drive. Normally hard drives exhibit maximum performance on the outer tracks, and diminishing on the inner. The DM80 on an internal ATA100 connection, (green), is exactly the performance curve we have come to expect from rotation based hard drives. However, under both WindowsME (red) and 2000 (yellow) we see a flat performance line, a bottleneck limiting the maximum throughput. We first identified the 1394 to IDE adapted as the problem, but the large performance increase seen when using Windows2000 indicates that the MS Windows9x 1394 drivers are quite poor. Windows 2000 turned in numbers 34% faster than WindowsME, a testament to the maturity of the Windows 2000 Firewire drivers. Obviously if you are considering this drive, Win2K is highly recommended.

Performance is certainly respectable - a solid 25.5MB/sec on the outer tracks, falling to 17.5MB/sec on the inner tracks. Future driver updates will hopefully bring up the Windows 9x performance up, and may give 2000 a small increase as well.

On the individual Winbench99 tests, the 1394 external drive has a mixed showing. In the Express 3.4 tests the 1394 drive is beaten by a 36% margin, while in the FrontPage98 tests it tops its' internal sibling by 14%.

Maxtor's Acoustic Management technology is also put to good use. In a nutshell, Acoustic Management is accomplished by reducing the speed at which the actuator arm moves back and forth across the drive, thereby reducing the familiar 'grinding' sound during disc seeks. This is a unique situation for Maxtor where enabling AM has few downsides. Usually, enabling AM has two major side effects - disk seek times are greatly increased (around 50% or so), and sustained transfer rates also take a small performance hit. In this case with the performance bottlenecks already discussed, AM has nearly zero effect on the drive's performance. The only spec affected by enabling AM is the disc access time. Because of the performance bottlenecks, the hit to sustained transfer rate performance is not seen. Unfortunately, the only way to change the default AM settings is to install the drive internally. For this reason our testing was done with the default settings as shipped.

Both Winbench99 and Hd Tach report a 22.5ms access time, not fast but respectable. Other reviews have measured the access time on the Diamond Max 80 internal drives at 15.5ms, so the combined latency of the 1394 bus and AM translates to an additional 7ms on the access time. However, backup and general file servers are not dependent on fast access times.

Both noise and heat output are very acceptable. Even with the drive sitting on the table it's hard to actually hear it operating. Heat is even less of a concern. After hours of benchmarking the drive is only warm to the touch.



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