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Promise Ultra133 TX2 ATA133 Controller & Maxtor D740X ATA133 Drive

Author: Fido
Posted on: 11/11/2001
Sponsor: Promise and Maxtor
Discuss: In the forums

Nearly every time a new ATA drive controller standard has been introduced to the market, it has been met with a fair amount of opposition and criticism from both manufacturers as well as consumers. This opposition has usually taken the form of: why do we need XXX/sec bandwidth if our drives can only put out XXX/sec of data? Eventually manufacturers may adopt the standard and improve the supporting hardware to better fit the vision. Once all the pieces are in place, consumers are then shown the true benefit of the standard, creating a demand for the products. Additional manufacturers then begin to introduce products based on the opposed standard because there is now a demand for these products, and most companies will not pass up an opportunity to make money, especially when their competitors have already locked-in a portion of the early-adopters market share. A few months later we awaken to find nearly every motherboard and hard drive on the market, taking advantage of a specification that was once thought to be useless.

Today we would like to introduce you to the newest drive controller standard - ATA133. After the dust clears, will the ATA133 story end like the ATA66 or ATA100 did? Only time will tell for sure, but with Promise, Maxtor, Highpoint, SiS, Adaptec, and Via on-board (SiS, Adaptec, and Via have not "officially" made an announcement), the chances of us seeing ATA133 support on every motherboard and hard drive a few months from now is starting to look pretty damn good, if not inevitable.

Promise's Ultra133 TX2 Controller and Maxtor's D740X-6L hard drive, are two of the first products on the market to support the new ATA133 standard. Today, we'll compare these devices to an existing ATA100 configuration, to see what the benefits (if any) are to this new standard.

Promise Ultra133 TX2 Controller

Number of ATA Device Ports - 2 (supports 2 devices per port)

Drive Support - Ultra ATA/133, Ultra ATA/100, Ultra ATA/66, and older

PCI Bus - PCI 2.2. Supports 66MHz PCI bus motherboards (automatically backward compatible with 33MHz PCI slots).

Drive Mode - Ultra DMA 6/5/4/3/2/1/0; DMA 2/1/0; PIO 4/3/2/1/0

Data Transfer Rate - Up to 133MB/sec burst data transfers (with Ultra ATA/133 drives); up to 266MB/sec burst across 66MHz PCI bus

Onboard BIOS - Auto-identifies and configures drive type; auto-detects & supports Ultra Mode transfers; easy conflict-free installation; recognizes drives greater than 137GB up to 144PB

Large LBA Support - Recognizes drive capacities exceeding 137GB each

Advanced Data Features - Bus mastering offloads data I/O handling from host CPU; supports CRC error-checking of UDMA drives

Cable Support - Includes single Ultra ATA 80-wire/40-pin cable; cable required for Ultra ATA/133 drives to reduce signal noise (“crosstalk”) during transfers

Device Support - Dual IDE ports support separate timing and optimum speeds of attached drive(s) or ATAPI device(s)

Operating Systems - Windows XP/2000/NT4/ME/98/95; Netware 3.12/4.1x/5.x

Supports ATAPI - Yes (DOS environments require manufacturer device drivers)

Limited Warranty - 2 Years

     Maxtor D740X-6L
  • Average seek time of 8.5ms
  • Average rotational latency of 4.17ms
  • New Ultra ATA interface with Maxtor-patented Ultra ATA/133 protocol supporting burst data transfer rates of 133MB/s.
  • 2 MB buffer with 1.9MB (approximate) Advance Cache Management (ACM).
  • Look-ahead DisCache feature with continuous prefetch and WriteCache write-buffering capabilities
  • AutoTask Register update, Multi-block AutoRead, and Multi-block AutoWrite features in a custom ASIC
  • Read-on-arrival firmware
  • Quadruple-burst ECC, and double burst ECC on-the-fly
  • 1:1 interleave on read/write operations
  • Support of all standard ATA data transfer modes with PIO mode 4 and multiword DMA mode 2, and Ultra DMA modes 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
  • Adaptive cache segmentation
  • 800,000 hours mean time between failure (MTBF) in the field
  • Automatic retry on read errors
  • 320-bit, non-interleaved Reed-Solomon Error Correcting Code (ECC), with cross checking correction up to fifteen separate bursts of 10 bits each totalling up to 150 bits in length
  • S.M.A.R.T. 4 (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology)
  • Patented Airlock ® automatic shipping lock, magnetic actuator retract, and dedicated landing zone
  • Transparent media defect mapping
  • High performance, in-line defective sector skipping
  • Reassignment of defective sectors discovered in the field, without reformatting
  • Shock Protection System to reduce handling induced failures
  • Data Protection System to verify drive integrity
  • Quiet Drive Technology (QDT)
  • 800,000 MTBF
  • 3 Year Limited Warranty

Promise Ultra133 TX2 Controller
You're not going to let us get away with dumping a bunch of specs on you like that without explaining some of them are you? I didn't think you would, besides you deserve much more than that. There's quite a few things listed up there, and I'm not going to go over every single one of them with you. I do however, want to shed some light on a few of the more important features and then follow up with some additional pictures.
  • The TX2 BIOS provides instant recognition of single drive capacities that exceed 137GB, without manufacturer software drivers. There aren't very many drives on the market above this threshold yet, but a few months from now a system without ATA133 support - will be stuck with one of those teeny tiny 100 giggers.
  • The TX2 is the first Ultra ATA133 controller card that has support for 66MHz PCI motherboards (32-bit @ 66MHz as opposed to the current 32-bit @ 33MHz - not the same as 64-bit @ 33MHz). Granted there are no 32-bit 66MHz PCI motherboards available at this point in time (they'll be here "when they're done") but when they are available this card will be able to take advantage of the extra hertz.
  • The TX2 has two ATA ports, which offer separate device timings that permit the use of different speed drives and/or devices to the same channel without adversely affecting the device speed. Each device will run at their highest-rated speed regardless.

Maxtor D740X-6L
There are currently two different D740X models available, 6L0x0Jx and 6L0x0Lx. The earlier models, like the one we're reviewing will ship with a traditional ball bearing motor, and will bear the model numbers ending with Jx. Newer models are currently being released with a Fluid Dynamic Bearing motor system that provides a much quieter and reliable operation, those models will end with an Lx model number. Don't think this means the ball bearing models are going to be loud drives by any means. Of all the drives we're testing in this review, the D740X (with normal ball bearings) was by far the quietest of them all - by a large margin. All of the D740X models will feature the same specifications: a 7200rpm spindle speed, 8.5ms seek time, 2MB cache buffer along with support for ATA133.


Test Time
Our goal in testing this ATA133 setup was to directly compare it to an ATA100 controller to see if there were any speed increases or decreases. We used the Maxtor D740X drive along with a Maxtor 90432d3 and a Western Digital WD200, to run a series of benchmarks on an ATA100 controller and then on the ATA133 TX2 Promise controller. The ATA100 controller used was the onboard Promise controller found integrated into an ASUS A7V133 motherboard.
  • Motherboard - Asus A7V133 Bios 1005a
  • CPU - AMD Athlon 1.33 Ghz
  • OS - Windows 2000 (SP2)
  • Memory - (2) Crucial 128MB PC 133 CAS 2-2-2
  • Promise Integrated ATA100 Controller - Drivers 2.00.0 Build 22, Bios 2.20.00 Build 5
  • Promise Ultra ATA133 TX2 Controller - Drivers 2.00.0 Build 22, Bios 2.01 Build 35

Iometer Benchmarks
Using Iometer 1999.10.20, we ran a series of tests on each of the drives while hooked up to the ATA100 controller, and ran them again while the drive was connected to the ATA133 controller. This gave us a series of six results to look at (the three drives, each on two controllers), but before we jump right into the results we need to talk about the access and load patterns we used.

Iometer gives you the ability to run a test known as an Access Pattern on an IO device. Think of these Access Patterns as configurable "interactions" with an I/O device that attempts to simulate different operating conditions. Iometer comes with two predefined Access Patterns that we will be using, File Server and Database. We also used another access pattern called Workstation that was developed by the good folks over at Storage Review. These three Access Patterns attempt to simulate the type of disk activity that would be generated by each function.

The other configurable settings we used, are the load patterns outlined below. By setting the number of outstanding I/O requests prior to running the Access Pattern, you can create simulated utilization - thus testing the I/O device under various load conditions.

There are a few more things to cover before I dump the data on ya. Each access pattern was run for 3 minutes, and was given a 30 second lead time to allow the drive ample time to get up to speed. Each drive was tested on the ATA100 controller, and then tested on the ATA133 controller, with the following results recorded (optimal results are shown in orange)
Total I/O's per Second - The average number of I/O requests completed per second. A request consists of sending the read/write request, positioning the head and platter, and then performing the read/write request. These results are probably the most significant of all and directly affect all other recorded results. These numbers are the best indication as to how well the drive and controller are performing.

Total MB's per Second - The amount of data moved by each I/O transaction completed. The higher the transactions, the more data moved. Each access pattern may attempt to move different amounts of data so keep this in mind if you're comparing these numbers.

Average I/O Response Time (ms) - Determined by taking 1000 seconds, and dividing by the number of I/O requests completed per second. These results are again directly affected by the number of I/O requests completed per second so if you're going to be looking at any of the data shown below you'll want to concentrate on the Total I/O's per Second.

% CPU Utilization (total) - The percentage of CPU cycles required to complete the I/O requests as outlined by the access pattern.

We should probably set aside the fact that in all of the Iometer tests, the Maxtor D740X drive is a MUCH faster than the WD200 and the Maxtor 90432d3. There isn't really much of a comparison between drives, but it is interesting to note the differences in the controller used. Things sure don't look to be starting out too well for the ATA133 controller, but as the test progressed, and the amount of load on the controller increased the Promise X2 ATA133 controller started doing its duty.

Hopefully we've explained Iometer well enough, but if you're still confused about these results, head over to Storage Review. They've been using Iometer for quite some time, and have a very good explanation of how it works, and what the results mean.

SiSoft Sandra Benchmarks
We really don't have to do much explaining in regards to how Sandra works: you click on the button, it runs, and gives you a score. We used SiSoft Sandra version 2001te, and ran all three drives, twice, on each of the controllers to determine the averages shown below. Sandra can be a finicky benchmarking program at times, so your test scores may differ from ours. What matters is the fact that all of the results below were taken from the same system.

We're seeing some very poor results from the WD200 drive here, while the Maxtor D740X is cruising at an expected pace. Results of the ATA100 controller versus the ATA133 controller are pretty similar at this point, with only a small margin between the two.

ATTO Benchmarks
The ATTO Benchmark has been around for quite a while now, and even though most RAID arrays tend to "freak out" the ATTO benchmarking program, single drives still bench pretty well with it. We used Version 2.02 with all the settings at their default value, to record the following results. Each drive was tested on the ATA100 controller and then again on the ATA133 controller.

Maxtor 90432D3

Western Digital WD200

Maxtor D740X

Maxtor 90432D3
Western Digital WD200
Maxtor D740X

Nothing out of the ordinary going on here, aside from the strange read access scores exhibited by the WD200 drive (the middle images). The Maxtor D740X has come out on top once again, but is followed closely by the WD200. Scores recorded on the ATA133 controller were slightly higher that those recorded on the ATA100 controller, but again only by a very small amount.

Winbench Benchmarks
Our final benchmarks of this review were completed using Version 2.0 of Winbench 99. We ran the Disk Winmarks on each of the three drives, while hooked up to the ATA100 controller and then on the ATA133 controller. Settings used were all defaults with the exception of the Disk Inspection Tab - we told it to use Max Transfer Rate instead of the default Normalization Rate.

Winbench Results

Winbench results are usually pretty easy to understand, but we were left scratching our heads little on this one. The WD200 drive that has performed only moderately well thus far scored some very high marks, but the Maxtor D740X still held its ground in nearly half of the tests. The ATA100 controller won more WinMark tests than the ATA133 controller, but only be small margins.

If you took only one of the benchmarks listed above, and tried to base a conclusion solely on those results, you would be making an uneducated biased decision. While one drive may perform well on a certain controller during one test, it may score miserably low on another test. This is why we ran four completely different benchmarks on these components, ranging from the extremely precise Iometer to the easily influenced SiSoft Sandra. Now that you know what we did, and why we did it, let's figure out what we think.

The Promise TX2 Ultra133 controller card definitely brings some beneficial features to the table. The two added ports, providing up to four additional drives is a plus, but not nearly as important as the 48-bit addressing that provides support for drives larger than 137 gigabytes. Granted, there aren't many drives on the market with a storage capacity that exceed this level. But they're coming whether you're ready for them or not. Without an add-on card such as the Promise TX2 Ultra133, older systems will be forced to use smaller drives (if you can actually comprehend a small drive being less than 137 gigs). Most drive manufacturers have realized this, and have been throwing in a controller for free, when you buy a drive one of their drives that exceed the 137 gig barrier.

In the speed arena, the added bandwidth an ATA133 compatible controller can give you is unfortunately not a selling point at this time. This is not the fault of the controller though, even the ATA133 compatible Maxtor D740X (with it's 2MB cache and 7200 RPM platters) cannot "push" the data fast enough to take full advantage of the large pipe it has at it's disposal. If a RAID version of this card is ever released (very likely), a pair of Maxtor D740X's would probably give the ATA133's pipeline a run for its money - or at least have it "walking a little funny" the following day. Until that time comes it's probably best to stick with the controller you've got, unless of course the 137 gigabyte factor becomes an issue.

With so many manufacturers licensing the ATA133 standard, upgrading a pre-existing system to an ATA133 hard drive is a surely step in the right direction. We're already starting to see several motherboards available that have integrated ATA133 controllers (some even include RAID support), and several others are expected to be arriving in the coming weeks. The Maxtor D740X is clearly a very fast drive, even when it's used on an ATA100 controller. Just because you don't currently own an ATA133 controller, doesn't mean you won't in a few months. Think of it as a down-payment on a future upgrade, and consider an ATA133 drive the next time you're out shopping for some more space to store all your "legal" videos and music. And don't forget to keep on the lookout for those ATA133 RAID controllers.

Copyright © by LWD All Rights Reserved.

Published on: 2004-02-01 (54638 reads)

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