The biggest argument to why you would ever need a faster CPU is often that everything is disk limited anyways, so getting a faster CPU isn't the solution to your performance woes. While, to an extent, this is true, we have seen over the years that quite a few things are just as CPU bound as they are disk bound.

We've shown in the past that even very disk intensive operations, such as extracting a zip archive, can vary significantly with CPU. We've also shown that disk bound benchmarks, such as Winstone, can significantly reduce the performance benefit seen when upgrading to a faster CPU.

More than anything, what we've learned in the past is that there is no one component that significantly bottlenecks the system; rather, it's a combination of all of your components - your CPU, chipset, video card, memory and hard drive - that determine the performance of your system. While one component (e.g. your video card) may be the major determinant of performance in a particular application (e.g. a game), it's rare that the only applications you run are bound by a single component. To put this into perspective, would you ever not upgrade your CPU for a next generation game just because "everything is GPU bound to begin with"? Of course not. Take a 500MHz Athlon and pair it up with a X800 Pro and you'll realize quickly that this sort of logic won't work. So why, then, apply it to hard drives?

Luckily, the average AnandTech reader is smarter than that, and understands the importance of maintaining a balance of performance within his/her system. But here's where the problem resides: how do we measure hard drive performance?

Hard drives continue to be the only component where performance is measured using purely synthetic benchmarks. Our latest CPU review has no less than 12 real world application benchmarks to showcase the performance of the CPU. Our last GPU review took 13 games, and we benchmarked them to help you decide what video card would run games the fastest. But look around for hard drive reviews and you see a bunch of numbers that are, at best, great hypothetical indicators of performance or over-exaggerations of the impact of a particular hard drive. If we converted all of our CPU and GPU reviews to a similar set of synthetic benchmarks, you would quickly find a replacement site for your information, so why settle for the same treatment with hard drives?

We've tried numerous times in the past to bring hard disk reviews to AnandTech, but the limitations have seemingly been unsurmountable. At first, we couldn't get drives, then we had no good benchmarks; then, we got drives and benchmarks, but had no time to tackle the testing. Finally, we are able to offer a good test suite, review the drives that you want reviewed, and do so on a regular basis.

In order to kick off our new suite of drive benchmarks and our return to hard drive reviews, we figured that we'd focus on one of the hot-topic drives as of late: the 2nd generation Western Digital Raptor.

The Contenders
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  • SoBizarre - Monday, June 7, 2004 - link

    <<I wonder how these drives compare to my Seagate X15?

    Try the link below and cry... ;)

    http://storagereview.com/php/benchmark/compare_rtg...
    Reply
  • mjz5 - Monday, June 7, 2004 - link

    would have been cool to see how long it takes to zip a folder with a 1000 of files.. Reply
  • araczynski - Monday, June 7, 2004 - link

    i don't quite see anything about the raptors that warrant the steep price jump, i see the typical milking of the wannabes. Reply
  • BCinSC - Monday, June 7, 2004 - link

    I wonder how these drives compare to my Seagate X15? Reply
  • Insomniac - Monday, June 7, 2004 - link

    Anand,

    Could we see some type of test that shows the impact of disk defragmenting? I know it isn't exactly a hard dive test, but it would be nice to see what, if any, performance improvement it adds and how the drives perform when "optimal". Thanks.
    Reply
  • MIDIman - Monday, June 7, 2004 - link

    IMHO - This is a market that has already been taken in-depth by another very big website that has been alive for almost as long as anandtech. Redundancy is always good though.

    We'd definitely like to see RAID array comparisons. Its definitely a big buzz word nowadays.
    Reply
  • Pollock - Monday, June 7, 2004 - link

    I really could have used this article last week in deciding whether or not the 80GB Seagate for $40 last week was fast and reliable...=( Reply
  • 00aStrOgUy00 - Monday, June 7, 2004 - link

    I think this article was a bit lacking.
    I would have liked to see how the raptors stacked up to regular 7200RPM drives with denser platters, like the barracuda 200GB one that uses 100Gb platters, especially when the 200GB one that uses 100GB platters is stil far less expensive than either of the raptor drives.
    I would also like to see RAID performance compared to the raptor drives.
    Reply
  • AnnihilatorX - Monday, June 7, 2004 - link

    We missed the most important test! File copy test. Say time taken to duplicate a 1GB file. It's basic but useful for those who are always dealing with large files.

    People who own high end harddisks tend to be either video editing enthuaists or server-owners. The tests covered general usage but did not well covering those areas. Harddisk and CPU limiting task such as volume batch encoding of videeo to a specific codec, say Xvid or DivX might be a useful benchmark. For servers random access time is important and might as well be tested.

    The tests we covered is not wrong, but fail as a target for really those would buy a high end harddisk. Common task such as surfing the net while compressing document; virus checking are basic usage of an average user, and mostly CPU limiting.

    While pure file copy test are likely to be harddisk limiting. The CPU ultilisation during file transfer process also indicates how good resources saving of the controllers are and has direct peoformance impact when CPU limit comes to the scene.
    Reply
  • Reflex - Monday, June 7, 2004 - link

    I want to see a 'service' test of the venders much as is now done for motherboards. Hard drives and CD/DVD drives are by far the highest points of failure in a modern PC, it is important to know what happens when your drive fails. In the past this has been a serious sore point between myself and WD, it has often taken months for them to turn around a failed drive, and due to the extreme failure rates I have had with their drives after about a year, its a serious issue.

    Heat would also be a good test, it is the main reason that 10k RPM drives have stayed at the high end for so long.

    Murst: Most people reading this site would be using NTFS, and a few using FAT32. Under NTFS, fragmentation would not have any serious impact on performance due to properties of the file system and how it works. Unless your suggesting they test NFS and other Unix/Linux filesystems, I am not certain what other file systems you want tested. Most games are not tested under Win9x anymore, I don't see a point in testing other hardware on a 6 year old OS either...
    Reply

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