Maxtor Diamondmax 10/300 & Hitachi 7K250 Hard Drives

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The logic board on the DiamondMax 10 uses a native SATA interface rather than a SATA to PATA bridge. This has the advantage of allowing the drive to support features peculiar to the SATA-II standard, notably Native Command Queuing (NCQ) and staggered spin-up detection.

The disadvantage of this design is that it is no longer compatible with the standard IDE power connector found on most power supplies. Most modern power supplies do provide the required SATA connector, but older power supplies may require an adaptor. A PATA version of the DiamondMax 10 is available for the higher capacity drives.

No legacy Molex connector here; you need a true SATA power connector to power the drive.

According to Maxtor's spec sheet, the acoustic difference between idle and seek is 0.9 Bels, a substantial difference that will be clearly audible. When "Quiet Seek" (AAM) is activated, the difference drops to only 0.1 Bels, suggesting that AAM is very effective on this drive. We shall see if our testing confirms this...

Maxtor prominently lists NCQ as a new and exciting feature that its competitors do not yet have. NCQ is a feature of the SATA-II interface that improves seek time by ordering the seeks efficiently rather than simply performing them in the order they are asked for. In single user configuration, however, the performance benefit is either marginal or even detrimental.

More of interest is the large 16 MB cache, which reduces the number of seeks that must be made when accessing frequently used data. Depending on how the drive is used, there could be an acoustic benefit here, since fewer seeks means less mechanical noise.


As mentioned, the 7K250 series is not at the leading edge of Hitachi's offerings, so it makes sense that it is not sold on performance. Instead, it has low power dissipation and a low price point going for it. Like most of its contemporary competitors, its interface is a SATA to PATA bridge rather than a native SATA controller. In practical terms, this has no impact on drive performance, although it does draw slightly more power than the equivalent PATA interface.

The 7K250 features Advanced Power Management, which appears to be something like Cool 'n' Quiet for drives. Like AAM, it is disabled by default and must be enabled using Hitachi's Feature Tool. Unfortunately, this tool is not Windows compatible and must be run from a bootable diskette or CD. Nevertheless, it may be worth the trouble enabling the feature, as Hitachi claims that the lower power dissipation leads to drives that are more reliable and cooler.

Hitachi's Feature Tool lets the user choose what degree of performance they are willing to sacrifice for low power consumption.

Two low power states are available: Low Power Idle and Low RPM Standby. Whether these power states are enabled is controllable via the Feature Tool. The drive is supposed to enter these stages progressively according to an internal timer that detects idle. This all happens within the drive itself, independent of the motherboard or operating system.

Low Power Idle reduces power by parking the heads and disabling the power circuit that controls them.

We are particularly interested in the acoustic potential of the Low RPM Standby. Spinning the disc at a lower speed (~60% of normal) is a good way of reducing power draw without halting the drive entirely, but it may also have the secondary benefit of producing less noise.

One final mode, Full Standby, is mentioned in Hitachi's documentation, but does not appear to be supported by their Feature Tool. This mode spins the disc down entirely (thus completely silencing the drive). Since it is already possible to do this via Power Management in Windows (or the equivalent ACPI feature in other operating systems), Hitachi may just be referring to this feature.

A Normal Idle mode is selectable in the Feature Tool, but it is not documented anywhere that we could find. Presumably, this mode is simply an alias for disabling APM entirely.

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