Maxtor DiamondMax D540X review: Maxtor DiamondMax D540X

3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Humongous, 160GB capacity; solid performance; runs cool; low vibration.

The Bad Its 5,400rpm spin rate is on the slow side; no weekend support.

The Bottom Line The D540X is the highest-capacity hard drive on the market today, but the 7,200rpm competition is faster.

7.0 Overall

Maxtor's D540X goes for the big time with a whopping 160GB storage capacity that's 33 percent bigger than that of any other drive currently available. The D540X also features a state-of-the-art ATA-133 interface, which offers a faster burst-transfer rate than the ATA-100 connections used by rivals such as the IBM Deskstar 120GXP or the Western Digital WD1200JB. The one thing standing between the D540X and superstardom is its 5,400rpm spindle speed, which is a little slower than other high-capacity drives'. Maxtor's D540X goes for the big time with a whopping 160GB storage capacity that's 33 percent bigger than that of any other drive currently available. The D540X also features a state-of-the-art ATA-133 interface, which offers a faster burst-transfer rate than the ATA-100 connections used by rivals such as the IBM Deskstar 120GXP or the Western Digital WD1200JB. The one thing standing between the D540X and superstardom is its 5,400rpm spindle speed, which is a little slower than other high-capacity drives'.

No loose screws
As with any hard drive, installing the Maxtor involves opening your PC's case, setting jumpers, and attaching some cables, so if you're a technophobe, make sure your computer-savvy cousin is around. Maxtor ships the retail version of the $300 D540X with an 80-wire EIDE cable, mounting brackets and screws, and the company's Max Blast Plus II software on both CD and floppy. The software includes diagnostics, a utility for copying the contents of your old hard drive to the D540X, and drivers for older systems that can't handle larger drives on their own. Documentation is limited to a setup sheet, but that's really all you need with a hard drive.

The D540X's ATA-133 interface helped it deliver surprisingly agile performance in CNET Labs' tests, despite the drive's slower 5,400rpm spin rate and WinBench-rated 14.5ms seek time. Using a PCI ATA-133 controller card ($50) provided by Maxtor, the drive's maximum burst-transfer rate in HD Tach 2.70 tests was a blazing 100MB per second, with a maximum read speed of 37.6MB per second and a maximum write speed of 22.9MB per second. But the D540X turned in slower (albeit still plenty peppy) scores on disk transfer-rate tests. The controller's role was pivotal; in anecdotal testing, the D540X's performance dropped considerably when using an ATA-100 interface. So if you want better performance, plan on investing in the ATA-133 controller.

A real smoothie
The Maxtor D540X's slower spin rate does have its advantages: the drive generates very little heat, runs quietly, and produces little vibration. It's rated to withstand a rather low 30G shock while operating and an average 300G shock when it's not spinning.

Maxtor backs the D540X with a reassuring three-year warranty. Toll-free telephone support is available long hours--Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. MT--but not on weekends, which could be annoying for home users. Maxtor's easily navigable online support includes jumper diagrams, drive specs, manuals, and software downloads.

More for your money
The Maxtor D540X offers 33 percent more space for about the same price as the 120GB competition. If capacity is your primary concern, go for it. But if you want state-of-the-art performance, look to a 7,200rpm drive, such as the Western Digital WD1200JB or the IBM Deskstar 120GXP.

eTesting Labs' WinBench 99 2.0 test
Measured in kilobytes per second; longer bars indicate better performance
Disk-transfer rate: end   
Disk-transfer rate: beginning   
Western Digital WD1200JB
28,800 
48,900 
IBM Deskstar 120GXP
24,000 
47,900 
Maxtor D540X
36,600 
20,200 
 
HD Tach 2.70 tests
Measured in megabytes per second; longer bars indicate better performance
Write speed (maximum)   
Read speed (maximum)   
Read burst speed   

IBM Deskstar 120GXP
30.2 
49.6 
87.6 
Western Digital WD1200JB
29.6 
50.3 
86.1 
Maxtor D540X
22.9 
37.6 
100 
 
CNET Labs' tests evaluate the range of performance you may expect from a hard drive. The eTesting Labs' transfer rates are measured at the beginning of the disk (or its outside, where data moves past the read head at a higher rate) and at the end of the disk (or its inside, where data moves past the read head at a slower rate). HD Tach performs similar tests, returning a drive's maximum sustained write and read speeds. In addition, it measures read-burst speed, which evaluates the performace of the drive's read-ahead memory and the drive controller.

The Maxtor's fast ATA-133 connection gave it an edge over the competition when it came to quick transfers in HD Tach's test for read-burst speed. However, during sustained data transfers, the Maxtor's 5,400rpm spin rate put it behind that of the IBM and Western Digital drives, both of which spin at 7,200rpm.

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