Out of the box
The retail version of the $285 Deskstar 120GXP ships with everything you need for setup, including an 80-pin cable, mounting brackets and screws, instructions, and a user guide. Physical installation requires you to open your PC's case and fiddle with jumpers and cables, so get a friend to help if you're hesitant to work on your computer yourself. IBM's Disk Manager 2000 software lets you transfer your existing drive data to the 120GXP and includes drivers for older systems that don't support the IBM's capacity natively.
The Deskstar 120GXP garnered excellent results in CNET Labs' tests, beating the Maxtor D540X on most counts and tying overall with the Western Digital WD1200JB. The Deskstar 120GXP trailed the WD1200JB on disk transfer-rate tests, but it was slightly faster in both burst-transfer rate and maximum write speed. WinBench rated its seek time at 12.2ms, significantly faster than the WD1200JB's 13.4ms and the Maxtor D540X's 14.5ms. Lower seek times mean better performance when dealing with large groups of small files or concurrent playback of multiple audio and video files. While either the IBM or the Western Digital drives would give you great performance, the IBM has a slight edge in everyday computing tasks such as opening, reading, and closing small files.
The Deskstar 120GXP kept its cool in informal testing. It was quiet, with very little seek chatter, and it was cool, slightly warm to the touch even after extensive use. Only the Maxtor drive ran cooler. The drive did produce a little more vibration than did the Maxtor D540X or the Western Digital WD1200JB, but the difference is insignificant for most applications. The IBM Deskstar 120GXP is shock-rated for 55G while platters are spinning and 400G when they aren't; you'd be hard-pressed to upset it, unless you were on Jupiter.
IBM provides a comforting three-year warranty with the Deskstar 120GXP. Toll-free telephone support is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. CT but not on weekends--bad news for wage slaves upgrading a home computer. IBM's excellent online support includes jumper diagrams, FAQs, manuals, and software downloads.
Tie it up
The 120GXP is an excellent performer, with the best seek time of the three drives we tested in this roundup. You'll prefer the Western Digital WD1200JB's faster sustained throughput if you work with a lot of audio and video, but for everyday computing, the IBM's just as good a choice.
| eTesting Labs' WinBench 99 2.0 test |
Measured in kilobytes per second; longer bars indicate better performance
| HD Tach 2.70 tests |
Measured in megabytes per second; longer bars indicate better performance
| 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 IBM Deskstar 120GXP tied with the Western Digital drive on many tests, but the IBM's 12.2ms seek time--faster than the Maxtor's or the Western Digital's--makes it especially well suited for dealing with large groups of small files or concurrent playback of multiple audio and video files. The Maxtor outperformed the IBM only when it came to read burst speed.