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HighSpeed PC Shielded Round IDE Cables: Although round cables are popular among enthusiasts, poorly designed round cables can lead to data corruption and errors. We look at some shielded cables, and compare them with standard IDE cables.
Date: January 24, 2003
Catagory: Cases & Cooling
Manufacturer: Supplied by
Written By:

When it comes to cooling your computer, the core heat-creating components are the CPU, Video Card, Motherboard, and Hard Drive. Nowadays, people are branching out into extreme cooling methods such as phase-change cooling (as seen in VapoChill) as well as watercooling. Yet, the fact still remains that the majority of computer users utilize airflow to cool down components.

The most common problem with air-cooling is air physically not being able to travel through the case. For example, if the intake was at the front of the case and there was a dust-clogged filter, the air inside the case would stay hot from the air dissipated from the CPU, thereby causing the temperatures to rise. Of course, it must be noticed that aluminum cases will also naturally dissipate heat, as aluminum is naturally good at transferring heat. Another possible problem, if there's no intake or exhaust clog, is air turbulence inside the case. The reason that so many people (as well as computer companies) are becoming more and more obsessed with keeping the cables inside their case neat is because when cables are flailing around, they will obstruct airflow, and once again cause "stale air."

Unless we're talking about SCSI or proprietary devices, IDE cables are fat and have a large amount of surface area, causing IDE to be one of the main culprits when trying to find airflow obstruction. So, as many a computer "modder" has done before, people started to improvise - they started to cut up their cables lengthwise, and twist their cables, or enclose them in heat shrink-wrapping or using cable ties to keep the wires tightly bound together, in a "rounded" shape. Rounded cables are supposedly aerodynamic and allow for neat, easy management of IDE cables. Companies also have been known to use colors, as well as UV responsive coverings for the cables, making them not only effective, but also aesthetically pleasing.

One wonders why it is that the industry hadn't rounded cables earlier, if it really could cause a dramatic change in case temperature. We'll discuss that issue a bit later in the article when we see the difference in case and CPU temperatures with the rounded cables, compared to the standard "ribbon" IDE cables.

The cables came individually wrapped and professionally packaged

has provided us at Viper's Lair with two copper-shielded rounded IDE cables. Explaining the cause of shielding is beyond the scope of this article, but let it suffice that ATA100/133 cables need 80 wires instead of the 40 required by the IDE spec due to grounding purposes to stop interference and loss of signal - and when a cable has been rounded, this shielding is supposedly lost, and data could be corrupted. This will also be addressed in this article.

First, onto the glory shot...

After unwrapping the cables, we take a look into those blue boots to see exactly what's going on with that black grounding wire…

Click to Enlarge

As it turns out, the black grounding wire goes all the way to the end of the boot where it is soldered onto the shielding. The shielding goes around every part of the cable that could possibly be exposed.

Unfortunately when I was pulling the cables in and out of my drives to get the proper setup for testing, one of the IDE connectors broke.

Click to Enlarge

The picture to the left is a normal IDE connector, whereas to the right we can see that it is clear what's wrong with this IDE connector.
I was pulling the connector out of my cd-rom drive when the connector decided to break. The truth of the matter is though, that the back part of the IDE connector is only used to keep the cables in place, and does not effect the performance of the cables whatsoever - a little bit of hot glue fixed it up right away. It must also be noted that none of the other connectors buckled under any pressure, and HighSpeed PC was quick to offer me a new cable when I reported the incident.

On to the testing!

Normal Flat IDE Cable

HighSpeed PC Shielded Round IDE

Here at Viper's Lair, we use HD Tach to gague a hard drives capabilities - I used an IBM 65GXP to test out the performance of the round cable versus the ribbon cable. The above pictures show that there is an extremely small performance drop when using the rounded cables, but the rounded cables also had a higher transfer speed (by 2 KB/sec). The truth is that read and write times are comparable, and that these differences in score do not represent one cable being better than the other - the fact that the cables perform almost equally though, does stand. The difference in CPU usage is also negligible.

My motherboard also read 1 degree Celcius cooler when I was using the rounded cables, and had them tacked down properly.

Pros: The cables do increase airflow, and decrease case temperature

Cons: The rounded cables don't show any increase in performance and are costly at $30 USD each. The IDE connector breaking might have been a fluke, but makes this product stick out like a sore thumb.

Bottom Line: These cables might not be right for everyone, but if someone is paranoid about data corruption, and has enough money, these are the best rounded cables one can buy.

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