From http://lwn.net/Articles/244829/ (Ingo Molnar):
Atime updates are by far the biggest IO performance deficiency that Linux has today. Getting rid of atime updates would give us more everyday Linux performance than all the pagecache speedups of the past 10 years, _combined_.This comment is about 7 years old and noatime is still not a default option (nor relatime). Tracking access time makes sense in many scenarios, not not too much for a desktop user.
Really. Usually a lot of disk reads are cached and even for them the OS has to write to the disk. It is stupid.
If you are not using noatime, and you don't need to track access times for your file-system, you're causing your disks a lot of avoidable pain (and you are wasting time).
I just enable it and if something breaks because of this, it deserves to break. My guess is that many developers run their systems with the noatime option set.