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Fujitsu MPF3xxxAH MPF3102AH
  July 2, 2000 Author: Eugene Ra  

Introduction

As veteran readers of StorageReview.com know, we consider there to be six major manufacturers of ATA drives in today's market. Maxtor, Western Digital, Quantum, Seagate, and IBM readily come to mind for most users. The sixth, Fujitsu, doesn't enjoy quite the same name recognition as the others. We can only speculate about reasons. Perhaps it's a result of relatively few resellers stocking the Japanese conglomerate's units. Or maybe it springs from the difficulty that StorageReview.com has in obtaining evaluation units. Reviews in the hardware enthusiast world do wonders for product recognition. Who knows?

What we do know is that we've had difficulties obtaining Fujitsu's drives for evaluation. For the most part, we've had to resort to kind offers of evaluation samples from sponsors that happened to stock the drive. Last summer, however, we managed to establish relations with Fujitsu Computer Products of America, and were able to deliver somewhat timely reviews on their full spectrum of desktop-class and enterprise-class drives. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, the relationship soured since: FCPA is no longer willing to submit drives for review. Performance issues aside, cutting off samples offered to reviewers seems like one of the worst things a manufacturer can do. Whether a performance leader or not, manufacturers have vested interest in gaining recognition in any market. Excluding products from evaluation excludes them from the limelight. Further exacerbating the problem for Fujitsu is the paucity of dealers carrying products. We've searched many places to outright purchase a unit for evaluation to maintain our comprehensive database. They're all but impossible to find. Yes, this protects a product that may or may not perform up to the competition, but isn't the goal to sell the product to users?

Ah, but enough of the soapbox. We've finally managed to get our hands on the sixth and final current-generation 7200 RPM ATA drive, the Fujitsu MPF3xxxAH. Our particular evaluation sample features only one 10.2 gig platter, yielding a capacity of... you guessed it, 10.2 gigs. In this case, beggars can't be choosers. We'd like to sincerely thank the source of the drive, an individual who wishes to remain anonymous.

Announced just a tad later than similar drives from the competition, the MPF-AH nevertheless brings some impressive specs and innovations to the table. As mentioned before, this Fujitsu is a current-generation 7200 RPM drive, packing 10.2 gigs per platter. Fujitsu has joined Quantum, Seagate, and IBM in specifying a seek time less than the "nine millisecond barrier" that's been with us since SR's inception. The MPF-AH features an 8.5ms seek time. A two-megabyte buffer, standard across all six manufacturers, rounds out Fujitsu's offering.

We've noticed over the years that Fujitsu's drives are always among the quietest around. Last year's MPD series, for example, achieved noise floors that are only just now being reached by the competition as the "quiet drive" propaganda flies. For its part, Fujitsu strives to hit ever-lower noise levels. They've debuted fluid bearing motors in their MPF series. First introduced by Seagate in its 7200 RPM Medalist Pro, fluid bearings rapidly faded away as problems surfaced from the heat caused by leaked fluid. Hopefully Fujitsu's implementation is more reliable and won't suffer the same fate. Theoretically, fluid bearings increases reliability by dampening the force felt in the spindle shaft upon accidental impact of the drive. A three-year warranty protects the drive.

Let's see how Fujitsu's latest stacks up to the competition!

WB99/Win2k Low-Level Measurements

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Click here to examine the STR graph for this drive

When it comes to measured access times, the MPF-AH falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. Its 13.2ms average access (just short of the drive's specified claims) can't quite match the swift times turned in by Quantum's Fireball Plus LM or Seagate's Barracuda ATA II but keeps ahead of units such as the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 40 and Western Digital's 7200rpm Caviar.

Sequential transfer rates achieved by the Fujtisu are about what one should expect from a 7200 RPM 10.2 GB/platter drive. Outer zone figures weigh in at 29.1 MB/sec. It's right along the lines of drives such as the Maxtor and Seagate but well behind the 37 MB/sec delivered by IBM's 15 GB/platter Deskstar 75GXP.

WB99/Win2k WinMarks

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When it comes to the high level Winmarks, Fujitsu's drive simply can't keep up with the offerings of the competition, especially that of Big Blue. In the Business Disk Winmark the MPF-AH trails the Deskstar 75GXP by a sizable 15%. The difference in the High-End Winmark widens to a whopping 27%!

The Deskstar 75GXP is admittedly a huge overachiever when it comes to the increasingly dubious WinBench 99, however. Margins are much closer when Fujitsu's unit is compared to, say, Quantum's Fireball Plus LM. Here the Fujitsu lags by only 3% in the Business Disk WinMark and 13% in the High-End test. Quantum's drive, however, excels in the more important IOMeter benchmark. Does the MPF-AH follow suite? Let's examine!

IOMeter Performance

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Fujitsu's drive unfortunately can't keep up with the blazing Fireball Plus LM in Intel's IOMeter. Workstation Access Pattern tests under Linear, Very Light, and Light load conditions reveal the Fujitsu straggling behind the Quantum by 16%-19%. The gap widens under Moderate and Heavy Loads, where the MPF-AH drags by margins as high as 32%.

Conclusion

This brings us down to heat and noise. How exactly has the introduction of fluid bearing motors in Fujitsu's drives affected these two important parameters? Though we must keep in mind that this evaluation sample possesses only one platter, we're pleased to report that the result is nothing less than amazing. Compared to the two-platter Fireball lct15, a drive that achieved new lows in acoustics in its own right, the MPF-AH is whisper quiet when it comes to idle noise. It was so quiet, in fact, that we have to leave the case open, sit right next to it on the floor, unplug the Fireball lct10 (our boot drive), unplug the CPU fan, and place our ear close to the drive itself to hear it spinning! Seek noise, obviously, was more audible, but still very quiet, only a shade louder than the lct15. Despite the reputation that fluid bearings received from the literally scorching Seagate Medalist Pro, the Fujitsu remains cool to the touch after extended operation. Well done!

When one looks at the big picture, the MPF-AH delivers quite a mixed bag of strengths and weaknesses. Despite its 7200rpm nature, the unit simply can't deliver performance along the lines of the IBM Deskstar 75GXP or the Quantum Fireball Plus LM. Even when compared to more sedate offerings from Maxtor and Seagate, Fujitu's drive trails. Despite its sluggish performance, however, the MPF-AH warrants serious consideration from many users. We're bombarded with e-mail from readers asking us what the quietest drive around is. Until very recently, it used to be Fujitsu's own MPD (and, perhaps, the MPE series) line. Recent pushes by Seagate and Quantum have made the quiet drive stakes very competitive. Even so, Fujitsu makes strong claim to being the quietest game in town with this unit. If you need quiet operation yet fear the performance that the 4400rpm lct15 will deliver, the MPF-AH is your ticket.

Fujitsu MPF3xxxAH MPF3102AH
Estimated Price: $110
Also Available: MPF3204AH (20.4 GB); MPF3153AH (15.3 GB)
Specifications
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