Towards the beginning of the year (February 2000), StorageReview.com was proud to bring readers the world's first reviews on two highly anticipated drives: the Quantum Atlas 10k II and the Seagate Cheetah 36LP. An interesting contrast exists in the time it took these two units to reach the general market. Seagate, for its part, managed to fill channels with the 36LP in less than a month after our review. Quantum, on the other hand, experienced considerable delay. On June 1st, the company issued a press release announcing "volume shipment" of the drive. Even so, as evidenced by threads in the SR Discussion Forum, eager potential purchasers can't find the drive for sale at any of their favorite retailers. Hopefully we'll see it soon.
A couple months ago, a representative from Seagate remarked that the Cheetah 36LP figures in our database looked a bit low when compared to its smaller brother, the Cheetah 18XL. Pre-release firmware was the suspect according to the rep, 36LP's possessing "release" firmware should be the fastest of the 4th generation Seagate 10k units. This claim perplexed me a bit. As outlined in our 18XL review, Seagate took great pains to explain that the 18XL's physically lighter actuator should result in faster-than-36LP operation. Nevertheless, we took Seagate up on the offer for a retest- SR readers should always have access to the most accurate and most current performance figures around.
As we witnessed the increasing delay in the Atlas 10k II's general availability, it became clear that we should also ask Quantum if they'd like to ship SR a unit with revised firmware for additional evaluation. After all, our initial review (preview??) hit the street over three months before the firm's announcement of volume shipments. Quantum complied by sending us another 10k II.
In this follow-up article, we're going to take a look at how each revised drive compares to its pre-release form. And, for good measure, we'll stack them up head-to-head to see which comes out on top . Both units feature 10,000 RPM spindle speeds, representing the pinnacle of nearly four years of development. When it comes to claimed specifications, however, Quantum's drive impresses. The Atlas specs out with a 4.7 millisecond seek time compared to the 5.2 milliseconds claimed by the Cheetah. Quantum crams 36 gigs of data onto five 7.3 GB platters rather than Seagate's six 6.1 GB disks. Finally, the 10k II features hefty 8 meg buffer; Seagate's unit provides just 4 megs. Both units, of course, are backed by a five year warranty.
Our original Cheetah 36LP possessed firmware revision 0001. The unit tested here features revision 0003. Similarly, the original Atlas 10k II's firmware was D620 vs. the newer unit's DA40. Let's turn to the figures and examine exactly what revised firmware brings to the table.