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Summer 2000 7200 RPM ATA Drive Roundup


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Summer 2000 7200 RPM ATA Drive Roundup - Conclusion

  August 13, 2000 Author: Eugene Ra  

Conclusion

Heat and Noise

In general, the temperatures and sounds produced by current-generation 7200 RPM ATA drives are quite a bit lower than the levels found in previous generations. In most situations, as long as a case has sufficient airflow and ventilation, any of these drives will work well from a heat standpoint. When it comes to acoustics, most of our sample drives emit little idle noise detectable above our testbed's PC Power & Cooling Silencer power supply. The Fireball Plus LM stands out when it comes to seeks... the fastest seeker of the group also delivers the loudest noises. To a lesser extent, the Barracuda ATA II's seek noise also stood above the crowd. Notable on the opposite end of the spectrum was the Fujitsu MPF-AH. Equipped with its fluid-bearing motor, the Fujitsu is bar none the quietest drive we've ever used when it comes to both idle and seek noises.

Pricing

Coming up with level pricing schemes is always a challenge when it comes to hard disks. Ideally we'd like to go with manufacturer suggested retail prices (MSRP). These figures unfortunately come out quite uneven. Fujitsu's drives, for example, are priced much higher than the rest of the group while prices provided by Quantum seem to be unrealistically low. Thus, we've decided to go with the pricing found from a reseller that sells all six brands. Finding one is no small feat. Fortunately, we stumbled upon Fujitsu's units (the hardest to find) at a former SR sponsor, Dirt Cheap Drives. DCD also carries all five other brands, forming the basis for a valid relative comparison.

Prices at Dirt Cheap Drives as of 8/10/00
Capacity
10 GB
$92
n/a
n/a
$99
$116
$109
15 GB
$119
$125
$125
$123
20 GB
$152
$165
$143
$155
$149
$149
30 GB
n/a
$199
$195
$189
$179
n/a
40 GB
n/a
n/a
$249
n/a
n/a
n/a
45 GB
n/a
$279
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
60 GB
n/a
$435
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
75 GB
n/a
$549
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
*Unavailable From Dirt Cheap Drives

The capacities priced above reflect all units available with the exception of the 15 GB Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 40, a drive not listed on DCD's site. Let's take a look at these same prices adjusted for capacity... i.e., how much each gig costs you.

Prices at Dirt Cheap Drives as of 8/10/00 ($/GB)
Capacity
10 GB
$9.20
n/a
n/a
$9.90
$11.60
$10.90
15 GB
$7.93
$8.33
$8.33
$8.20
20 GB
$7.60
$8.25
$7.15
$7.75
$7.45
$7.45
30 GB
n/a
$6.63
$6.50
$6.30
$5.97
n/a
40 GB
n/a
n/a
$6.23
n/a
n/a
n/a
45 GB
n/a
$6.20
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
60 GB
n/a
$7.25
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
75 GB
n/a
$7.32
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
*Unavailable From Dirt Cheap Drives

A few interesting figures stand out. The Seagate Barracuda ATA II weighs in as the most expensive drive per gig in its 10 GB incarnation. The flagship $30 gig model, however, is offers the most capacity for your buck... the only drive less than $6/GB. If you're looking for a drive above 30 gigs in size, you have options from only Maxtor and IBM. If you need more than 40 gigs, Big Blue's your only choice. Note that the higher capacities don't necessarily deliver the lower price per gig that one may expect. The 20 gig capacity is the only one represented by all six manufacturers. Here we find that IBM and Quantum, the decisive performance leaders, run a wee bit more in price than the competition. At this level, Maxtor's DiamondMax Plus 40 comes out as the least expensive unit.

StorageReview.com Editor's Choice: IBM Deskstar 75GXP
Honorable Mention: Quantum Fireball Plus LM

StroageReview.com's Editors ChoiceIn the end, the competition for "top drive" comes down to two units: IBM's Deskstar 75GXP and Quantum's Fireball LM. Both units deliver top-class low-level performance that translates into best-of-class performance in IOMeter, our all-important test. When it comes to IOMeter, the Fireball leads the Deskstar ever so slightly. Even so, the IBM delivers significantly better transfer rates (40% faster on outer tracks), better capacity options (up to 45 gigs while maintaining the performance outlined here), and less operating noise. Thus, our year Summer 2000 7200 RPM ATA Editor's Choice goes to the IBM Deskstar 75GXP. Big Blue's always been a close contender in our previous roundups; this time, they've gotten it right. This drive is a next-generation unit that's available today.

The Fireball Plus LM, however, deserves a strong honorable mention. After all, it does come out as the absolute best drive in our IOMeter suite. Further, if you don't mind the bit of extra noise and the capacity ceiling of 30 gigs, it's a bit less costly than the Deskstar. The Fireball Plus LM is a SCSI design in an ATA chassis and it shows.

Coming Soon

No roundup would be complete without outlining what's "just around the corner" for those willing to wait . In a month or two, Maxtor will join IBM at the 15 GB/platter plateau with its 3-platter DiamondMax Plus 45. The Plus 45 is the first drive from Maxtor that's officially specified with a seek time under 9 milliseconds.

A month later, watch for the Quantum Fireball Plus AS. Instead of joining Big Blue at 15 GB/platter, Quantum has decided to leapfrog the competition, promising a 7200 RPM ATA drive that packs a whopping 20 gigs on a single platter. Also intriguing is Quantum's limited debut of fluid-bearing motors. They'll be available for a nominal increase in cost. Quantum indicates that the AS will be the first Fireball Plus designed "from the ground up" for the ATA interface rather than being a SCSI drive retrofit into an ATA chassis. We're not sure if this will be a good or bad thing. Hopefully the AS will keep intact the Fireball Plus franchise's stellar access time.

Though they have yet to make an official announcement, we expect Seagate to also be at the forefront. They've skipped 15 gigs per disk with their recently announced U5 citing lack of industry demand; their next-generation 7200 RPM product will likewise do the same. We've heard nothing about next-generation units from Fujitsu and Western Digital. We expect them to remain competitive, however, announcing 15 GB/platter units in the near future. Finally, we come to the inscrutable IBM. They may very well rest on their laurels for now. After all, they've been shipping a 15 GB/platter unit for a couple months now. Big Blue's known to occasionally sit out on a generation of units. Just as 20 GB/platter units start to ship and make the 75GXP passé, we may see IBM announce the first drive featuring 27 GB/platter. Who knows? Time will tell!


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