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Fujitsu MPG3xxxAT MPG3409AT
  October 30, 2000 Author: Eugene Ra  


Introduction

In the past, it may have always seemed like Fujitsu's drives have been reviewed at StorageReview.com as mere afterthoughts. While we managed to bring readers the latest reviews of drives from manufacturers such as Maxtor and Seagate, Fujitsu's equivalent-generation units were always reviewed several months later. The problem was rooted in our ability to root up evaluation samples of Fujitsu's units. Fortunately, we've managed to rustle up a source. As a result, we're pleased to present a look at a Fujitsu drive closer to its introduction rather than its end of life.

The MPG3409AT is a 20 GB/platter, 5400 RPM unit aimed at value conscious consumers and OEMs. The unit specifies a 9.5 millisecond seek time, about average for today's budget drives. Buffer size, on the other hand, weighs in at a roomy 2 megs... a step up from the 512k that many entry-level units carry. The drive features an industry-standard 3-year warranty.

The flagship unit evaluated here features 2 fully-utilized platters yielding a capacity of 41 gigs. All of these 41 GB units (designated MPG3409AT) feature Fujitsu's "Fluid Dynamic Bearing" (FDB) motors in place of conventional ball bearings. The removed metal-metal contact is supposed to help lower idle noise as well as increase shock resistance and overall reliability. Other units in the family include the 31 gig MPG3307AT and the 20 gig MPG3204AT. These two units are available in both FDB and ball-bearing versions. Finally, the 10 gigabyte MPG3102AT brings up the rear when it comes to performance. This particular unit is only available equipped with ball bearings.

Fujitsu has joined the parade with other manufacturers in offering a switch that allows one to select between access patterns optimized for noise or performance. Even lacking this feature, the manufacturer's units have proved to be exceedingly quiet in the past. Thus, we're expecting the performance modes to explore new heights of performance rather than looking for quiet mode to further plumb the depths of quiet operation. For the purposes of the StorageReview.com Database, the MPG3xxxAT's figures will represent performance-mode results.

The MPG-AT is one of the first of a new breed of drives that ships exclusively with the ATA-100 interface. Remember that since ATA drives have yet to break sequential tansfer rates greater than even 40 MB/sec, ATA-66 (and in most cases, even ATA-33) interfaces will run the drive at optimal performance. Our testbed remains equipped with a Promise Ultra66 controller.


WB99/Win2k Low-Level Measurements

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Click here to examine the STR graph for this drive

WinBench 99 measures the MPG-AT's access time at 15.4 milliseconds, a figure in line with the competition. Though subtracting a 5400 RPM spindle speed's 5.6 ms of latency yields a measured seek time of 9.8 milliseconds (a mark above the units specifications), the MPG's times have greatly improved when compared to its predecessor. The MPF-AT, though featuring the same 9.5 ms specification, missed the mark by quite a bit.

The MPG-AT's outer zone sequential transfer rate of 30.5 MB/sec edges out the IBM Deskstar 40GV to claim top honors for a 5400 RPM drives. The unit's inner-track score of 18.7 MB/sec was equally record-setting.

Do these promising figures propel the MPG-AT to the top of the class? Let's journey on to the high-level WinMarks!


WB99/Win2k WinMarks

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Fujitsu's drive turns in respectable scores in the WB99 WinMarks. Though its Business Disk WinMark 99 score of 5.9 MB/sec doesn't reach the lofty heights set by units from Maxtor and Western Digital, it nonetheless compares favorably to IBM's Deskstar 40GV. Likewise, the MPG-AT's High-End score of 15.4 MB/sec is a solid, though not record-breaking figure.

These scores again represent huge improvements over those of Fujitsu's last 5400 RPM drive, the MPF-AT. Now let's set our sights on IOMeter!


IOMeter Performance

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The MPG-AT's score of 119.80 in our IOMeter Workstation Index (a weighted average of Light, Medium, and Heavy loads) doesn't measure up to the category-leading IBM Deskstar 40GV. It does, however, approach the scores turned in by Western Digital's Caviar WD450AA and exceeds those posted by Maxtor's DiamondMax VL40.


Conclusion

As one would expect given Fujitsu's reputation and the FDB motors found in the drive, idle noise truly is whisper quiet. Like the FDB-based MPF-AH, the MPG-AT achieves noise floors unrivaled by other drives. Interestingly, however, seeks seemed a bit louder than the older 7200 RPM unit. This may be due to the larger actuator assembly... the MPG-AT is a two-disk drive while our MPF-AH sample utilized a single platter. Or perhaps this was due to the more aggressive seek pattern that the MPG-AT's performance mode implemented. We decided to take a look at the unit operating in quiet mode, to see just how much silence is gained... and to see how much performance is lost.
 Testbed II  Ziff Davis WinBench 99 under Windows 2000 Professional using NTFS *  Testbed II 
Operating Modes of the Fujitsu MPG3xxxAT
Benchmark Performance Mode Quiet Mode
Business Disk WinMark 99 (KB/sec) 5947 5420
High-End Disk WinMark 99 (KB/sec) 15433 14467
AVS/Express 3.4 (KB/sec) 66800 16567
FrontPage 98 (KB/sec) 89767 86167
MicroStation SE (KB/sec) 23733 22467
Photoshop 4.0 (KB/sec) 8927 8633
Premiere 4.2 (KB/sec) 10500 9680
Sound Forge 4.0 (KB/sec) 16667 15967
Visual C++ (KB/sec) 13533 11733
Disk/Read Transfer Rate StorageReview.com
Beginning (KB/sec) 30467 30500
End (KB/sec) 18700 18700
Disk Access Time (ms) 15.4 23.9
Disk CPU Utilization (%) 0.50 0.49

Quiet mode bumps up average access time to 23.9 milliseconds- an increase of 55%. Transfer rates, as one would expect, remain unchanged. Quiet mode's Business Disk WinMark 99 clocks in at 5.4 MB/sec, a decrease of about 9%. High-End scores regressed a bit less, dropping by 6%. Let's examine how the more seek-dependent IOMeter fares.

IOMeter Indices
Index File Server Index Workstation Index Database Index
Fujitsu MPG3xxxAT (41.0 GB ATA-100) 107.56 119.80 107.89
Fujitsu MPG3xxxAT (41.0 GB ATA-100) - QM 93.10 104.31 91.96

The MPG-AT in Quiet mode scores 104.31 in our Workstation IOMeter index, lagging performance mode by 13%. Though the disparity here is larger than that found in the Disk WinMarks, it's still a far cry from being proportional to the huge increase in seek time. But what kind of gain is made in quiet operation? Subjectively, not much. The drive's seeks still struck as being noticeably louder than the MPF-AH or Samsung's SpinPoint V10200. This isn't to say that the drive is loud by any means. Seek noise compares favorably against the majority of today's ATA drives.

The drive operates cool to the touch outside a cooler. Integration into most systems should be no problem.

In conclusion, the MPG-AT represents a great improvement over its predecessor, finally combining Fujitsu's quiet operation with competitive performance. Sure, it's not the fastest unit around, but those looking at 5400 RPM units probably aren't overly concerned about performance. If you're looking for a quiet drive and don't require more than 40 gigs of storage, you should consider the MPG-AT.

Fujitsu MPG3xxxAT MPG3409AT
Estimated Price: $179
Also Available: MPG3307AT (30.7 GB); MPG3204AT (20.4 GB); MPG3102AT (10.2 GB)
Specifications
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