Seagate's U5 represents the fifth-generation of Seagate's low-cost, entry-level hard disk solution. Don't be fooled by its name: the U5 is the successor to the U10. Judging from a field that grows ever more crowded, demand for value-class drives continues to come along strongly. Though such disks aren't of much interest to enthusiasts and power users seeking storage solutions for their own systems, they're found almost everywhere. It's important to know which units stand out when weighing purchase decisions for low-cost systems. The hard disk remains as the single most expensive unit in such systems... let's make sure those dollars are spent wisely.
The U5's specs are promising. Due to low measured demand, Seagate chose to sit out of the 15 GB/platter cycle, jumping directly to 20 gigs per disk. The U5 flagship features two platters, yielding a capacity of 40 gigs. Like most of its competitors, excepting only Quantum, Seagate has stuck with tried-and-true 5400 RPM spindle speed for its budget line. Specified seek time is quite impressive. Though all its competitors claim average seeks of at least 9.5 milliseconds, Seagate specs the U5 at a speedy 8.9 ms. Buffer size remains a relatively light 512k. Seagate considered 1024k of cache, but decided that the performance improvement wasn't worth the extra cost. Though it's a value-class drive, the U5 is backed by a full three-year warranty.
The U5 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 transfer rates greater than even 40 MB/sec that ATA-66 (and in most cases, even ATA-33) interfaces will run the drive with optimal performance. Our testbed remains equipped with a Promise Ultra66 controller.