Readers may recall that it was Seagate that brought us the world's first 7200 RPM ATA drive in the form of the Medalist Pro ST39140A. In addition to reaching previously unheralded ATA spindle speeds, the Medalist Pro was also the first unit to bring us motors based on fluid bearings rather than the conventional ball bearings found elsewhere. Fluid bearings ostensibly provided the twin benefits of lowered idle noise and increased reliability.
Afterwards, however, it seemed like the world's largest disk manufacturer went dormant as it ceded the 7200 RPM ATA lead to competitors such as Maxtor and IBM. Finally, nearly a year and a half later, Seagate stirred again with the announcement of the Barracuda ATA. Seagate's SCSI Barracuda line had long enjoyed a stellar reputation of performance and reliability; as a result, the leveraging of the Barracuda name for the manufacturer's 7200 RPM ATA line drew quite a bit of attention. The drive finally hit the channels in the third quarter of 1999 and didn't disappoint. It delivered what was at the time the highest-ever sequential transfer rate for an ATA drive- its 28 MB/sec was the first to seriously challenge ATA-33's limits. And though the access time we measured on our sample, the 28 gig flagship, wasn't outstanding, it became clear that access times of the smaller models were among the best out there... rivaling the Quantum Fireball Plus KA.
Naturally, the 'Cuda ATA's successor was eyed as a possible performance champion. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Seagate had scaled back a bit, reducing specified seek time from the incredible 7.6 milliseconds of the original generation to a more sedate 8.2 ms. Even so, the Barracuda ATA II turned in performance that made it a viable alternative to the then red-hot Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 40. Subsequent entries from IBM and Quantum, the Deskstar 75GXP and the Fireball Plus LM respectively, stole the hearts of performance-conscious users.
This brings us to Seagate's third entry, the Barracuda ATA III. This particular model features 20.4 gigs per [platter]platter, pitting it directly against units such as Western Digital's Caviar WD400BB and Quantum's Fireball Plus AS. Like WD's entry, the flagship 'Cuda ATA III features just 2 platters, topping out at 41 gigs or so. Claimed seek times continue to rise in the series. We've gone from the original 'Cuda's svelte 7.6 ms to the 'Cuda II's 8.2 ms to a third generation spec of 8.9 ms. A two-meg buffer rounds out the offering. The drive is backed by a standard three-year warranty.
With the Barracuda ATA III, Seagate has again come full circle in offering its "Fluid Dynamic Bearing" motors as an option. Using viscous oil in place of metal balls allows less spindle noise through reduced metal-to-metal contact. This also increases the drive's shock resistance through the natural buffering of the spindle shaft that arises through use of liquid.
The Barracuda ATA III ships exclusively with an 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.