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Fujitsu MPG3204AH-E
  August 30, 2001 Author: Eugene Ra  

Fujitsu MPG-AH-E Available Capacities *
Model Number
Capacity
MPG3204AH-E
20 GB
MPG3307AH-E
31 GB
MPG3409AH-E
41 GB
* The benchmark scores presented in this review represent expected performance across the entire line.
Estimated Flagship Price: $140 (41 GB)
Evaluation unit provided by Fujitsu America, Inc.


Introduction

In the past, SR has been slow to review Fujitsu's drives. Indeed, Fujitsu disks were almost always the last of any given generation to receive a review. This arises, unfortunately, from our lack of contact with the Japanese conglomerate's American division. Fujitsu's latest 7200 RPM ATA drive, a drive that's been available for some time, is no exception. As it turns out, Fujitsu is withdrawing from the ultra-competitive ATA drive arena as a whole. In a sense, this review is a wistful tribute to the last unit shipped by a major player.

The MPG-AH has been especially interesting since its 5400 RPM brother, the MPG-AT, brought signs of life to an ATA drive line that hasn't exactly been stellar in our benchmark suites. Along with its 7200 RPM spindle speed, the AH brings a faster specified seek time of 8.5 milliseconds as well as a uniform 2-megabyte buffer (smaller AT's only had 512k) to the table. Each platter stores 20 GB of data yielding a 2-platter flagship around 40 gigs. The model tested in this review features the manufacturer's "Fluid Dynamic Bearings" rather than conventional ball bearings, a feature that should theoretically reduce drive noise while improving reliability.

Fujitsu's drive targets market segment that seek high performance without heading down the SCSI path. High-end home and office machines as well as entry-level servers represent the AH's sector. A 3-year warranty protects the drive.

The MPG-AH ships exclusively with an ATA-100 interface. Remember, since ATA drives have yet to break sequential transfer rates greater than even 45 MB/sec that ATA-66 (and in many cases, even ATA-33) interfaces will run a drive with optimal performance. Our testbed remains equipped with a Promise Ultra66 controller.

Let's see how Fujitsu's final stands up.


WB99/Win2k Low-Level Measurements

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Click here to examine the STR graph for this drive

Like many of today's drives, the MPG-AH features provisions to reduce seek noise through algorithms that intelligently reduce seek speed and distance. For the purposes of our tests, noise reduction was disabled.

The MPG-AH turns in a WinBench 99 recorded access time of 14.8 milliseconds, a disappointing increase over its predecessor (the MPF-AH) that allows it to best only the Seagate Barracuda ATA III in this closely watched spec. Subtracting 4.2 milliseconds to account for the average rotational latency of a 7200 RPM drive yields a measured seek time of 10.6 milliseconds. The drive misses its 8.5 ms spec by quite a bit.

Outer-zone transfer rates for the Fujitsu weigh in at 38.6 MB/sec, pretty much on par with other 20 GB/platter drives. Inner-zone rates are a bit on the speedy side. At 26 MB/sec, it trails the category-leading Barracuda ATA III by a negligible margin.


WB99/Win2k WinMarks

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Fujitsu's score of 7.4 MB/sec places it among the likes of the Barracuda ATA III and even IBM's Deskstar 60GXP. It lags behind Maxtor's DiamondMax Plus 60 and Western Digital's Caviar WD1000BB while leading Samsung's P20 by an even greater margin.

High-End results of 18.3 MB/sec yield pretty much the same deal, a score roughly comparable to the drive's competitors, significantly leading the Samsung and trailing WD's drive.


IOMeter Performance

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The MPG-AH's IOMeter indices (normalized averages of the three access patterns under Light, Medium, and Heavy loads) are genuinely respectable, perhaps a first from a Fujitsu ATA drive. In all three access patterns, Fujitsu's drive bests Maxtor's DiamondMax Plus 60, a well known name. The MPH-AH's Workstation index, nonetheless, falls about 13% short of category-leader: IBM with its Deskstar 60GXP.


Conclusion

While idle noises are every bit as low as we've come to expect, seek noises are a bit surprising. Though not loud in absolute terms, seeks are a notch above that of Western Digital's WD400BB. As a single-platter drive, the MPG-AH runs cool to the touch even after extended use.

Overall, while an improvement over everything we've seen from the manufacturer in the past, the Fujitsu MPG-AH series doesn't quite boast the capacity options of its competitors. Though it can match and even best the likes of Maxtor's and Seagate's latest drives, it doesn't quite offer the performance or especially the capacity range of WD's BB series. The latter is better choice for those who don't stumble upon an MPG-AH at a rock-bottom, close-out deal. What's even more disappointing, however, is that we're not going to see future drive's follow up on the MPG-AH's promising turnaround. Fujitsu's departure from the ATA landscape has nipped an auspicious reversal in the bud.

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