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Seagate Cheetah 36ES
  October 11, 2001 Author: Eugene Ra  

Seagate Cheetah 36ES Available Capacities *
Model Number
Capacity
ST318406LW
18 GB
ST336706LW
36 GB
Estimated Flagship Price: $420 (36 GB)
Evaluation unit provided by Hyper Microsystems*.
*Remember, mention StorageReview.com in your HyperMicro order and receive free shipping!


Introduction

When it comes to hard drives (or virtually any other line of products, for that matter), a manufacturer faces two conflicting decisions. It can produce a different product to address different market segments, hoping that costs don't rise and confusion doesn't arise from the diversity. Or, a company can take a simplified approach and deliver a "one size fits all" approach, addressing multiple markets with the reduced complexity of managing a single line. With the Atlas 10k III and MAN lines, Maxtor and Fujitsu respectively take the latter approach. With its many Cheetah releases this year, however, Seagate epitomizes the former.

Oh sure, there's the 15,000 RPM Cheetah X15-36LP, by all reckonings the fastest drive around, aimed at the most demanding uses. Yet what about Seagate's 10k RPM line? If someone asked SR to predict the company's 10k RPM product spread last year, we'd have cited the Cheetah 73LP, available in 73 GB, 36, GB, and 18 GB versions. And yes, 2001 saw the release of a Cheetah 73LP (73 GB only), but also a Cheetah 36XL and now a Cheetah 36ES! Whew!

As we understood it, the 36XL was to address the mainstream 18 - 36 GB SCSI market with great time-to-market turnaround (it was easily the first 10k RPM drive of the year) while leaving the higher end (and higher capacity) to the 73LP. Due to its early release, the 36XL featured 9.1 GB/platter, a 50% increase over the older Cheetah 36LP. The 73LP, on the other hand, packed a whopping 18 GB on one platter. Perhaps muddying the waters even further, this spring Seagate announced the 36ES.

From pre-release promotional materials, we gathered that the 36ES was to be an "Entry-level SCSI" (hence the ES moniker) 10,000 RPM drive. Its originally specified seek time of 6.0, being a bit higher than the company's previous 10k drives, confirmed it. As time passed, however, the company quietly lowered the ES' claimed seek time to a Seagate-standard 5.2 ms. Further, the series model # (STxxxx06) hints that the 36ES is in fact a successor to the 36XL. Finally, the drive costs a bit more. Is it entry-level SCSI or the next generation? Perhaps a performance comparison is the only fair way to sort things out.

Like the Cheetah 73LP, the 36ES utilizes 18 GB platters. A two-disk configuration yields a flagship capacity of 36 gigabytes. As mentioned above, Seagate now specifies the 36ES' seek time at 5.2 milliseconds. A 4 MB buffer rounds out the package.

The unit reviewed here features an Ultra160 SCSI interface. Seagate also plans to ship a version equipped with an Ultra320 interface as the latter's infrastructure settles into place. The company backs its drive with an enterprise-standard 5-year warranty.


WB99/Win2k Low-Level Measurements

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Click here to examine the STR graph for this drive

WinBench 99 places the Cheetah 36ES' access time at 8.6 milliseconds. Subtracting 3 ms to account for the average rotational latency of a 10,000 RPM drive yields a measured seek time of 5.6 ms... almost half a millisecond above specs. This places the 36ES square among the other members of its extended family and a bit behind offerings from Futjisu and Maxtor.

It's the drive's transfer rates, though, that stand out. While the outer-zone rate of 54.6 MB/sec places the 36ES within a tightly grouped cluster of today's 10k RPM disks, Seagate's latest manages to maintain this top transfer rate over half the drive's capacity. Further, the decay that does inevitably set in remains considerably less than other drives. As a result, minimum (inner-zone) rates clock in at 43 MB/sec... rivaling those of Seagate's own X15-36LP. Though they both sport the same 18 GB/disk, evidence suggests that the Cheetah 73LP and 36ES use different platters.


WB99/Win2k WinMarks

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The Cheetah 36ES' score of 9.05 MB/sec establishes a new record for a 10,000 RPM drive. It builds ever so slightly over the former record-holder (the 73LP) by about 2%. At 26 MB/sec, the 36ES' High-End WinMark exhibits a more significant improvement over other Seagate drives though its not enough to match Maxtor's Atlas 10k III.


IOMeter Performance

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In contrast to WinBench 99 results, the Cheetah 36ES suffers somewhat under IOMeter. Though File Server and Database indices (normalized averages of Light, Medium, and Heavy loads) are enough to match the Cheetah 36XL, the ES' Workstation index weighs in at only 224, easily the lowest of today's 10,000 RPM drives. These results place the 36ES well behind the category-leading Fujitsu MAN as well the Maxtor Atlas 10k III.


Conclusion

The 36ES joins Maxtor's Atlas 10k III in exploring new lows when it comes to 10,000 RPM noise floors. Seagate's latest emits idle noise that's a wee bit quieter than even the 10k III. Seek noise is approximately the same between the two also, with perhaps a slight nod again to the Seagate. Our sample of Maxtor's, though, features four platters to the 36ES' two. Nonetheless, no matter how it's sliced, noise levels are better than ever. The 36ES is just short of being hot to the touch after extensive use in our small testbed case. Active cooling may be warranted in many configurations.

So, what is the Cheetah 36ES? Performance results suggest that its neither a 36 GB Cheetah 73LP nor a successor to the Cheetah 36XL. Its excellent placing in WinBench combined with its subdued results in IOMeter indicate that the 36ES targets high-end desktop machines that either are configured with SCSI or would benefit from implementing SCSI's flexibility and expandibility. How large is this market? We're not sure, but rising ATA stars from Western Digital and Maxtor make it an increasingly crowded arena.


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