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IBM Ultrastar 9ES DDRS-39130

  April 6, 1998 Author: Eugene Ra  
See also our Summer 1998 SCSI Drive Roundup
See also our Drive Cooler Roundup

Of the myriad of new SCSI and ATA drives just becoming available, the Storage Review has received more requests for a test and review of the IBM Ultrastar 9ES than any other hard drive. The 9ES promises much: A relatively low price for a UW SCSI drive, 9.1 gigs of storage space, cool & quiet operation, and last but certainly not least, good performance.

The 9ES uses 5 high-density (high for a SCSI drive, that is) 1.8 gig platters to provide its 9GB of capacity. The drive features a 7.5ms average seek time, 512k buffer, and, unlike the previous Ultrastar 2ES covered in the Storage Review's 4.5GB Ultra SCSI drive roundup, a 7200 rpm spindle speed. The drive is currently available in an Ultra SCSI interface with an Ultra2 version promised in the near future. The Ultra SCSI DDRS-39130 version was tested in this review.

The Ultrastar 9ES (along with the company's upcoming UltraATA monsters, the Deskstar 16GP and 14GXP) debuts IBM's "TrueTrack Servo Technology." At high spindle speeds and high bit densities, the challenge of keeping a drive's read-write heads aligned with the appropriate track becomes ever greater due to increasing vibration. IBM uses the TrueTrack technology, a signal feedback design, as a way to keep costs down by eschewing more traditional chassis redesign and reinforcement.

Low power dissipation is another touted advantage of the 9ES. IBM achieves a low idle power specification of only 7.1 watts (as opposed to, say, the Seagate Barracuda 9LP's specified idle power rating of 10 watts) "through efficient electronic design and a new integrated LSI chip." This should translate to cool operation, always a plus in any high-spindle-speed drive.

The drive tested in this review was an OEM version obtained through a major mail-order source. As is par for SCSI drives, the IBM included no cabling or mounting rails. The two previously tested IBM Ultrastar drives both included robust, multilingual manuals. The 9ES, did not, however, with a simple vendor-created photocopy instructing how to change termination and SCSI ID settings.

ZDBop's Winbench 98 along with Adaptec's Threadmark 2.0 were both run on the unit in Windows 95 OSR 2.1 and Windows NT Workstation 4.0. The drive was partitioned into a single volume of maximum size. The average of 5 trials is presented below.

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The Ultrastar 9ES is marketed more as an entry-level high-capacity SCSI solution rather than being the workhorse solution of the line (that honor falls on the higher-end Ultrastar 9LP). Nevertheless, the 9ES posted respectable scores under WinBench98, in both operating systems performing similarly to and in many cases surpassing the higher-priced enterprise-class Seagate Barracuda 9LP. Unfortunately, the same thing can't be said for the drive under Adaptec's ThreadMark 2.0. Under both Windows 95 and Windows NT, the Ultrastar 9ES posted scores well behind the Seagate. While it's a lower-priced drive, I was surprised to find it lagging by so great a margin. Its interesting to note that the IBM Deskstar 8 also scores better than the competition in WinBench while falling behind in ThreadMark.

Though performance is always important, the 9ES is renown for its low noise and low temperature operation- the drive certainly delivers here. For a 7200rpm unit, the IBM is exceptionally cool, merely warm to the touch even after extensive use- and that's even without the standard drive cooler used to test each drive. The unit's acoustics are also exceptional. There's little in the way of the annoying high-pitched 7200rpm whine associated with all SCSI drives. Seek noise, although not as whisper-quiet as the Deskstar series, was still significantly lower than the Barracuda 9LP. Noise wise I felt I was using an unobtrusive ATA drive rather than a 7200rpm SCSI unit.

In conclusion, I have to admit liking the IBM Ultrastar 9ES despite the low ThreadMark scores. In practical everyday use, the drive reflected the highly competitive WinBench 98 scores delivered. Further, the drive's low noise is a big plus- the world of SCSI fixed disks is noisy; the quietness of the drive is a bigger novelty than many may imagine. The 9ES can be found for just a tad over $700- that's pretty thrifty when it comes to large ultra-wide SCSI drives. Combine this low cost with low heat, low noise, and decent performance and you get a viable alternative to the more expensive, noisy enterprise-class SCSI devices.

IBM Ultrastar 9ES DDRS-39130
Estimated Price: $750
Specifications
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* Note: All reported test results are the average of five trials.


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