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Quantum Atlas III QM309100TD-LW

  April 20, 1998 Author: Eugene Ra  
See also our Summer 1998 SCSI Drive Roundup
See also our Drive Cooler Roundup

You may recall in our 4.5GB Ultra SCSI drive roundup that the Quantum Atlas II fared rather poorly in the WinBench 98 tests that I ran under Windows 95. Quantum's own Viking, for example, outperformed the Atlas II at a significantly lower price. Thus, it was with great anticipation that I received the 9.1 GB Quantum Atlas III, hoping that it would be more competitive in the high-end enterprise market that it's targeted towards.

Quantum Atlas IIIThe Atlas III reviewed here is the 68-pin Ultra2 SCSI version; a single-ended Ultra SCSI version is also available. Like its predecessor, the Atlas III is based around a 7200 rpm spindle speed. One of the possible reasons for the Atlas II's low performance may have been its unusually low platter capacity of 0.9 gigabytes, the lowest of the roundup. The Atlas III doubles platter capacity, distributing its data across five 1.8 gig platters, matching the other drives in its class. A 7.5 millisecond access time and a hefty one megabyte buffer polish off the new drive. A five-year warranty backs this 1" low-profile, 3.5" disk.

The tested unit came in those ever-present small, unmarked brown boxes along with a sheet of documentation and nothing else. The drive installed without a hitch, first into the requisite drive cooler, then into the Storage Review testbed. Like the Cheetah 9LP, this Ultra2 SCSI drive was attached to the isolated LVD connection on the Adaptec 2940U2W while the boot drive, a Hawk 4XL, occupied the standard single-ended connection.

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 are presented below.

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Results for the Atlas III were disappointing. The drive lagged competition (the Seagate Barracuda 9LP and even the IBM Ultrastar 9ES) in WinBench 98 figures by margins of 15-20%! ThreadMark results were a bit better- the Atlas III placed just a bit behind the Barracuda 9LP here and performed better than the Deskstar 9ES (although to be fair, the 9ES is marketed as an entry-level drive, supposedly not the same class as the Atlas).

The Atlas had the unenviable position of being the drive I tested and used after Seagate's Cheetah 9LP. This, of course, highlighted the drive's sluggish performance. It did, however, also make the Atlas III seem whisper quiet . Ok, well, not quite. There -is- a noticable whine, not nearly as loud as the Cheetah's. It's probably on par with that of the Barracuda's. Actuator/head movement, however, was quieter. You can still tell it's a SCSI drive, but its not as loud as the Seagate drives. The drive was cool to the touch when used with active cooling; one could probably use it without drive fans in a well-ventilated case.

It's hard to recommend the Atlas III. The Seagate Barracuda, available at the same price, outperforms the unit by all measures, its only drawback being a louder seek noise. IBM's 9LP (not yet tested by SR, though it's planned) may also offer better price/performance, perhaps with quieter/cooler operation. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Quantum's own Ultra2 SCSI Viking II (testing also planned) performed better, at a significantly lower price to boot. Prospective Atlas III customer's would do themselves some good to consider these three alternatives before making the leap.

Quantum Atlas III QM309100TD-LW
Estimated Price: $850
Specifications
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* Note: All reported test results are the average of five trials.

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