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Quantum Bigfoot TX QM508000TX-A

  April 27, 1998 Author: Eugene Ra  
See also our Summer 1998 ATA Drive Roundup

About two years ago, Quantum announced a return to the 5.25" form factor with the introduction of its "Bigfoot" series of drives. By using fewer platters and fewer head/actuator assemblies at popular capacities, the company was able to offer these drives at unprecedented cost per MB levels. Since then, the Bigfoot series of drives have pushed the envelope when it came to ATA drive capacity. Its reputation for spaciousness, however, has been matched by a reputation for pokey performance.

Quantum Bigfoot TXQuantum's latest Bigfoot TX series is available in 4, 5, 8, and 12 gig sizes. The 8GB QM508000TX-A is reviewed here. The most notable feature of the drive, of course, is its larger 5" platters, thus giving the drive its panoramic 5.25" form factor. Just as notable is the drive's height though, just a tad taller than half an inch. This unit places 4 GB on each of its 2 platters, thus yielding (through simple square math) a data density in the same ballpark as a 3.5" drive with 1.8 gig platters. The drive features a rather sluggish spindle speed of 4,000rpm. Due to the drive's larger radius, the seek time is a little on the high side, rated at "12ms or less." The Bigfoot has a 128k buffer.

The drive tested was retail-packaged, picked up at a local superstore. The package features well-written and well-illustrated documentation (a far cry from the skimpy docs that accompanies Quantum's SCSI units), overlay software on both diskette and CD-ROM (the CD also contains a limited version of Norton System Doctor along with Adobe Acrobat versions of the manual), and a 40-pin IDE cable. No 3.5" to 5.25" drive rails are included, of course . Since all of our testbed's drive bays are of the 5.25" variety, installation of the drive was easier than normal.

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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I must admit that I started testing and usage of this drive with a healthy dose of skepticism. Current machines from major retail vendors such as Hewlett-Packard and Compaq feature the Bigfoot TX for storage. The top-of-the-line machines from each company consist of the lofty Pentium II 400 MHz processor on the 100 MHz BX bus- but the machines are dogs! I've routinely played around with display models in retail stores and was amazed how such a mighty processor-memory subsystem could be dragged down by a hard drive.

As we can see, the WinBench figures were not pretty. Under both Windows 95 and Windows NT, the Bigfoot recorded new lows in virtually all catagories. Though the drive keeps up fairly well with many current ATA offerings in transfer rate, the low seek time along with the rotational latency raise access time to a rather high 20 milliseconds, dragging overall performance down significantly. ThreadMark scores, however, were fairly respectable. In fact, let's take a moment to note this curiosity: The Bigfoot TX outscores the IBM Deskstar 8 in ThreadMark 2.0. This is simply not realistic; once again, I have to emphasize that through casual real-world use, performance of these two drives seems to correlate much more tightly with WinBench 98 than ThreadMark 2.0.

The Bigfoot is, however, every bit as cool as the Deskstar series. I wouldn't even call the drive hand-warm to the touch after extensive use. And though it isn't quite as silent as the IBM drives, it comes close. Definitely quiet, even for an ATA drive.

Plainly said, I can't recommend this drive. If the price/MB ratio were truly exceptional, the Bigfoot would perhaps work well as a large secondary backup or archive drive as a compliment to a faster 3.5" ATA disk. As it stands, though, the pricing for the Bigfoot TX is within spitting distance of equivalent capacity Maxtor DiamondMax 2880 drives. This is one of those rare cases where gain in performance percentage-wise is actually greater than the percentage-increase in cost. If you find an -exceptional- deal on this drive and have a free 5.25" bay, consider it for second-drive use. If not, though, you'd be best off with a traditional 3.5" drive of the same capacity for just a pittance more.

Quantum Bigfoot TX QM508000TX-A
Estimated Price: $300
Specifications
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* Note: All reported test results are the average of five trials.


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