Itís pretty obvious that 10,000rpm SCSI drives (along with the other great specs that always accompany high spindle speeds
- we shouldnít forget the correlation between high-speed specs) compete in a field separate from their slower 7200rpm brethren. The Ultrastar 9ZX screams past every drive save only the Cheetah 9LP. In that matchup, the 9ZX turns out scores 2-5% lower in ZDís WinBench 98. Differences in ThreadMark were a bit meatier, around 20% or so.
Rather than delivering the high-pitch squeal that Iíve associated with the Seagate Cheetahs, the Ultrastar 9ZX has a lower-pitched (but still quite audible) whine not unlike that of the Quantum Viking II. Personally, I find the 9ZXís sound less bothersome, though associates who donít even notice the Cheetahís squeal commented on the intrustiveness of the IBMís whirr. Seek noise is a step below the rumble of the Cheetah. The 9ZX runs pretty hot, even mounted within a cooler. The cooler I use for testing is an all-in-one unit with 3.5"-5.25" mounting rails built-in to the entire assembly. Thus, the fans blow air in directly at the front of the drive. With a low-profile unit, this results in the air splitting and flowing across the top and bottom, resulting in decent cooling. The 9ZXís increased stature, though, seemed to "stonewall" the air, hindering ventilation of the top part of the drive. Mounting a faceplate with a couple fans in it (such as the one included in the "Just Cooler" cooling assembly) in the bay above the drive helped ventilation considerably. Thus, the 9ZX requires a lot of space: Although its only a 1.6" high 3.5" disk, you may need two 5.25" drive bays to mount and cool it properly.
As a 10,000rpm unit, the 9ZX is one of the fastest drives out there; in terms of performance, definitely a cut above any 7200 disk. That said, I must admit that Iíve done IBM a disservice by taking a look at the Ultrastar 9ZX only after reviewing the Cheetah 9LP. Had I taken a look at the former before the latter, Iíd be raving about how the 9ZX bested the original Cheetah 4LP by margins of 5-17%. Unfortunately for IBM, I didnít . Since itís finally available in wide distribution, Iíd choose the Cheetah 9LP over the Ultrastar 9ZX despite the slightly higher price due to its smaller form factor and higher performance. After all, if youíre looking at 10k rpm drives, cost is probably a secondary concern to performance- Whatís another $100 or so?