For quite some time, all was quiet on Quantum’s ATA front as the Fireball SE and Bigfoot TX continued to be the company’s latest offerings. Late April, however, brought in a change as Quantum announced the Fireball EL series. However, just as the drive was reaching distribution, the company trumped the line by announcing the Fireball EX. The EX, at the time of this writing, hasn’t yet reached volume shipment levels yet. So, in this article, we’ll take a look at Quantum’s current top ATA offering, the 10.2 gigabyte Fireball EL.
For its new ATA drives, Quantum is still sticking with tried-and-true 5400rpm spindle speeds rather than ratcheting up to 7200rpm like much of the competition. They’ve bumped up areal density to 2.5 gigabytes per platter, a bit of an improvement over the older Fireball SE’s 2.1 GB/platter. Seek time is rated at 9.5 milliseconds. Finally, the relatively light 128k buffer has been increased to a spacious 512k. A bare OEM unit was tested in this review.
The Fireball EL debuts Quantum’s "Shock Protection System" (SPS). Quantum argues that a significant cause of both out-of-box and long-term failure arises from accidental impact to the drives, whether it be hitting the unit with a hand tool or ramming it into place. Such jolts cause "head slap," where the drive’s read/write heads are lifted from the surface and slammed back down, damaging the platter and throwing up microscopic debris particles. Such particles can hinder today’s magnetoresistive heads from reading data properly, and can eventually lead to failure of the drive. SPS is a method employed by Quantum to minimize head slap by preventing the lifting of the head. It’s supposed to significantly increase reliability and confidence in the drive; nevertheless, the EL is protected by an ATA-standard 3 year warranty .
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.