Quantum occupies an interesting role in the ATA drive market. Judging from the releases of the Fireball EL and Fireball EX, it's evident that they're not the time-to-market leader when it comes to either performance or capacity. Yet when a Fireball finally ships, it's always been a performance leader, claiming a spot among the top-performing 5400rpm ATA units.
Maxtor's DiamondMax 4320 currently rules the roost when it comes to 5400rpm disks. Quantum, however, gave Maxtor quite a run for their money with the release of the Fireball EX. The EX combined stellar performance along with quiet and cool operation.
The Fireball CR will soon arrive upon the scene. Interestingly, nearly five months since Maxtor's shipment of the DiamondMax 4320, the CR still features only 3.3 gigs per platter. Sporting virtually the same areal density as the Fireball EX, the CR's largest variant delivers only 13 gigs of storage to the table. Though it's odd to already associate the word "only" with the capacity "13 gigs," there's no denying that the CR is rather petite compared to the upcoming competition. [Editor's Note (4/5/99): SR has been informed by Quantum that despite the stats offered by Quantum's web page and the Fireball CR's Press Kit, the CR in fact is a 3 platter, 4.3 GB/platter design.]
Other specs also closely mirror those of the Fireball EX. The CR features a 9.5 millisecond access time, 5400rpm spindle speed, and a 512k buffer. The CR, unlike the EX, features an ATA-66 interface. The value of it, of course, is questionable with today's drive. Indeed, as outlined below, ATA-66 can provide more hassle than benefit. A standard 3-year warranty accompanies the drive.
Paired with our
onmouseover="window.status='StorageReview.com Testbed - Hoss'; return true;">testbed's Abit LX6 motherboard, the Fireball CR exhibited the same problems as Western Digital's AC313000. The Award BIOS found on the LX6 correctly detects the disk as a "UDMA Mode 4" (ATA-66) drive, yet the LX (and the current BX) chipsets don't yet support ATA-66 operation. This forces Windows to run the drive in MS-DOS compatibility mode, bringing performance to a crawl. Fortunately, Quantum was able to provide a utility to disable ATA-66 operation. Hopefully such provisions will be made available to consumers.