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Fujitsu Desktop 18 MPD3182AH

  June 17, 1999 Author: Eugene Ra  
See also our Summer 1999 ATA Drive Roundup.
Evaluation unit provided by Fujitsu Computer Products.

In the past, our reviews of Fujitsu's ATA offerings uncovered what we kindly call sub-par performance. We found that when compared to competing products, the MPB3064AT and MPC3102AT failed to keep pace with bleeding edge ATA drives such as those from Maxtor and IBM. Since then, however, Fujitsu seems to have refocused on performance, delivering products that match the competition spec for spec, something not previously done.

Fujitsu's current 7200rpm ATA offering is the state-of-the-art Desktop 18 MPD3182AH. In addition to its 7200rpm spindle speed, the drive packs 4.6 gigabytes per platter, matching current offerings from Quantum, IBM, and Western Digital. Its 9.0 millisecond access time trails only that of the Quantum Fireball Plus KA. Its 512k buffer, while actually on the smaller side in today's ATA arena, is no smaller than the one found in the non-retail-boxed Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 5120 and the Quantum Fireball Plus KA.

Conspicuously absent in Fujitsu's literature of the drive are references to the latest gimmick that increases ATA drive reliability. I'm torn between wondering why Fujitsu hasn't joined the rat-race and congratulating the manufacturer for abstaining from the parade of "reliability hype." In many ways it's a breath of fresh air. A three-year warranty backs the drive.

Like all recent drives from major manufacturers, the Desktop 18 is an ATA-66 drive. As a result, our standard warning applies: due to incompatibilities with certain late-model Award BIOSes, the drive may be detected as an ATA-66 drive even though the supporting Intel LX/BX chipsets can only support ATA-33 operation. We recommend disabling ATA-66 operation using Fujitsu's Utility.

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In Ziff-Davis WinBench 99 tests, we found the Deskstop 18 lags a bit compared to the current reigning ATA champ, the Western Digital Expert. In tests run under Windows 95, the Fujitsu's Business Disk WinMark score trails the WD's by 12%. The High-End score margin is a tad less, where the Desktop 18 shadows by 9%.

The Fujitsu drive closed the gap a bit in Windows NT. Here the Desktop 18's scores in the Business Disk WinMark fell below the Expert's placing by 6%. High-End scores show the Fujitsu trailing by an unnoticeable 1%.

Interestingly, the Desktop 18 reverses the table with Adaptec ThreadMark 2.0 tests. Here the Fujitsu topped the Western Digital by 5% in Windows 95 and a fairly substantial 15% under Windows NT. I should take the time here to point out once again that in personal use, I've found WinBench 99 scores to mimic "real world" usage much more closely than ThreadMark's scores. Nevertheless, the turnabout is interesting.

Though Fujitsu's ATA drives seem to fall behind a tad when it comes to performance, we've always noticed their stellar operation when it comes to noise and heat. Heat-wise, the Desktop 18 is no exception. Even though it's a 7200rpm drive, the unit runs quite cool, once again reinforcing the trend towards "no-worries" 7200rpm drives.

However, it's noise, or lack thereof, where the Desktop 18 shines. Bluntly stated, the drive is by far the quietest hard drive I've ever used! Move over, Deskstar 8! Stand aside, Bigfoot TX! Seek noises were barely audible even during WinBench's churning Disk Access Time tests. When testing drives, I use an Iiyama MT-9017E monitor (with dual inputs) as the display for both our testbed and my personal system. I'm often switching the monitor to my own system to accomplish tasks while benchmark tests churn away. With every other drive, I'd be able to tell tests were complete due to the silence that falls over the actuator. The Desktop 18 presented the first case where I could not tell by ear that tests were completed. This alone, subjective as it may be, should reveal just how unobtrusive this little mouse is.

Idle noise? When I listen carefully, I can detect the faintest of squeals coming from the drive. Keep in mind that I'm a very sensitive user when it comes to pitches. The whine didn't bother me one bit. In fact, I'd be quite remiss if I didn't point out the fact that I may have been subconsciously scrutinizing the Fujitsu for idle noise more closely than I do other drives simply because of the lack of audible seeks. This same idle noise is present in all other 7200rpm drives, and probably most 5400rpm units as well. Quite simply, idle noise considered, this drive is astonishingly quiet.

Performance wise, this new Fujitsu can't keep up with rip-roaring offerings such as WD's Expert. Judging from the amount of e-mail I receive on the issue, however, for many users quiet operation is every bit as important as speed. These folks are willing to sacrifice a bit on the performance front in exchange for a whisper-quiet drive. If you're one of these users, this drive is for you. Though not a performance leader like the Expert, the Desktop 18 nevertheless combines contemporary performance with the quietest operation around, period.

Fujitsu Desktop 18 MPD3182AH
Estimated Price: $349
Also Available: MPD3091AH (9.1 GB); MPD3137AH (13.7GB)
Specifications
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* Note: Threadmark 2.0 test results are the average of five trials.
WinBench99 test results are the average of three trials.


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