A comparison to the best-of-class Maxtor DiamondMax 4320 is most appropriate. Under Windows 95, we found the matchup between the Maxtor and the Fujitsu to be a draw. The MPD3173AT falls behind the DiamondMax 4320 in the Business Disk WinMark, but pulls ahead by 6% in high-end tests. Maxtor's perpetual supremacy, though, comes into play with our Windows NT 4.0 tests. Here the DiamondMax races ahead by about 14% in both Business and High-End tests.
ThreadMark comparisons yielded similar contrasts. Windows 95 scores were very close, with the Fujitsu placing just over 1% behind the Maxtor. Tests under NT, on the other hand, show the Fujitsu drive trailing by almost 11%.
In my review of the Fujitsu MPD3182AH, I could not get over the drive's incredible silence. As one may infer, the MPD3173AT shares in this advantage. One expects a 5400rpm drive to make little noise, yet this Fujitsu redefines the notion of a low noise floor. There is simply no idle noise whatsoever. Seek noises were so muted that it was impossible to tell when the drive was seeking without close scrutiny. As a 5400rpm drive, the MPD3173AT operates quite coolly.
In the end, I can't find many cases where the Desktop 18 5400 is a sound recommendation. The fact of the matter is that the drive simply will not keep up performance wise with flashy, late-model IBM/WD's. It provides speed along the lines of the Maxtor DiamondMax 4320, which, while a good drive, is aging in its own right. Though the MPD3173AT delivers whisper-quiet operation, it's trumped in the end by its own big brother, the equally-quiet and much more state-of-the-art MPD3182AH. If the Desktop 18 5400 is available in a bargain sale, it would make a great, silent second drive. Otherwise, though, other current 5400rpm offerings offer better performance, while Fujitsu's own 7200rpm Desktop 18 provides speedier operation with equally impressive noise and heat levels.