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Quantum Fireball lct10 QM330000LCT-A

  February 4, 2000 Author: Eugene Ra  
Evaluation unit provided by Quantum Corp.

Seagate, Quantum, and Maxtor are the three primary manufacturers charging into the fray in the budget hard disk battle. The latter managed to trump the other two by releasing a budget drive that featured 10.2 gigs per platter, a step beyond Seagate and Quantum's 8.6 gig/platter offerings. Quantum, however, has finally shipped a response in the Fireball lct10.

A drive aimed at integration in entry-level systems, the Fireball lct10 is, of course, a 5400rpm unit. Like the Maxtor DiamondMax VL20, the lct10 features 10.2 gigs per platter. Interestingly, Quantum equips the top-line lct10 with 3 platter rather than Maxtor's two, resulting in a rather large (for those on a budget, at any rate) 30 gig capacity. Maxtor, it seems, has to juggle two 5400rpm lines. Its regular DiamondMax line, featuring up to 4 platters and highly tweaked performance, and its DiamondMax VL series, featuring lesser performance and a maximum of two platters. Quantum, on the other hand, seems to have relegated 5400rpm progress to the value arena. Thus, like previous 5400rpm Fireball drives, the lct10 delivers that 3-platter, 30 gig design. A 9.5 millisecond seek time and 512k buffer complete the package. The lct10 features a value-class one year warranty.

Though the lct10 features Quantum-developed alphabet soup (SPS II, DPS) implemented to improve reliability, the units most interesting aspect is Quantum's "Quiet Drive Technology." Through reduction of vibration and resonance, Quantum claims to have developed the quietest drive around. Definitely a plus in a market where performance isn't the end-all of the equation.

As we've done with all other ATA-66 drives, the Fireball lct10 was tested using Promise's Ultra66 controller. This ATA-66 Fireball does not work properly with our old-bios (kept old to control variables) LX-based motherboard. Though this shouldn't be an issue with most motherboards these days, Quantum provides a utility to force the drive into ATA-33 operation. No loss of performance would occur should this be necessary. Need proof? Check out the URL cited at the bottom of the Fireball lct's Press Kit.

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Like its predecessor, the Fireball lct, the lct10 features a better-than-advertised access time. Simple arithmetic yields a specified access time (seek time + rotational latency) of 15 milliseconds (9.5ms + 5.5ms). ZD's access time tests, however, yield scores as low as 14.2 milliseconds.

Combined with the lct10's improved sequential transfer rates, the low access time allows Quantum's latest entry to close the gap between and in some cases surpass the performance of the Maxtor DiamondMax VL20. All scores between the two competitors in ZD's Disk WinMarks landed within a 3% margin of each other excepting only the High-End Disk WinMark run under Windows 9x where the lct10 pulled ahead by a relatively beefy 12%. ThreadMark run under Windows NT, however, placed the lct10 20% behind the VL20.

As would be expected from a 5400rpm unit, it's in the area of heat and noise that the lct10 shines. The drive operates cool to the touch. More interesting, however, is the drive's noise levels. In subjective use, the lct10 comes in a hair quieter than a pair of Fujitsu drives (the MPD3182AH and MPD3173AT) that shared the "crown of silence." This means that this drive is truly quiet indeed. No idle sound audible over our testbed's power-supply fan, and seeks that are as muted as they come.

The Fireball lct10 is arguably the fastest budget drive around. Even so, that's not the story here. readers (ourselves included) simply don't look at value drives when building a performance system. There are many applications, however, that require the utmost in quiet operation. In fact, here at SR, we're in need for the quietest drive around. The finalization and construction of our new testbed is imminent. As you can imagine, the boot disk in that new testbed needs to be the quietest around, to better subjectively gauge other drives yet to come. The Fireball lct10 looks like it'll be the drive we need for such an application. The promising thing is that this "QDT" technology doesn't seem to be limited to the value-class ATA arena. Quantum's upcoming Atlas V and Atlas 10k II have also been designed with acoustics in mind. These two drives' potentials for quiet operation excite us just as much as their status as the successors of two best-of-class drives. We can't wait.

Quantum Fireball lct10 QM330000LCT-A
Estimated Price: $249
Also Available: QM320400LCT-A (20.4 GB); QM315000LCT-A (15.0 GB); QM310200LCT-A (10.2 GB); QM35100LCT-A (5.1 GB)
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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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