This brings us to heat and noise, certainly two very important factors when examining the first of a new breed of drives. As we've stated earlier, the Cheetah X15 combines a higher spindle speed with lighter platters in hopes of maintaining the same heat and noise levels as its predecessor. When it comes to heat, Seagate has succeeded. This means, of course, that the drive operates quite warmly but not hot to the touch without active cooling in a spacious case. If the intended setup is a bit more cramped, active cooling should be implemented. For a drive that seeks at a mere 4 milliseconds, the X15 is amazingly quiet. Seeks are just a tad louder than the Cheetah 18XL, itself a relatively quiet drive. Unfortunately, though, idle noise has suffered. The drive features a tell-tale high-spindle-speed whine. We must admit we've grown a bit spoiled in this age of third and fourth-generation 10k drives, where high-pitch squeals have pretty much faded away. The X15 features idle noise that we haven't heard of since the likes of the Cheetah 9LP.
In conclusion, the Cheetah X15 is a groundbreaking product that allows industry-giant Seagate to show the market who's truly in charge. The drive will deliver performance that's light-years ahead of the competition. We have only two small caveats. The first is the high-pitch idle whine that the drive exhibits. Since the drive is targeted towards servers that won't have individual users sitting close to the drive, however, this is a minor weakness at worst. Our second is with the drive's 18 gig capacity. There may be those that desire the X15's blazing speed with state of the art capacities... unfortunately, no mix of the two will be available. Complaints aside, the X15 is the drive to get for those who can live with a max of 18 gigs of storage on one drive who need the utmost in speed. There's no other drive like it.
Over three months ago, in our review of the Quantum Atlas 10k II (published the day after Seagate's official X15 announcement), we pointed out (perhaps erroneously) that though the X15 would undoubtedly be faster, its availability would follow well after that of the Atlas. At the time of this writing, due to various delays, the Atlas 10k II has yet to ship to distributors. Meanwhile, Seagate maintains an "early third quarter" date for general availability of the X15. As a result, the gap of time between the two drives may be quite a bit narrower than we anticipated. What interesting times.