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Seagate Cheetah 73LP ST373405LW
  May 10, 2001 Author: Eugene Ra  

Seagate Cheetah 73LP ST373405LW Available Capacities *
Model Number
73.4 GB
* The benchmark scores presented in this review represent expected performance across the entire line.
Estimated Flagship Price: $1070 (73.4 GB)
Evaluation unit provided by Seagate Technology.


Earlier this year, drive-giant Seagate Technology shipped the Cheetah 36XL, something of a "refresh" of its previous low-profile 36 gig drive, the Cheetah 36LP. Though the 36XL features improved areal density, it doesn't really raise the bar when it came to increasing the amount of data one could pack in a low-profile SCSI unit. As a result, we regard the 36XL as more of an interim, "between-the-generations" product. This isn't to say that the drive doesn't deliver competent performance; indeed, after its review, the 36XL ascended into our 10k RPM Leaderboard slot. However, we're quickly approaching the summer period, a season that traditionally marks the appearance of next-generation SCSI units. The first has finally appeared in our labs, from none other than Seagate themselves.

The 10,000 RPM Cheetah 73LP packs 73 gigs of data into a standard low-profile chassis. While nothing new in the ATA arena (the IBM Deskstar 75GXP appeared in channels a year ago), this is a first for a SCSI drive. The 73LP utilizes just four platters, storing 18 gigs each, to achieve its flagship capacity. 73 gigs, in fact, is the 73LP's only capacity point. Though they originally planned to offer a 36 gig version as well, it seems Seagate rethought its strategy and is now content to target the 36XL and the yet-to-be-shipped value-class Cheetah 36ES at these lower rungs.

This newest Cheetah is Seagate's first 10,000 RPM drive that features a specified seek time under 5 milliseconds. Indeed, ever since the second-generation Cheetah 9LP, the family's seek time has stagnated at 5.2 milliseconds. In fact, the 36XL's shipment marked a slight rise in specified (though not measured) seek times, weighing in at 5.4 ms. We're happy to see that the 73LP, though, breaks the barrier and claims a 4.9 ms seek. Buffer size remains a fairly utilitarian size of 4 megs.

An enterprise-class 5-year warranty backs the Cheetah 73LP. Seagate aims the 73LP at the high-end workstation market where capacities greater than that delivered by 15k RPM disks are needed. The 73LP further targets those server markets that require capacity combined with the highest performance available in tried-and-true 10k RPM technology. The drive will be available in Ultra160 LVD, SCA, and FC-AL interfaces.

WB99/Win2k Low-Level Measurements

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Click here to examine the STR graph for this drive

WinBench 99 measures the Cheetah 73LP's access time at 8.5 milliseconds. Interestingly, the Cheetah 36XL achieves the same score. Seagate specifies the former's seek time at 4.9 milliseconds and the latter's at 5.4 ms. This again goes to show that specified seek times can't be compared to each other... even when they come from the same manufacturer! Subtracting the standard 10,000 RPM rotational latency from the 73LP's figure yields a measured seek time of 5.5 milliseconds... a bit off of that 4.9 ms mark. The 73LP's access time is a bit slower than, say, last year's popular Quantum Atlas 10k II.

On the other hand, the 73LP's transfer rates forge ahead into record territory. Outer-zone scores come in at 56 MB/sec... 31% faster than the previous record, turned in by Seagate's own Barracuda 180. The 73LP's inner-track rate is similarly record-breaking, besting the previous champ (again a Seagate... this time the X15) by about 17%.

Superior transfer rates are all well and good, of course, but savvy readers realize that pure STR is useful only in a relative minority of applications. So, how do these access times and transfer rates translate into higher-level performance? Let's move on to WinMarks!

WB99/Win2k WinMarks

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The 73LP's score of 8.8 MB/sec in the Business Disk WinMark 99 is enough to edge out Quantum's Atlas 10k II, the longtime champion, by a margin of less than 1%. The Seagate similarly bests the Quantum in the High-End WinMark by a more substantial gap of 7%. We should take a moment to note that "besting the Atlas 10k II" also means "besting the Cheetah X15" when it comes to WinMarks. According to WinBench 99, the Cheetah 73LP is the fastest thing out there.

Does IOMeter concur?

IOMeter Performance

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In all three of our IOMeter indices (normalized averages of Light, Medium, and Heavy loads in the respective access patterns) the Cheetah 73LP edges out the former respective champions to post the highest score of any 10k RPM drive. The Seagate's File Server index of 246.27 bests the Quantum Atlas 10k II by about 2%. The 73LP's Workstation index of 253.81 nudges out Seagate's own Cheetah 36XL by the tiniest of margins... 0.1%. Finally, the 73LP tops the Fujitsu MAJ3182LP by a similarly razor-thin 0.2%. Though all margins are extremely close, the fact that the 73LP brings together the best performance from three different drives into one package is testament to the performance of Seagate's latest.

Here too we should take a moment to note that while the 73LP tops all 10k RPM comers, it doesn't hold a candle to the performance turned in by the Cheetah X15. Seagate's screamer outraces its new workhorse by margins of up to 29%... quite a contrast from the differences exhibited above!


Unsurprisingly for a 10k RPM drive, the Cheetah 73LP creates a bit of low-pitched idle noise as well as lots of rumble when seeking. It's likely not -louder- than the previous generation... but as ATA drives become ever more quiet, the 73LP sticks out more in our subjective assessment. The drive runs hot after heavy use without a cooler in our rather small testbed case. Keep these factors in mind before integrating the 73LP into a machine.

The Safe Buy Award

Simply put, this designation means we'd purchase this product without regret. Sure, there may be a slightly better, slightly faster, and/or slightly less-expensive model from a competitor, but you can't go wrong with this particular unit. This award is applicable, of course, to all units at the top of their class, but also applies to units that, though not quite best-of-class, provide a strong showing nonetheless. Despite its rather average access time, the Seagate Cheetah 73LP manages to set records in every high-level test we use. It's also the first drive to break 50 MB/sec when it comes to sequential transfer rates... quite important to some users. That this performance comes combined with the proven technology delivered by Seagate over five successive generations makes the package even more attractive. The 73LP is an easy choice for anyone who needs top-rate performance without the constraints of a 18 (or even 36) gig limit.

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