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6.4 GB Ultra ATA Drive Review

  March 11, 1998 Author: Eugene Ra  

Drives Appearing In This Article
Fujitsu MPB3064AT IBM Deskstar 5 DHEA 36480 Maxtor DiamondMax 86480D6
Quantum Fireball SE QM36400SE-A Seagate Medalist Pro ST36451A Western Digital Caviar AC36400

 See also our Summer 1998 ATA Drive Roundup

IDE drives (more properly called ATA drives) have come a long way since they were first introduced in 1985 as a replacement for the ST-506/412 interface. Today, one can find 512k buffers, 5400 RPM speeds, sub 10ms seek times, and the much ballyhooed UltraATA 33 MB/sec transfer rate. We also stand before yet another advance; Seagate's latest Medalist Pro and IBM's Deskstar 14GXP promise 7200 RPM rotation speeds. As is often the case though, higher figures in popularly quoted specs don't always seem to correlate to better benchmark figures. Although there are some 8 GB drives available and many >8 GB products have been announced, the 6.4 GB capacity is the highest at which every major manufacturer is currently shipping at least one drive.

Storage Review began testing these drives using Intel's PIIX v3.01 Bus Mastering Drivers. After the initial benchmarking was completed, however, we found, as have many others, that the default drivers in Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2 provide better performance with DMA enabled.

For this test, we used an Abit LX6 motherboard (v1.1, bios v C7Q), a 266 MHz Intel Pentium II processor, a 64MB 10ns SDRAM DIMM, and a Matrox Millennium II PCI 4MB (bios v1.2, Powerdesk v3.80). The boot drive (Western Digital Caviar AC31600) contained Windows 95 OSR 2.1 patched with Intel's 82371xB INF Update and Microsoft's REMIDEUP.EXE fix. The test drive in question was the sole device located on the secondary controller built into the motherboard. The drive's DMA box under System Properties' Device Manager was checked. The tests were run at 1024x768 with 24 bit color at 85 Hz using small fonts. Here is a link to the test bed information. All drives were formatted with Fat 32 to the largest possible drive size. ZDBop's Startup Manager was used to prevent the loading of background applications. ZDBop's WinBench 98 v1.0's Disk Test Suites were run on all test drives. These test results represent the average of five runs.

Quantum Bigfoot TX
Quantum Bigfoot TX

Quantum Bigfoot TX
A notable omission in this review is Quantum's Bigfoot TX 6.4GB unit. The 5.25" form-factor Bigfoot is positioned as a low-cost alternative to traditional 3.5" low-profile drives. The Bigfoot is not intended to be a high-performance drive, however, and lags significantly behind 3.5" drives in performance. Nevertheless, Storage Review readers may be very interested in its performance. The Bigfoot is the drive most commonly found in major retail-brand systems such as Compaq and Hewlett-Packard. Storage Review plans to take a look at the Bigfoot TX in the near future.
Quantum Bigfoot TX Specifications

·  Fujitsu MPB3064AT

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Fujitsu MPB3064AT
Business Disk WinMark 98 1098 KB/sec
SS/Database 936 KB/sec
WP 1338 KB/sec
Publishing 1058 KB/sec
Browsers 1242 KB/sec
Task Switching 1550 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3366 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 1996 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 2878 KB/sec
Microstation 95 6210 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 2800 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 6136 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2376 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 7796 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 16.6 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 9580 KB/sec
End 5928 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 6.7%
Transfer Rate 8724 KB/sec
Fujitsu is not as well-known a hard drive name as some of the others featured in this review; nevertheless, we were very eager to test the MPB3064AT in hopes of finding a diamond-in-the-rough. The drive sports an >10ms seek time, 5400 RPM rotational speed and a 256k buffer, all par for the course in this roundup. Unfortunately, we were ultimately disappointed with the numbers that the drive posted. In both the Business and High-End Disk WinMarks, the Fujitsu was at the bottom of the charts. The drive isn't sold by many vendors, but those that do sell it have attractive prices on it. Nevertheless, Storage Review does not recommend this drive.
Fujitsu MPB3064AT Specs
Estimated Cost: $280

·  IBM Deskstar 5 DHEA 36480

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - IBM Deskstar 5 DHEA 36480
Business Disk WinMark 98 1362 KB/sec
SS/Database 1202 KB/sec
WP 1668 KB/sec
Publishing 1270 KB/sec
Browsers 1554 KB/sec
Task Switching 1726 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3910 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2382 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 3092 KB/sec
Microstation 95 7586 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 3200 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 7440 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2828 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 8722 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 15.0 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 10300 KB/sec
End 6460 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 5.2%
Transfer Rate 10334 KB/sec
IBM, still the largest computer corporation today, is not commonly-known for its hard drives. When one thinks of ATA drives, the Maxtor and Western Digital models that one sees at major retail outlets are what come to mind. Even so, IBM's Deskstar 5 took top honors in both the Business and High-End Disk WinMarks. Despite its high speed, the drive was astonishingly quiet, operating unobtrusively in the background with little noise. There are some reports that the Deskstar does not run properly in overclocked systems with bus speeds at 75 or 83 MHz; Storage Review has informally used the unit on an Abit LX6 and FIC PA-2007, both clocked at 75 MHz, with no problems. The IBM is a little pricey when compared to the competition, though not prohibitively so. Top performance garners the Deskstar 5 this roundup's performance recommendation.
IBM Deskstar 5 DHEA 36480 Specs
Estimated Cost: $340

·  Maxtor DiamondMax 86480D6

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Maxtor DiamondMax 86480D6
Business Disk WinMark 98 1234 KB/sec
SS/Database 1170 KB/sec
WP 1462 KB/sec
Publishing 1110 KB/sec
Browsers 1338 KB/sec
Task Switching 2210 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3552 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2108 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 2994 KB/sec
Microstation 95 6262 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 3056 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 6640 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2520 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 7790 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 17.6 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 11900 KB/sec
End 7400 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 5.3%
Transfer Rate 11854 KB/sec
Maxtor, unlike many of the other drives in this roundup, enjoys a strong retail presence. One can walk into any CompUSA or Best Buy, for example, and see, along with Western Digital, Maxtor DiamondMax drives in many different sizes. Common perception among retail consumers is that of the two brands, Western Digital always provides superior performance at a higher price. We were thus pleasantly surprised to find that the DiamondMax bested the Caviar in almost every major performance category. The drive also operates considerably quieter than the Western Digital offering. When combined with a typically lower price, the decision becomes clear: Of the drives one commonly finds in retail stores, the Maxtor is the better buy.
Maxtor DiamondMax 86480D6 Specs
Estimated Cost: $290

·  Quantum Fireball SE QM36400SE-A

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Quantum Fireball SE QM36400SE-A
Business Disk WinMark 98 1254 KB/sec
SS/Database 1128 KB/sec
WP 1522 KB/sec
Publishing 1144 KB/sec
Browsers 1426 KB/sec
Task Switching 1822 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3722 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2306 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 2920 KB/sec
Microstation 95 7032 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 3038 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 6952 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2720 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 8220 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 16.3 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 11800 KB/sec
End 7170 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 5.9%
Transfer Rate 11758 KB/sec
Though it does not enjoy as significant a retail presence as Maxtor and Western Digital, Quantum drives are quite often found as the stock unit in retail systems. Quantum has two offerings in the 6.4 GB Ultra ATA range, the performance-oriented Fireball SE along the value-oriented Bigfoot TX (see sidebar). Despite a relatively low 128kb buffer size, the Fireball SE trailed only IBM's Deskstar 5 in performance, edging out Maxtor's DiamondMax to finish second in both the Business and High-End Disk WinMarks. The Fireball is also very reasonably priced through mail-order, OEM packaging. Above-average performance along with competitive pricing make the Quantum Fireball SE an easy value recommendation.
Quantum Fireball SE QM36400SE-A Specs
Estimated Cost: $285

·  Seagate Medalist Pro ST36451A

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Seagate Medalist Pro ST36451A
Business Disk WinMark 98 1210 KB/sec
SS/Database 1044 KB/sec
WP 1492 KB/sec
Publishing 1146 KB/sec
Browsers 1322 KB/sec
Task Switching 1676 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3498 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2146 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 3126 KB/sec
Microstation 95 6648 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 2570 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 6086 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2586 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 8056 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 16.7 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 7866 KB/sec
End 5032 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 4.0%
Transfer Rate 7872 KB/sec
In some ways, Seagate's Medalist Pro is similar to Quantum's Fireball SE. Although a recognized name, Seagate does not have a strong retail presence. Like the Fireball, the Medalist Pro is competitively priced. In some ways, the Medalist Pro is very different from the Fireball SE. Instead of the paltry 128k buffer, for example, it offers an ATA-hefty 512k. And, unlike the Fireball, the Medalist Pro disappoints with substandard performance. The drive finished close to the bottom of the pack, ahead of only the last-place Fujitsu drive. The ST36451A is apparently being phased out in favor of the promising 7200rpm Medalist Pro series. Seagate's current offering, though, cannot be recommended.
Seagate Medalist Pro ST36451A Specs
Estimated Cost: $275

·  Western Digital Caviar AC36400

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Western Digital Caviar AC36400
Business Disk WinMark 98 1218 KB/sec
SS/Database 1042 KB/sec
WP 1488 KB/sec
Publishing 1162 KB/sec
Browsers 1384 KB/sec
Task Switching 1628 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3532 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2192 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 2880 KB/sec
Microstation 95 6738 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 2710 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 6562 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2664 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 7456 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 16.5 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 10300 KB/sec
End 6110 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 5.2%
Transfer Rate 10288 KB/sec
The Western Digital Caviar drive series enjoys both wide retail distribution along with a stellar retail reputation. Western Digital prides itself on being the "world's most recommended hard drive." However, middling performance and noisy operation combine to preclude Storage Review from joining the rest of the world. If ATA performance is one's goal IBM's Deskstar 5 outdistances the Caviar by a significant margin, albeit at an increase in cost. Quantum's Fireball SE, although harder to find, offers better performance for less money. Maxtor's DiamondMax, the retail twin of the Caviar, can be just as easily obtained, usually costs a bit less, and provides slightly better performance. The most notable trait of the Caviar was the noise the actuator/head assembly made when seeking; it was substantially louder than every other drive in this roundup. All in all, the Caviar delivers mediocre performance at a rather high price, and thus is not recommended.
Western Digital Caviar WDAC36400 Specs
Estimated Cost: $300

* Note: All reported test results are the average of five trials.


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