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4.5 GB Ultra SCSI Drive Review

  March 11, 1998 Author: Eugene Ra  

Drives Appearing In This Article
IBM Ultrastar 2ES DCAS-34430 IBM Ultrastar 2XP DCHS-34550 Quantum Atlas II QM34550AL-SW
Quantum Viking QM34550VK-SW < SR > Seagate Barracuda 4XL ST34572W
Seagate Cheetah 4LP ST34501W Seagate Hawk 4XL ST34555W Western Digital Enterprise WDE4360-0007B2

 See also our Summer 1998 SCSI Drive Roundup
 See also our Drive Cooler Roundup

SCSI drives have always come to mind to those looking for the ultimate in performance and expandability. The fastest hard drives available today are 10,000rpm platter drives, available only with SCSI interfaces. In addition, Wide SCSI controllers can handle up to 15 devices per channel with multiple devices using the bus simultaneously. ATA, on the other hand, has a limit of two devices per channel, one of which may be in use at any given time. SCSI is a much more intelligent interface, with queuing features that enhance performance in multithreading and multitasking operations. SCSI drives are much more expensive, however, let alone the cost of a SCSI host interface, which is not typically found on motherboards.

Debates rage on in newsgroups how much advantage SCSI hard drives have over their ATA counterparts and whether or not they are worth the extra money for the "average" user. There is no denying that the average 4.5GB SCSI hard drive seems to cost more than twice what a 4.5GB ATA drive does. SCSI drives usually have better specs than ATA drives such as higher rotation speeds, lower seek times, larger buffers. It often seems that benchmarks, including Ziff Davis' Winbench 98, do not show a large difference in performance between SCSI and ATA drives. SCSI drives do, however, lag in areal density, allowing their slower-spinning ATA counterparts to keep up in sequential data transfer. For typical single-user use, WinBench 98 figures accurately portray the perceived difference in performance between ATA and SCSI drives. Unless it's a Cheetah, it's simply not going to seem that much faster.

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 SCSI controller was the Adaptec AHA-2940U2W. Read caching and write caching were enabled on all tested drives. The boot drive (Seagate Hawk 4XL ST34555) contained Windows 95 OSR 2.1 patched with Intel's 82371xB INF Update. 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 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.

·  IBM Ultrastar 2ES DCAS-34430

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - IBM Ultrastar 2ES DCAS-34430
Business Disk WinMark 98 1264 KB/sec
SS/Database 1100 KB/sec
WP 1530 KB/sec
Publishing 1196 KB/sec
Browsers 1436 KB/sec
Task Switching 1650 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3536 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2188 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 2974 KB/sec
Microstation 95 7044 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 2594 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 6812 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2584 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 8094 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 16.2 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 8160 KB/sec
End 5100 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 4.4%
Transfer Rate 8157 KB/sec
The Ultrastar 2ES is IBM's entry-level 4.5 GB drive. The drive is conspicuously the only 5400 RPM drive in this roundup, with performance to reflect its slow spindle speed. It posted the second-slowest Business WinMark 98 score along with the third slowest High-End Winmark showing of the group. The drive's manual was thorough and easy to follow. A low-enough cost on the drive may merit purchase despite pokey performance, but most users looking for an entry-level SCSI drive would be better serviced by Quantum's Viking or Seagate's Hawk 4XL.
IBM Ultrastar 2ES DCAS-34430 Specs
Estimated Cost: $320

·  IBM Ultrastar 2XP DCHS-34550

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - IBM Ultrastar 2XP DCHS-34550
Business Disk WinMark 98 1426 KB/sec
SS/Database 1208 KB/sec
WP 1788 KB/sec
Publishing 1350 KB/sec
Browsers 1668 KB/sec
Task Switching 1616 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3732 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2606 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 3210 KB/sec
Microstation 95 7396 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 2254 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 7662 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2998 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 7346 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 12.6 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 9570 KB/sec
End 6540 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 6.9%
Transfer Rate 9101 KB/sec
IBM's Ultrastar 2XP weighs in as the most expensive drive in this roundup, an astonishing $800 in price. IBM provides a thorough multi-lingual manual. One would infer top performance from this drive, especially in the light of IBM's showing in the UltraATA drive roundup. The 2XP does indeed provide decent performance, but nevertheless disappointed given the price. Seagate's Cheetah and Barracuda both bested the Ultrastar 2XP in performance and both cost significantly less. This drive cannot be recommended due to its lofty price.
IBM Ultrastar 2XP DCHS-34550 Specs
Estimated Cost: $801

·  Quantum Atlas II QM34550AL-SW

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Quantum Atlas II QM34550AL-SW
Business Disk WinMark 98 1240 KB/sec
SS/Database 1122 KB/sec
WP 1442 KB/sec
Publishing 1186 KB/sec
Browsers 1310 KB/sec
Task Switching 1912 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3504 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 1966 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 3242 KB/sec
Microstation 95 6658 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 3240 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 5912 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2260 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 9132 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 13.3 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 9860 KB/sec
End 5874 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 5.3%
Transfer Rate 9839 KB/sec
Quantum's Atlas II was something of a puzzle. Priced at about $100 more than the Viking, the Atlas II is offered as the high-performance drive of Quantum's lineup. Even so, the Atlas II posted disappointing scores, bringing up the rear in the Business Disk Winmark and scoring second-to-last in the High-End Disk Winmark. It trailed its own lower priced cousin, the Viking, by 10%. Drive documentation was minimal, consisting of a leaflet describing how to set the SCSI ID of the device along with termination procedures. Given the lower cost and higher performance of both the Viking and the Seagate Hawk 4XL, The Quantum Atlas II cannot be recommended.
Quantum Atlas II QM34550AL-SW Specs
Estimated Cost: $490

·  Quantum Viking QM34550VK-SW

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Quantum Viking QM34550VK-SW
Business Disk WinMark 98 1372 KB/sec
SS/Database 1216 KB/sec
WP 1680 KB/sec
Publishing 1278 KB/sec
Browsers 1502 KB/sec
Task Switching 1894 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3884 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2410 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 3156 KB/sec
Microstation 95 7152 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 3016 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 7316 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2868 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 8782 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 13.7 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 10700 KB/sec
End 6258 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 5.8%
Transfer Rate 10745 KB/sec
Positioned between the Atlas and Fireball families, Quantum's Viking is marketed as the company's middle-of-the-line drive. In this roundup of drives, the Viking proves to be the bargain of the group. Priced at a relatively skimpy $381, it resides at the bottom of the price hierarchy yet provides performance that approaches Seagate's much more expensive Barracuda XL. Although Seagate's Hawk 4XL provides virtually the same performance, Quantum back's the Viking with a 5 year warranty rather than the Hawk's 3 year protection. The drive operated cool, easily handled after extended use. The only drawback was a tiny bit of noise. During operation, the Viking seemed to create a low-pitched hum. Though noticeable, the noise was nevertheless much easier to tune out than the Cheetah's whine. Curiously, the drive came with no documentation whatsoever; SCSI ID and termination settings had to be retrieved from Quantum's web page. Caveats aside, a low price combined with good performance and solid warranty merit the selection of the Viking as Storage Review's low-priced UltraSCSI drive recommendation.
Quantum Viking QM34550VK-SW Specs
Estimated Cost: $381

·  Seagate Barracuda 4XL ST34572W

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Seagate Barracuda 4XL ST34572W
Business Disk WinMark 98 1454 KB/sec
SS/Database 1270 KB/sec
WP 1796 KB/sec
Publishing 1354 KB/sec
Browsers 1638 KB/sec
Task Switching 1922 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 4184 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2720 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 3304 KB/sec
Microstation 95 7758 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 3238 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 7722 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 3070 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 9136 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 14.0 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 10700 KB/sec
End 6720 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 5.8%
Transfer Rate 10716 KB/sec
The Seagate Barracuda 4XL is a high-performance drive, posting solid benchmark results second only to its sibling, the Cheetah 4LP. Although it took second place honors in both the Business and High-End Winmark tests, the Barracuda XL is hard to recommend given its price. A prospective buyer can save about $200 with relatively little performance loss by going with Seagate's own Hawk 4XL or Quantum's Viking drive. Or, if one is seeking the ultimate in performance, the Cheetah 4LP offers substantial improvements in performance for about $50 more. The Barracuda, however, remains the high-performance choice if the Cheetah's noise and/or heat prove unacceptable. The drive came with a manual typical of the Seagate drives, a small yet thorough installation and configuration handbook. Unlike Seagate's lower-priced Hawk, the Barracuda 4XL is backed by a 5 year warranty, reflecting the drive's enterprise positioning.
Seagate Barracuda 4XL ST34572W Specs
Estimated Cost: $611

·  Seagate Cheetah 4LP ST34501W

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Seagate Cheetah 4LP ST34501W
Business Disk WinMark 98 1916 KB/sec
SS/Database 1724 KB/sec
WP 2344 KB/sec
Publishing 1738 KB/sec
Browsers 2210 KB/sec
Task Switching 2502 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 5354 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 3566 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 3950 KB/sec
Microstation 95 9450 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 4356 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 10320 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 3958 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 11300 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 11.8 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 14700 KB/sec
End 9840 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 7.7%
Transfer Rate 14654 KB/sec
Seagate's Cheetah was the first 10,000 RPM drive to be released. The Cheetah 4LP greatly outdistances the second fastest drive in this roundup, Seagate's own Barracuda XL. A low random access time plus an impressive 14.7 MB/sec sequential sector transfer rate powered the Cheetah to the number one position. This large increase in speed is accompanied by a relatively small increase in price, thus making the Cheetah 4LP an easy high-end recommendation. Two caveats: The high spindle speed of the drive creates a very high-pitched whine above and beyond the normal hard drive "whirr" noise. This constant squeal can grate on the nerves of individuals sensitive to noise. Secondly, the fast rotation of the spindle generates a large amount of heat, making ventilation of the system very important. In a minitower's 3.5" drive bay, the drive was too hot to touch after being powered on for an hour. The Cheetah's manual cautions against poor ventilation and outlines procedures for active cooling. In most cases users will want to use a hard drive fan to cool the drive.
Seagate Cheetah 4LP ST34501W Specs
Estimated Cost: $654

·  Seagate Hawk 4XL ST34555W

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Seagate Hawk 4XL ST34555W
Business Disk WinMark 98 1344 KB/sec
SS/Database 1170 KB/sec
WP 1682 KB/sec
Publishing 1248 KB/sec
Browsers 1546 KB/sec
Task Switching 1808 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3922 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2464 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 3192 KB/sec
Microstation 95 7442 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 2988 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 7288 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2898 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 8824 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 14.4 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 9710 KB/sec
End 6090 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 5.2%
Transfer Rate 9708 KB/sec
The Hawk 4XL is positioned as Seagate's entry-level drive, providing decent performance at wallet-friendly prices. The Hawk's Disk WinBench98 scores trail the Seagate Barracuda 4XL by a relatively small amount (by 8% in Business, only 1% in High-End) while costing substantially less. The Hawk proved to be a little quieter than Quantum's similarly priced and similarly performing Viking, but is backed with a more consumer-oriented 3 year warranty rather than the Viking's 5 years. The Hawk, unlike the Viking, came with a manual detailing installation and configuration. Even so, the Hawk 4XL warrants a solid recommendation for those looking for an inexpensive SCSI drive. Storage Review uses the Hawk 4XL as the boot drive for our SCSI test bed.
Seagate Hawk 4XL ST34555W Specs
Estimated Cost: $368

·  Western Digital Enterprise WDE4360-0007B2

Ziff Davis WinBench 98 - Western Digital Enterprise WDE4360-0007B2
Business Disk WinMark 98 1328 KB/sec
SS/Database 1136 KB/sec
WP 1646 KB/sec
Publishing 1258 KB/sec
Browsers 1538 KB/sec
Task Switching 1596 KB/sec
High-End Disk WinMark 98 3410 KB/sec
AVS/Express 3.1 2254 KB/sec
Frontpage 97 3052 KB/sec
Microstation 95 7016 KB/sec
Photoshop 4.0 2116 KB/sec
Premiere 4.2 6696 KB/sec
PV-Wave 6.1 2658 KB/sec
Visual C++ 5.0 7098 KB/sec
Disk/Read Random Access 13.1 ms
Disk/Read Transfer Rate
Beginning 6860 KB/sec
End 6016 KB/sec
Disk/Read CPU Utilization 6.1%
Transfer Rate 7731 KB/sec
Western Digital's Caviar series ATA drives enjoy a solid reputation of performance and reliability. The company is not one that first comes to mind when one thinks of SCSI drives. Nevertheless, the company offers its "Enterprise" series of drives. The Enterprise is a typical high-end offering, backed by a 5 year warranty and claiming 1,000,000 MTBF hours. Despite its rather high price, the Enterprise's performance is unexceptional, posting average Business Winmark scores and the lowest High-End Winmark of the roundup. Like Quantum's Viking, the Enterprise did not come with any documentation in the box, forcing us to go to the WD's web page to find the correct ID and termination settings. Users will find much better performance at the same price in Seagate's Cheetah and Barracuda, or better performance at a much lower price with Quantum's Viking and Seagate's Hawk.
Western Digital Enterprise WDE4360-0007B2 Specs
Estimated Cost: $564.95

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


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