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Quantum Bigfoot TS QM519200TS-A

  November 29, 1998 Author: Eugene Ra  

Quantum's Bigfoot series of drives were conceived as a sort of "value class" ATA line aimed primarily at OEMs looking to offer customers the ever-larger storage capacity they craved without significantly increasing a computer system's bottom-line cost. Using larger 5.25" platters, the Bigfoot allows Quantum to manufacture a hard disk at a given capacity point using less platters (and thus less head assemblies and other goodies) than disks that conform to the now-standard 3.5" form factor.

Larger platters present a sort of trade-off when it comes to performance. At given rotation speeds and data densities, bigger platters increase maximum sequential transfer rate by the linear difference between the platter sizes- i.e., 50%. Heads must seek across all of a larger platter, however, which also increases seek time. Though debates have raged between parties arguing the relative importance of transfer rate vs access time, it remains clear through the Storage Review's tests that access time (of which seek time is an important factor) is of prime importance for most applications. Thus, among the hardware enthusiast community, the Bigfoot series has enjoyed a rather unenviable reputition of sluggishness. While the series enjoys a popular presence in the lines of many machines sold through retail channels, the drive was hard to recommend to those seeking a high-performance, high-capacity drive. Indeed, the Bigfoot TX posted some of the lowest scores around, lagging significantly behind even mediocre 3.5" disks of the time.

Quantum has since brought their new Bigfoot TS to the market. On it's 5.25" platters, the TS crams no less than 6.4 gigabytes of data. Roughly approximated, each platter sports the same data density as a 3.5" drive featuring 2.8 gigs per platter. Seek time has been trimmed from a lofty 12 milliseconds in the TX line to a bit more svelte 10.5 milliseconds. Spindle speed remains, however, a sedate 4000 rpm. Evolving with the times, the Bigfoot TS is equipped with a 512k buffer. Though the drive is "value class," it's still equipped with Quantum's Shock Protection System, a process which reduces the impact the heads make on platters when the drive is improperly handled during shipment or installation. The TS is protected by a three-year warranty.

Thanks to its high-capacity platters, the 19.2 gigabyte TS is easily the largest drive ever tested here at the Storage Review. Yes, larger drives are rapidly on their way from many manufacturers, but at the time of this writing, 19.2 gigs is still something of a novelty . Installation into our standard ATA testbed was even less painless than usual. Since we use a PC Power & Cooling Solid-Steel case, drives always need 3.5" - 5.25" rails (the case features only 5.25" bays- albeit ten of them!). The Bigfoot, however, needed no such modification. A slight plus for those installing their first drive into a system which has only 5.25" bays available.

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Well, as the test results indicate, the Bigfoot TS isn't going to be challenging the Cheetah line for drive supremacy any time in the near future . The TS is not within the upper echelon of disks. In fact, it dwells among the lower divisions. There is no use comparing the drives to today's performance leaders (among them being Quantum's own Fireball EX). All things considered, however, I wouldn't expect a drive marketed as a value-class unit to be challenging speed limits. What is noteworthy, however, is that the TS churned out WinBench 98 scores between 36% and 46% higher than it's TX predecessor. This increase allows us to draw some interesting comparisons. Consider, for example, the top offerings from two current manufacturers: Western Digital's Caviar AC10100 and Fujitsu's Desktop 10. Both are 3.5" disks, ostensibly representing the cream-of-the-crop of ATA performance. Yep, the lowly Bigfoot TS trounces both in most performance figures. To put things further into perspective, a comparison between the TS and the ATA champ of less than a year ago, the IBM Deskstar 8, the TS outdistances the Deskstar in most performance catagories.

I'm sorry to report that the TS seems to be substantially louder than the whisper-quiet Bigfoot TX. While the older drive ranked among the quietest units ever to pass through our testbed, the TS exhibited a low-pitched rumble when seeking for data. No, it's nowhere near the league of the rocks-in-a-blender levels that Seagate SCSI drives treat their users with, but its several notches louder than the previous Bigfoot series. Heat, as can be expected from a 4000rpm design, was simply not a problem.

Ok, what's the bottom line? Is the TS a recommended drive? If it were substantially less expensive than 3.5" disks of similar capacities, the answer would be a "yes." The Bigfoot line has elevated itself from being in a class on its own (on the wrong end of the spectrum) to placing among the middle of the pack of today's ATA disks. Unfortunately, the price, at least for end users, is not much less than other top performers. At a suggested retail price of $399, it costs the same as, say, the Maxtor DiamondMax 4320. Granted, the Maxtor stores 2 gigs less of data, but we're talking a difference between a 17 gig and 19 gig drive. The 4320, though, significantly outmuscles the TS when it comes to performance. Retail PC manufacturers, however, seem to endear themselves to the Bigfoot line, whether it be for cost or some other reason. In such a light, it should be comforting to know that while the drive you'll get in a typical Pavilion or Presario isn't a screamer by today's standards, it isn't holding back your CPU nearly as much as in systems from those manufacturers less than a year ago.

Quantum Bigfoot TS QM519200TS-A
Estimated Price: $399
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* Note: All reported test results are the average of five trials.


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