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Quantum Fireball CR QM313000CR-A

  March 8, 1999 Author: Eugene Ra  
See also our Summer 1999 ATA Drive Roundup.
Evaluation unit provided by Quantum Corp.

Quantum occupies an interesting role in the ATA drive market. Judging from the releases of the Fireball EL and Fireball EX, it's evident that they're not the time-to-market leader when it comes to either performance or capacity. Yet when a Fireball finally ships, it's always been a performance leader, claiming a spot among the top-performing 5400rpm ATA units.

Quantum Fireball CRMaxtor's DiamondMax 4320 currently rules the roost when it comes to 5400rpm disks. Quantum, however, gave Maxtor quite a run for their money with the release of the Fireball EX. The EX combined stellar performance along with quiet and cool operation.

The Fireball CR will soon arrive upon the scene. Interestingly, nearly five months since Maxtor's shipment of the DiamondMax 4320, the CR still features only 3.3 gigs per platter. Sporting virtually the same areal density as the Fireball EX, the CR's largest variant delivers only 13 gigs of storage to the table. Though it's odd to already associate the word "only" with the capacity "13 gigs," there's no denying that the CR is rather petite compared to the upcoming competition. [Editor's Note (4/5/99): SR has been informed by Quantum that despite the stats offered by Quantum's web page and the Fireball CR's Press Kit, the CR in fact is a 3 platter, 4.3 GB/platter design.]

Other specs also closely mirror those of the Fireball EX. The CR features a 9.5 millisecond access time, 5400rpm spindle speed, and a 512k buffer. The CR, unlike the EX, features an ATA-66 interface. The value of it, of course, is questionable with today's drive. Indeed, as outlined below, ATA-66 can provide more hassle than benefit. A standard 3-year warranty accompanies the drive.

Paired with our onmouseover="window.status=' Testbed - Hoss'; return true;">testbed's Abit LX6 motherboard, the Fireball CR exhibited the same problems as Western Digital's AC313000. The Award BIOS found on the LX6 correctly detects the disk as a "UDMA Mode 4" (ATA-66) drive, yet the LX (and the current BX) chipsets don't yet support ATA-66 operation. This forces Windows to run the drive in MS-DOS compatibility mode, bringing performance to a crawl. Fortunately, Quantum was able to provide a utility to disable ATA-66 operation. Hopefully such provisions will be made available to consumers.

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As expected, the Fireball CR delivers incremental performances over the Fireball EX. Since the EX was a top performing 5400rpm disk, this isn't necessarily a bad thing- such increases draw Quantum closer than ever to dethroning the DiamondMax 4320. In the Business Disk WinMark 99 test under Windows 95, the Fireball lags behind the 4320 by a margin of 8%. The CR, however, manages to turn the tables in the High End Disk WinMark 99, sliding by the Maxtor by 9%. Longtime readers of this site know that Windows NT performance is a great strength of Maxtor drives. The CR can't quite keep up under WinBench 99/NT tests, falling behind by 9%-10%. The Fireball CR speeds past the Maxtor 4320 in ThreadMark under Windows 95 by a margin of 15%. The tables again turn under NT, however, where the 4320 triumphed by 16%.

Like its predecessor, the CR manages cool and unobtrusive operation. Only during the busy WinBench seek test was the drive's noise noticeable. Outside a drive cooler, the Fireball ran only mildly warm to the touch. It should easily integrate into even a cramped system.

In conclusion, the Fireball CR once again demonstrates the performance Quantum can squeeze out from a drive with relatively modest specs. Even so, it's clear that the CR can't quite nudge the now-aging DiamondMax 4320 out of the throne. Though it -is- one of the best 5400rpm drives available today, the Fireball CR once again makes us wonder what a high-density 7200rpm Quantum disk could do- a figment slowly materializing into reality in the upcoming Fireball KA.

Quantum Fireball CR QM313000CR-A
Estimated Price: $249
Also Avaiable: 4.3GB, 6.4GB and 8.4GB versions
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* Note: Threadmark 2.0 and WinBench98 test results are the average of five trials.
WinBench99 test results are the average of three trials.


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