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Seagate Medalist ST317242A

  May 11, 1999 Author: Eugene Ra  
See also our Summer 1999 ATA Drive Roundup.
Evaluation unit provided by Seagate Technology

Seagate. The very name has been synonymous with desktop hard disks for nearly two decades. A pioneer in both interfaces and drives, the world's largest disk manufacturer has an impressive list of credits. Let's take spindle-speeds, for example. Seagate was first to hit 5400rpm with its original Elite drive. The company was first to reach 7200rpm with the Barracuda. They were the first to hit 10,000rpm with the Cheetah. They may very well be the first to hit 14,400rpm with an upcoming product.

Thus, it was little surprise that Seagate debuted the first 7200rpm ATA drive, the Medalist Pro ST39140A. With its new fluid-bearing motor, the drive was a scorcher when it came to both performance and heat. Though IBM and Maxtor eventually joined the pioneer with 7200rpm ATA drives, Seagate stood alone for several months. Since then, IBM and Maxtor (along with Fujitsu, Western Digital, and Quantum) have followed up with second-generation 7200rpm units. But what of the pioneer? Where is Seagate's second-generation unit? Surprise. There is none. The 7200rpm Medalist Pro has been discontinued. Seagate's flagship ATA drive is now the 5400rpm Medalist ST317242A.

This Medalist features four platters at 4.3 GB/platter to deliver 17.2 gigs of storage space. The drive features a 9 millisecond average seek time. The buffer weights in at a rather mundane 512k. A 3-year warranty protects the drive. Interestingly, Seagate doesn't seem to be participating in the "reliability features" horserace that's seized the ATA drive market of late. They don't tout any shock protection or auto-diagnostics. Just the simple SeaShield, protecting the printed circuit board at the bottom of the drive.

The ST317242A is an ATA-66 drive. As is the case with all 66 units, the Seagate was tested using Promise Technology's Ultra66 ATA drive controller in our dedicated testbed. Seagate does offer a utility to disable ATA-66 operation in cases where incompatibilities may arise.

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Frankly, the Seagate Medalist ST317242A delivers rather uninspiring performance. As a 5400rpm 4.3 GB/platter, the Medalist is best compared to the champion of the category, the Maxtor DiamondMax 4320. In Windows 95 tests, the Seagate and Maxtor produce a dead heat in the Business Disk WinMark 99. In the High-End WinMark, the Seagate edges ahead by 4%. Windows NT, however, is where the Medalist falls behind, trailing the DiamondMax by 8% in the Business WinMark and 11% in the High-End test. In ThreadMark 2.0 tests, the Seagate lags behind the Maxtor by margins of 7%-9%.

Like virtually all 5400rpm ATA drives these days, the Medalists operation is quiet. There's virtually no idle noise, while seeks are subdued and unobtrusive. The drive operates just mildly warm to the touch outside a drive cooler, allowing for easy integration into just about any system.

The Medalist ST317242A is a disappointing offering from the industry's largest manufacturer. The drive dubbed as the "fastest desktop drive Seagate has ever built" barely keeps up with the venerable DiamondMax 4320, let alone the 5400rpm leaders from WD and IBM. Not that the 4320 should apologize for performing like the Medalist: the Maxtor drive is an 8 month-old design that these days is correctly being marketed to segments seeking lower-capacity, lower-cost drives. The Medalist, on the other hand, is the latest and greatest ATA unit from an industry leader. We have a right to expect more. Don't throw in the towel on ATA drives, Seagate.

Seagate Medalist ST317242A
Estimated Price: $349
Also Available: ST34312A (4.3 GB version), ST38422A (8.4 GB version) and ST313032A (13.0 GB version)
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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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