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Quantum Atlas 10k QM318200TN-LW

  June 3, 1999 Author: Eugene Ra  
Evaluation unit provided by Quantum Corp.

Recently, it seems that two premiere SCSI drive manufacturers, Seagate and IBM, have abandoned their "three-tier" product line for a more consolidated dual-level offering. A former distinction between "entry-level" and "enterprise-class" drives has been blurred, with a single drive from both companies representing their 7200rpm offerings. A 10k drive (of course) rounds out the high end from each company.

Quantum Atlas 10kQuantum went through such a change last year, dropping its rather lethargic Fireball SCSI line. The manufacturer presented two SCSI offerings, the entry-level Viking II and the enterprise-class Atlas III. Interestingly, the Atlas line never fared well in's benchmark and usage tests, supposedly being optimized for server access patterns that didn't shine through. Thus it was with great interest we observed Quantum's announcement of it's 1999 SCSI drive line: The entry-level (presumably a Viking III) and enterprise class drives would be consolidated into a single 7200rpm offering, the Atlas IV (gulp). Even more interesting, Quantum announced that they'd jump into the 10k rpm battle with the Atlas 10k.

The flagship Atlas 10k is an 18.2 gigabyte drive featuring six 3 GB/platter disks, on par with the reigning champ, the Seagate Cheetah 18LP. The Atlas' rated seek time is just a tad more svelte, at 5.0 milliseconds, just a hair under the Cheetah's 5.2 ms. The drive features a 2 megabyte buffer, doubling that of Seagate's offering. A five year warranty protects the disk.

The Atlas 10k is the first drive we've tested that features the new Ultra160/m SCSI interface. A doubling of the maximum transfer rate will undoubtedly be the most ballyhooed facet of the spec; and who knows, if you somehow find yourself with 14 Atlas 10k drives running off of a single Ultra160/m controller, you may run into situations where the 80 MB/sec of Ultra2 simply doesn't cut it. For most uses, however, Ultra160/m compatibility at this stage is unnecessary.

In usage with our testbed's Adaptec 2940U2W SCSI host adapter, I ran into problems getting the drive detected on the LVD (U2W) segment of the controller. The drive would appear just fine when attached to the UW segment. After much hair pulling, a Quantum applications engineer determined that the 2940U2W had to be "hard terminated." In other words, setting host adapter termination in the BIOS (sufficient for every LVD drive thus far) was not enough: a jumper physically located just beneath the LVD connector had to be shunted. Isn't new technology great? ATA-66 and Ultra160/m both arrive, both (supposedly) completely backwards compatible, yet these problems crop up. Oh well, enough griping, let's take a look at some figures:

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The Atlas 10k turns in impressive figures indeed! WinBench 99 running under Windows 95 pegs the Atlas 11% faster than the Cheetah on the Business Disk WinMark. In High-End WinMark tests, the Atlas keeps ahead by a 9% margin. Results were similar in tests under Windows NT, with the Quantum leading the Seagate by 9% in the Business WinMark and 15% in the High-End tests. ThreadMark results concur, placing the Atlas 14% faster than the Cheetah in Windows 95 and 18% faster under NT.

Like the Fujitsu MAG3182LP, the Atlas 10k operates with significantly less noise than the Cheetah 18LP. High-pitched, 10k rpm whine is all but unnoticeable, with a much less intrusive lower-pitched hum (present, incidentally, on all third-generation 10k disks) fading into the background. Seeks were muted when compared to the Cheetah, perhaps what one would expect from the average 7200rpm disk. The drive operated warmly, though probably not excessively so, outside a drive cooler. It may work in a large, well-ventilated case without active cooling. In any other situation, however, drive coolers remain prudent.

Setting new marks in all six major performance categories by significant margins, the Quantum Atlas 10k's blazing performance easily dethrones the Cheetah 18LP. The drive has taken its place (temporarily, alas) in my personal system and has already proven to be noticeably faster than both the Cheetah and MAG3182LP in everyday use. Performance like this stands alone without regard to other factors such as heat and noise- the fact that the drive combines stellar performance with commendable heat/noise levels makes it all the more attractive. What more can I say? The Quantum Atlas 10k is currently the fastest drive in the world, and the drive you should purchase if you're a performance-oriented user.

Quantum Atlas 10k QM318200TN-LW
Estimated Price: $899
Also Available: QM309100TN-LW (9.1 GB version); QM336400TN-LW (36.4 GB version)
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* Note: Threadmark 2.0 test results are the average of five trials.
WinBench99 test results are the average of three trials.


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