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Fujitsu Desktop 18 5400 MPD3173AT

  July 6, 1999 Author: Eugene Ra  
See also our Summer 1999 ATA Drive Roundup.
Evaluation unit provided by Fujitsu Computer Products.

IBM and Western Digital, perhaps a result of their recent agreements, are two companies that pressed the frontiers of areal density towards the beginning of the year with the introduction of 5400rpm drives that featured 5.1 gigs per platter (the Deskstar 22GXP and the Caviar 420400 respectively). Maxtor, Quantum, Seagate, and Fujitsu, however, seem content to rest their 5400rpm lines at 4.3 GB/platter. These four have skipped the 5.1 plateau, opting instead to jump directly to the 6.8 GB/platter horizon. Of these four companies, we've taken a look at the DiamondMax Plus 4320 (the early pioneer), the Fireball CR (a worthy competitor to the Maxtor), and the Seagate Medalist (a latecomer that doesn't measure up). Fujitsu's Deskstop 18 5400, the MPD3183AT, remains the only 4.3 GB/platter drive to be examined.

Apologies in advance are necessary for the timing of this review. As IBM and Western Digital have strove to make clear, 4.3 GB/platter ATA drives are old news these days. Fujitsu's 5400rpm drive has been available for some time, yet it's only recently that we've had the chance to establish ties with Fujitsu. Thus, we apologize to Fujitsu in advance for the length this review took to see the light of day. We also apologize to you, the reader, for not acquiring the drive earlier. In the future, we hope to snatch up Fujitsu's newest models as soon as evaluation samples become available. Even so, late as it may be, we feel it's quite necessary to take a look at the Deskstop 18 5400 to round out our attempts to comprehensively take a look at every available drive.

Specifications for the Deskstop 18 5400 read like those of the competition listed above. The drive is, of course, a 5400rpm unit that features four 4.3 gigabyte platters, yielding a 17.3 gig size in the line's flagship model. Not the largest drive around these days for sure, yet nonetheless a respectable amount of space. A 9.5 millisecond seek time and 512k buffer round out the package. The unit is backed by a three-year warranty.

The MPD3173AT is an ATA-66 drive. Incompatibilities with certain late-model Award BIOSes may require one to disable ATA-66. A utility to do such may be found here.

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A comparison to the best-of-class Maxtor DiamondMax 4320 is most appropriate. Under Windows 95, we found the matchup between the Maxtor and the Fujitsu to be a draw. The MPD3173AT falls behind the DiamondMax 4320 in the Business Disk WinMark, but pulls ahead by 6% in high-end tests. Maxtor's perpetual supremacy, though, comes into play with our Windows NT 4.0 tests. Here the DiamondMax races ahead by about 14% in both Business and High-End tests.

ThreadMark comparisons yielded similar contrasts. Windows 95 scores were very close, with the Fujitsu placing just over 1% behind the Maxtor. Tests under NT, on the other hand, show the Fujitsu drive trailing by almost 11%.

In my review of the Fujitsu MPD3182AH, I could not get over the drive's incredible silence. As one may infer, the MPD3173AT shares in this advantage. One expects a 5400rpm drive to make little noise, yet this Fujitsu redefines the notion of a low noise floor. There is simply no idle noise whatsoever. Seek noises were so muted that it was impossible to tell when the drive was seeking without close scrutiny. As a 5400rpm drive, the MPD3173AT operates quite coolly.

In the end, I can't find many cases where the Desktop 18 5400 is a sound recommendation. The fact of the matter is that the drive simply will not keep up performance wise with flashy, late-model IBM/WD's. It provides speed along the lines of the Maxtor DiamondMax 4320, which, while a good drive, is aging in its own right. Though the MPD3173AT delivers whisper-quiet operation, it's trumped in the end by its own big brother, the equally-quiet and much more state-of-the-art MPD3182AH. If the Desktop 18 5400 is available in a bargain sale, it would make a great, silent second drive. Otherwise, though, other current 5400rpm offerings offer better performance, while Fujitsu's own 7200rpm Desktop 18 provides speedier operation with equally impressive noise and heat levels.

Fujitsu Desktop 18 5400 MPD3173AT
Estimated Price: $299
Also Available: MPD3130AT (13.0 GB); MPD3108AT (10.8 GB); MPD3084AT (8.4 GB); MPD3064AT (6.4 GB); MPD3043 (4.3 GB)
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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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