Quantum Fireball CR EIDE Hard Drive

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Quantum's Fireball CR EIDE Hard Drive

ATA/66... Hot Hardware or Hype?

A close look at a new ATA/66 Hard Drive from Quantum

Hard Drive technologies seem to leap frog themselves faster than any other techonolgy in the PC Hardware Arena. What is leading edge technology today will be "old hat" in a matter of months when the next level of performance or density is surpassed and brought to the marketplace. It seems as if 6 month design cycles are common place for drive makers. One of the main bottlenecks in traditional drive systems is the bus interface. SCSI has its advantages over EIDE and vice-versa. The latest evolution in EIDE technology is supposed to bring this more mainstream drive interface one step closer to LVD SCSI performance. The ATA/66 interface has a theoretical peak bandwidth/data transfer rate across the bus at 66Mb/sec. This sounds great but in reality most applications running on EIDE drives or SCSI drives will never see these peak rates. However, this new technology SHOULD provide a significant increase in bandwidth and overall performance, especially as it relates to multitasking and applications that tend to saturate the bus. Still sounds pretty good right? Let's see for oursleves.
Quantum sent us a Fireball CR 13 Gig, 3.5 " EIDE Drive. Here are the exact specs.


Quantum Fireball CR 13Gig EIDE Hard Drive

  • Typical Seek Times 9.5 (ms)
  • Track-to-Track 2.0 (ms)
  • Full Stroke 18.0 (ms)
  • Average Rotational Latency (ms) 5.56
  • Rotational Speed (RPM) 5,400
  • Internal Data Rate (Mb/sec) Up to 194
  • Ultra DMA/66 66.6 Mb/sec
  • Ultra DMA/33 33.3 Mb/sec
  • PIO Mode 4 16.6 Mb/sec
  • DMA Mode 2 16.6 Mb/sec
  • Buffer Size (KB) 512
  • Typical Power on to Drive Ready (sec) 9.5
  • Data Protection System
  • Shock Protection System
  • SMART Drive Capable
These numbers look pretty snappy for a 5400 RPM drive. 9.5ms access time is average for this class of drives. That number of 66Mb/sec for Ultra DMA Interface Data Rates should provide a considerable boost when multitasking and crunching large amounts of data while loading an application for instance. However, we all know numbers look good on paper, so let's see what happens when we spin this new hot rod up!

Our Test System

Full Tower ATX Case w/ 300W PS, AMD K6(2)-400 Overclocked to 450 MHz. Leatek WinFast 5300MA Super 7 Motherboard, 64 MB of PC100 CAS2 RAM, Quantum Fireball CR 13 Gig Hard Drive, STB Velocity 4400 TNT AGP Video Card, Monster Sound MX300 PCI Audio Card, Memorex 48X CD ROM, Win 98, Direct X 6.1



WinBench 99 Results - Quantum Fireball CR 13 GB

WinBench 99/Business Disk WinMark 99 (Thousand Bytes/Sec) 3260
WinBench 99/Disk Access Time (Milliseconds) 15.1
WinBench 99/Disk CPU Utilization (Percent Used) 33.9
WinBench 99/Disk Playback/Bus:Overall (Thousand Bytes/Sec) 3260
WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:AVS/Express 3.4 (Thsaound Bytes/Sec) 7050
WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:FrontPage 98 (Thousand Bytes/Sec) 33300
WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:MicroStation SE (Thousand Bytes/Sec) 10400
WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:Overall (Thousand Bytes/Sec) 9950
WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:Photoshop 4.0 (Thousand Bytes/Sec) 6410
WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:Premiere 4.2 (Thousand Bytes/Sec) 10100
WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:Sound Forge 4.0 (Thousand Bytes/Sec) 12300
WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:Visual C++ 5.0 (Thousand Bytes/Sec) 10100
WinBench 99/High-End Disk WinMark 99 (Thousand Bytes/Sec) 9950
These numbers are very impressive. They are significantly better than both the Maxtor 5400 RPM and IBM 7200 RPM drives we tested not long ago on a Pentium II-515 BX Chipset Based system. These numbers may have been helped by the AMD K6(2)-450 since it is an excellent Windows performer. There shouldn't be much a differential however since I am comparing numbers vrs. an overclocked 515 MHz. P2 ! Unfortunately, the only mainboard available to us that is Ultra DMA 66 capable was the Super 7 Based Leadtek board. Intel based solutions are coming on line shortly and should provide a better comparison. There is one thing for sure... DMA66 seems to be for real! One note of caution however, along with the high performance numbers above, came VERY high CPU utilization numbers as well as access times.

A comparable drive and bus interface in an Intel BX based system utilizes the CPU only about 5%. I attribute this to a driver maturity issue with the SIS chipset on the motherboard we used and perhaps with DMA 66 in general, since it is still in its infancy. There is definately room for improvement here. I hope the people at SIS and Intel tighten things up a little for UDMA66. Also, the specs say 9.5ms typical seek access. We reported 15.1... so much for typical. There aren't many drive manufacturers that report this acurrately enough. We hope things improve here too.

Wrap it up...

I'll sum this drive up in three words for you.... I'll take it! Although I have some reservations about the current state of ATA66, this drive is a clear performer, reaching SCSI type levels. By the way, SCSI also is a CPU hog. So I guess nothing is for free. The Quantum Fireball CR is an excellent drive that is a little ahead of its time. It won't be long at all before UDMA66 matures. This drive would be a wise investment in the future for you.


 We give the Quantum Fireball CR a "Temp-O-Meter" rating of...

90 !!


(Temp-O-Meter scores are rated on a number of key metrics including performance, stability, ease of installation, compatibility, feature set, "overclockability" and component quality. A perfect score is 100 )


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