Reliable Business Partners: Three Ultra320 Hard Drives at 10,000 RPM

The Candidates: Similar Features

If you look at the spec sheets on the manufacturers' websites, you'll discover many similarities between the devices. For example, all three models have 8 MB of cache memory. In fact, this is a tried-and-tested feature that has even made its way onto high-end ATA drives. The manufacturers generally don't assume you need more than 8 MB; generally only the crème de la crème - the models that run at 15,000 rpm - are built with up to 16 MB of cache.

While Maxtor and Seagate list exactly 10,000 rpm, Fujitsu claims 10,025 rpm for its drive. There's no way of testing whether this is correct; then again, it wouldn't make any difference in the real world. Psychologically speaking, Fujitsu's strategy isn't half-bad.

The smallest models available provide almost 37 GB - that's the same capacity as a single hard disk (a magnetic memory disk). Two hard disks are built into 73- and 74 GB models, while the 147 GB behemoths boast no fewer than four disks each. And, although it's not often mentioned, four disks generate more friction than one or two. For that reason, you should never run "large" hard drives non-stop for long periods of time without actively cooling them. The drive will reward you with a long operating life.

Experience has shown that the performance of different models in a particular range of drives is extremely similar. So our scores can also serve as a rough guideline if you're looking for devices that don't have the same capacity as the test drives.

A five-year warranty is the industry standard - no manufacturer stands out here. Choosing the interface is also a non-event - in addition to the 68-pin wide-LVD connectors, all of the drives come with an 80-pin SCA-2 connector. This is very common in the high-end segment, as it combines data and power cables in one - a vital feature if you need to hot-swap drives in a server. The Seagate is the only model to come with a Fibre Channel interface. We did not test this variation separately, though.

Considering their high speeds of 10,000 rpm, all three drives were astonishingly quiet. That is, until the devices have to move the head a lot. All the models generate that standard hard drive crackling when working hard; the vibrations can easily carry over to some cases. Keep this in mind if you want to install a SCSI drive in your office computer.