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Seagate U Series 5 HDD Review ATA

[12/19/2000 12:00 AM | Storage] by Ilya Gavrichenkov

This is a very successful storage solution for the mainstream sector. Due to the 20GB platters used, it provides high speedand reliability at work combined with relatively low price and high storage capacity. It will perfectly suit for office systems andhas every chance to find its place in the upcoming X-Box.

Table of Contents

Specification Performance Linear Reading Conclusion

Pages: [ 1 ]

The major events in the hard disk drive market took place in spring and summer, as you remember, and now this industry is living through a certain calm period. This pretty monotonous time pushed Seagate to action and it was exactly in the fall that the company announced two new award winning IDE-HDD families: Barracuda ATA III and U Series 5. The first family, Barracuda ATA III, is intended for desktop PCs and U Series 5 - for value PCs, Windows terminals, information appliances and digital VCR. Today we are going to get acquainted with a hard disk drive from U Series 5. Please, meet Seagate ST340823A :

What is so special about this HDD from U Series 5 family? We wouldn't call it a new word in the HDD industry, actually Well, to tell the truth, there are some really revolutionary things implemented in it, which make this piece a nice and up-to-date storage solution. First of all, Seagate introduced a new SBT technology (Sound Barrier Technology), which allows reducing significantly the noise level when the

disk drive is working. This technology includes the whole lot of functions, which optimize the drive's operation and hence reduce the noise level. With this technology you can control the noise level depending on what you are doing (what tasks you are working with) and where you are working (home, office). Moreover, SBT technology also controls the resonance and other effects that may reduce the noise level when the HDD is working or idling. Besides, Seagate also provided its hard disk drive with the built-in vibration dampers and a specially designed SeaShield skin protecting the HDD against accidental handling damage and dissipating ESD in wait state and when sitting idle. Due to all these enhancements and innovations Seagate managed to reduce the noise level during HDD operation down to 2.9Bel in PC mode and down to 2.7Bel in A/V mode. Note that Seagate managed to get 2.9Bel without slowing down the spindle, i.e. the spindle rotation speed remained equal to 5,400rpm, which means that we have every reason to expect this disk drive to show very nice performance. Moreover, the HDDs from U Series 5 are provided with Seagate brand 3D Defense technology. And 3D Defense includes the following:

Drive Defense. It includes G-Force Protection (special hardware and design enhancements making the HDD as robust as possible)and a special SeaShell drive container used as a transportation package, which helps to reduce the return rates by over 70%. Data Defense. This is a special data protection technology including thermal and resonance controls. Diagnostic Defense. This is special diagnostic software for the storage subsystem control.

U Series 5 HDDs appeared the first disk drives from Seagate to support Extended DST, a new standard-based diagnostic test built into the firmware, which increases the accuracy of a two-minute diagnostics test to 95%. SeaShell is a transparent clamshell drive container, which replaces the ESD bag. It is used for shipping and protects drive against 1000Gs of non-operating shock. Also valuable for barcode scanning and reading label without removing.

The next protection solution is the Soft SeaShield.

It protects the drive against accidental handling damage and dissipates ESD. Label on SeaShield contains installation instructions that always stay with the drive. And this is a "naked" U Series 5 HDD:


Let's take a quick look at the major specs of a typical representative of U Series 5 family, Seagate ST340823A, compared to one of its major competitors in the today's market, IBM DTLA 305040:
Features Capacity Interface Spindle Rotation Speed Buffer Size Number of Heads Number of Platters Rotational Latency Average Seek Time During Reads Average Track-to-Track Seek Time Seagate ST340823A IBM DTLA 305040 40GB ATA/100 5,400rpm 1024KB 4 2 5.6ms 8.9ms 1.5ms 40GB ATA/100 5,400rpm 512KB* 4 2 5.6ms 8.5ms 1.2ms 15ms

Average Full Stroke Seek Time * - The top 132KB are occupied by firmware.

Both HDDs feature very similar specifications. Both have 20GB per platter data density and 5,400rpm rotation speed. However, the cache buffer of the Seagate hard disk drive is twice as large as that of IBM HDD. Though the mechanics of Seagate drive is a bit slower than that of the IBM one, it is not that bad at all. In fact, it is very likely to have been made on purpose, in order to reduce the noise produced by the moving heads. U Series 5 family includes 5 models with the capacities of 10, 15, 20, 30 and 40GB that's why these hard disk drives are appear in any price category and every user can find a model for his specific needs. We were really intrigued by a very unusual cache buffer size by the Seagate HDD: 1MB. The hard disk drives featuring 7,200rpm rotation speed are traditionally provided with a 2MB cache buffer, while their slower counterparts, with a spindle rotating at 5,400rpm - with a 512KB one. And here the size lies somewhere in between: 1MB. Here is a close-up of a cache memory chip from our drive. If you also check this pdf-file, you will understand that this memory chip is a 512KBx16x2, which makes 2MB altogether. And the size of the Seagate HDD cache-buffer is said to be 1MB. Where is the other half of the memory then? We can offer you two explanations of this thing:

The remaining 1MB is occupied by very large and smart firmware (DST support, etc.).

Seagate decided to slow down its HDD on purpose, in order to prevent it from spoiling Barracuda sales.

Anyway, 1MB cache buffer is still much better than 512KB. So, now it's high time we compared our Seagate U Series 5 HDD 40MB with its major competitor IBM DTLA 305040 40MB.

The testbed was configured as follows:

Intel Pentium III 600E CPU; ASUS P3B-F mainboard with 1007 BIOS version; 128MB PC133 SDRAM by Hyundai; Matrox Milennium 4MB; Windows 98.

In order to measure the performance of the HDDs in different UDMAmodes, we used the following controllers:

UDMA33 - built into i440BX chipset; UDMA66 - Promise Ultra66 controller; UDMA100 - Promise FastTrak100 controller.

The disk drives were connected as Master-units to a separate IDEchannel. We used FAT32 file system to format each of them as one logical drive of the maximum size. DMA support in Windows was enabled. All the tests were run 3 times and then the average results were taken for the diagrams. The HDDs didn't rest for cooling down between the tests. At first let's take a look at the results obtained in ZD Disk Winmark 99.
Seagate ST340823A Business Disk WinMark 99 HE: AVS/Express 3.4 HE: FrontPage 98 HE: MicroStation SE 4633 8597 4707 10100 4717 10667 IBM DTLA 305040 4220 8863 4277 10433 4117 9897


76800 15467

77333 15800

76933 16000

80500 15033

81300 15600

77967 15200

HE: Photoshop 4.0 HE: Premiere 4.2 HE: Sound Forge 4.0 HE: Visual C+ + 5.0 Disk Transfer Rate: Beginning Disk Transfer Rate: End High-End Disk WinMark 99

8063 16100 20800 16800 31000

8667 21633 27200 18833 31500

9153 18800 29633 19300 31200

8823 17900 25647 18433 29900

9013 19567 29633 18533 31400

8663 17600 27333 17733 30400

20600 14333

21100 16367

20900 16767

16000 15400

16000 16567

15700 15733

In the integral tests Seagate drive managed to leave its competitor far behind in all UDMA modes, as you may also see from the diagrams.

Well, Seagate defeated IBM completely here. Note that the higher gets the interface throughput, the greater appears the performance increase by Seagate disk. However, IBM one manages to be at the peak only in UDMA66 mode and the shift to ATA100 worsens the performance noticeably. It is very likely to be the cache-buffer size that matters in ATA/100 mode, and it is two times larger by Seagate than by IBM.

In case of many smaller files, the cache buffer is not that important any more and due to faster mechanics IBM DTLA wins the lead. Only in case of ATA/100 Seagate managed to surpass it. However, the best result in all three modes still belongs to Seagate HDD! Well, Seagate baby doesn't feel well in UDMA33, its IBM competitor is not at home in ATA/100. All in all, every hard disk drive has its trumps and weak spots. Seagate always claims in its press releases that their HDDs are perfectly suited for streaming read and write operations. Let's check that with the help of the following benchmark:

This test doesn't emulate the work of the HDD during video recording, however, it perfectly demonstrates the intensive functioning of the hard disk drive. Unfortunately, we have to admit that Seagate lost the game completely here, unfortunately.

Linear Reading
First of all let's discuss the graph of Seagate U Series 5 with i440BX chipset.

Seagate U Series 5 (UDMA33)

Seagate Barracuda ATA II (UDMA33)

What do we see here? Well, the usual "hunch" on the external tracks. The same picture we can see in case of another Seagate HDD Barracuda ATA II. It is probably the Seagate drives optimization for UDMA66-UDMA100 protocols that tells.

IBM DTLA 305040 (UDMA33)

The read graph we got from IBM DTLA in UDMA-33 clearly chows the transfer limitations imposed by this interface. When reading from the tracks, which feature the highest data density, the interface appears unable to transfer the amount of data the HDD sends and stumbles. The lower gets the data density on the platter, the lower appears the transfer rate and UDMA33 can cope easily with the amount of data the hard disk drive supplies.

Seagate U Series 5 (UDMA100)

IBM DTLA 305040 (UDMA100)

The graphs for Promise FastTrak 100 on both Seagate U Series 5 and IBM DTLA look the same, as you may have noticed already. The traditional "saw-edged" curves owe their exterior to the emulation of RAID stripe-array on one HDD. The difference between the graphs lies in the size of the "saw-teeth", which depends on the disk cache buffer size. Seagate U Series 5 features a larger cache buffer that's why the teeth on the curve are considerably smaller. We would like to stress once again that this saw-edged looks of the graph doesn't mean that there are problems with the hard disk drive. It just shows the effect made by the RAID controller used for testing.

Seagate U Series 5 (UDMA66)

IBM DTLA 305040 (UDMA66)

Well, the graphs for Promise Ultra66 controller are just ideal that's why there is hardly any need in discussing them.

Well, the tests showed that Seagate had made a significant step forward in the field of low-cost HDDs. Seagate seems to have successfully used its experience in the field of high-performance SCSI storage subsystems for development of well-balanced solutions for corporate PCs and home appliances. The corporate market requires reliability and high storage capacity, while the appliances market needs low noise level and low heat dissipation in the first place. The shift to 20GB platters allowed Seagate to kill two birds with a stone (we do not mean Maxtor and Quantum here :-) The increase in data density up to 20GB per platter provides the same performance boost as

the rotation speed increase up to 7,200rpm. However, since the rotation speed remained unchanged (5,400rpm), the heat dissipation remained on the acceptable level. You shouldn't be disappointed with the fact that Seagate U Series 5 failed to beat IBM DTLA in some tests. Seagate didn't aim its U5 solution at conquering the dominating position in the today's storage market, which could have been too conceitedly. Seagate decided to develop a relatively cheap and very efficient solution, which could also boast a lot of advantages valuable for the non-PC market as well. Well, it seems as if Seagate engineers have coped with this task really successfully. In office applications Seagate U Series 5 looks terrific among the models of the same category. Keeping in mind high reliability of all Seagate products and very reasonable pricing, this item has every chance to become popular in the OEM as well as in DIY markets. We didn't measure the noise level of this HDD, however, we hardly heard much: the noise it produced was far lower than that made by the system cooler! As for the storage capacities, this spring we considered 20GB HDDs to be large and the price varied between $7.5 and $11 for 1GB. Hardly had half a year passed, when the capacity of the mainstream hard disk drives doubled while the price remained practically the same. In other words, 1GB of storage space got twice as cheap as it used to be 6 months ago! Now IBM DTLA 305040 (40GB) costs around $160, i.e. 1GB will cost you only $4. As soon as the today's hero appears in retail, the price will drop even more, so don't worry. We haven't touched upon the application Seagate U Series 5 will find in the non-PC market, though some HDDs from this family may be used in the upcoming X-Box console, which should be good for the company since X-Box promises to be a very popular and well-selling product.