During my upgrade phase back in December, I read quite a bit about Seagate's 7200rpm Medalist Pro that was supposedly the fastest ATA drive available. I looked everywhere, trying to pick one up; needless to say, I always ended up empty-handed. Seagate had announced the drive a couple months before but hadn't yet started shipping them. I ended up purchasing the IBM Deskstar 5 (and later, the Seagate Cheetah) instead.

The Medalist Pro ST39140A has finally arrived. Featuring 4 platters holding nearly 2.3 gigs each, the drive brings high density to the party along with a 512k buffer and 9.5/10.5 millisecond read/write seek times. The drive's 7200rpm rotation speed has a two fold effect on performance. First, the data itself passes under the head more quickly, increasing the continuous data transfer rate. Secondly, the faster spindle speed lowers "rotational latency", or the average time it takes for the needed part of the disc to rotate under the head. A 7200rpm spindle speed shaves about 1.4 milliseconds off of the average access time (access time = seek time + rotational latency), a significant reduction at today's speeds.

The Medalist Pro also debut's Seagate's "fluid dynamic bearing motors." Described by the manufacturer as a "viscous oil", the new technology reduces the noise often created conventional ball bearings. Seagate also claims that this increases reliability, though I then can't help but wonder why this technology isn't found in the company's next-generation enterprise class Cheetah and Barracuda drives. Despite the claim of increased reliability, Seagate backs the drive with no more than the virtual ATA standard warranty, 3 years.

At the time I ordered, the drive seemed to be available from only a handful of mail-order vendors. The package was a typical Seagate brown box. In addition the drive itself, the box contained a large sheet outlining various installation procedures along with a copy of Seagate's DiscWizard disk management software. Certain machines may run into problems using a drive larger than 8.4GB. The Storage Review testbed, with an Abit LX6 motherboard and running Win95/WinNT, accepted the drive without the use of additional software.

The Test

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