Seagate Cheetah 15K.4 ST3146854LC SCSI Hard Drive

Written by Patrick Ng    Wednesday, 20 July 2005 11:00
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Seagate Cheetah 15K.4 ST3146854LC SCSI Hard Drive
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Introduction


The gaming industry has come a long way in the past couple of decades. From classics such as Minesweeper and Solitaire to popular computer games like Unreal Tournament 2004 and Half-Life 2, the fast paced growth is apparent. Personally, I think graphics in a game is nothing more than eye-candy. Though that could be argued through another's eyes, it is undeniable that storage space becomes an important factor in your computer system. All the storage space in your computer is determined by the capacity of the Hard Disk Drive (HDD). Your games, applications, documents, and music are stored onto this space. The capacity is not endless, and needless to say, there were many times I've run out of space.

The regular overclocker and computer enthusiast should be well aware of the meanings of the terms Intelligent Drive Electronics/Parallel ATA (IDE/PATA), and Serial ATA (SATA). These are the types of cables the hard drive supports to make a connection with the computer. Hard drives started out with the use of bulky IDE cables that allowed only up to four devices and were later replaced by SATA, which came with a thinner wire and allowed one device per port. On the server front, SCSI has found a home by differentiating itself from desktop solutions by allowing up to fifteen devices on the same channel.

Recently, InsaneTek has reviewed the OCZ Titanium memory which was geared towards reliability and stability. In a workplace and server environment, these two factors are regarded as more important than performance. If you were the owner of a business or the vice-president of a major company, you wouldn't want a piece of hardware failing. With that in mind, Seagate, a renowned hard drive manufacturer, aims to provide the best reliability and stability possible in the server environment with their SCSI drives. The latest from Seagate's line of SCSI drives is the Cheetah 15K.4. These hard drive solutions are built for fast Input/Output (I/O) speeds and should only be used if you have the need for it. Along with the Cheetah, I also received a SCSI controller card that is manufactured by LSI.

 


 

Seagate Cheetah 15K.4 ST3146854LC SCSI Hard Drive

The Cheetah 15K.4 comes in three different capacities and two different pin configurations: 36, 74, and 146 gigabytes; 68 and 80-pin. The one being tested in this review is the 146GB and 68-pin version. It boasts: 15,000RPM, an 8MB cache, and an extreme low seek time of 3.5ms. Seagate claims this drive to be very quiet and has a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) of 1.4 million hours. This means that the drives are tested through intense conditions to estimate how long they would work until the drives fail. Depending on the quality of each specific hard drive, the time for failure will vary. Unlike hard drives of the previous generations, noise was significantly reduced by the replacement of fluid motor, over the ball bearings. The allowed support of Ultra320 SCSI maximizes transfer rate up to about 320 MB/s. There are also built-in error checking mechanisms, that check the drive to see if there are any corrupt sectors and attempts to correct it to prevent data loss.

There is nothing fancy about the Cheetah in terms of shape and size. It is a regular 3.5" drive and resembles a regular IDE or SATA drive. The LC model of the Cheetah is designed to be mounted to a tray or carrier and then inserted into the server system without the use of any cables. I do not have a SCSI server system, which will result in the use of a SCSI controller card. The LW model has a controller board that resembles desktop hard drives by including a power connector and a set of pins. Located on the front of the SCSI drive are the jumper pins. These jumper pins are much like the jumpers for master and slave drives. These jumper pins set the ID for the SCSI drive, so that the system understands which drive it is.

Specifications:

 


 

LSI Logic "LSIU320" SCSI Controller Card

A SCSI controller card is used if the motherboard doesn't support SCSI connections. The parts included in the packaging were the: SCSI controller card, instructions, a special twisted cable, extra jumpers, and two 68-pin adapters. The LSI Logic LSIU320 SCSI controller card has its own cache memory of 64MB and an embedded BIOS. This controller card will be used to connect the SCSI drive during the whole review process.

Here are a few pictures of the BIOS and the configuration screens. In the card's BIOS, you can set what each drive is supposed to do, whether it's mirroring or standalone operation. It supports a single channel of up to fifteen hard drives.

Features and Benefits:

 


 

Installation

Installation of the SCSI drive and the controller card was very straightforward. The SCSI drive has the same universal holes and positions that all hard drives have. Either mount it to the case with screws or quick release if your case supports it. Be sure to have set your SCSI ID with the jumper pin beforehand. Then plug the 68-pin adapter into the back of the SCSI drive. This adapter has a power connector, as well as a 68-pin connector. The controller card has it's own heat sink on the core, so plug it into a PCI expansion slot that will not force the heat sink to trap heat. Finally, plug in the special twisted cable into both the controller card and the SCSI drive. Don't forget the power connector to the adapter! The drive is low-level formatted at the factory so it's ready to go after you install the drivers or if you have a SCSI motherboard, it is ready once you plug it in.

 


 

Testing Method and Setup

To test the SCSI drive, a series of benchmarks will be executed to test for I/Os per second and disk access times. These results will be compared to a regular desktop IDE drive, so that a comparison can be made between the two. Temperatures will also be taken by a probe and recorded between the SCSI and IDE drive. Ambient temperature is kept at 23.2°C. Idle temperatures will be achieved by leaving the computer at the desktop for 30 minutes. Stress test will involve copying 40GB worth of data from one drive to another. The purpose of these tests are to display the differences between server and desktop environment hard drives. Because I do not have the proper equipment, there will be no scientific experiments conducted.

Test Setup:

  • AMD Athlon 64 3000+ Winchester (9 x 275FSB = 2.475GHz @ 1.65v)
  • MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum
  • 1 x 512MB PDC1G3200+XBLK (1 x 512MB @ 2.5-3-3-7)
  • Leadtek GeForce FX 5950 Winfast A380 Ultra (575MHz Core Frequency / 975MHz Memory Frequency)
  • TTGI SF-450TS 450W Power Supply
  • Maxtor DiamondMax 160GB 7200RPM IDE Hard Drive
  • Seagate Cheetah 150GB 15,000RPM SCSI Hard Drive

Test Procedures:

  • I/O Meter to determine I/Os per second
  • Roadkill's Disk Speed to determine access times
  • Record temperature during idle and load

Results:

I/O Meter

 

Roadkill's Disk Speed DiamondMax IDE Hard Drive

Roadkill's Disk Speed Cheetah SCSI Hard Drive

Temperature Comparison

 

 


 

Conclusion and Thoughts

As we can see here from our testing, SCSI blatantly outperforms IDE. The fact of the matter is, SCSI is built with maximum performance possible after reliability and stability have been guaranteed. We reach the question: Is SCSI right for you? If you take your time and list the facts about SCSI, you'll start to realize why it's for server environment only. First, by adding SCSI to your system, your total boot-up time is increased by up to 8-12 seconds. In those 8-12 seconds, it'll detect the number of drives connected and start to resume what each one was programmed to do. Second, SCSI requires strong and direct cooling or the temperatures will be much higher than your regular desktop hard drive. Last, but certainly not least, the price tag is a bit high for those looking to use SCSI at home. With these three things in mind, SCSI seems to be a bad choice. However it's also hard to let go of the fact that SCSI outperforms a regular desktop IDE hard drive. The announcement of SATAII allows for transfer rates of up to 3.0GB/s. This surely will solve the performance issue between the server and desktop performance gap. Noise wasn't as big of an issue as I thought it would be, considering the drive is running at 15,000RPM. Noise should not even be an issue in a work environment. While Seagate claims that this drive creates less noise with it's fluid motor, you'll still hear a difference when the drive starts spinning up.

Although it is priced at around $1000, that should not be something that would deter an IT professional to purchase it for a server at work. It is built to last and yields the performance that a busy multitasking environment requires. I would never be able to buy something like this or ever have another chance to play with one...but one thing's for sure: Seagate has certainly left a strong positive impression of quality and durability in their products.

John's Addition:

It's quite hard to properly review SCSI drives considering the target market that it's aimed after.  Proper testing would require a large server build, numerous accesses, and numerous hours of intense data filing and transfers.  I do have to admit that we didn't test the drives to its full potential because we were quite limited by the type of hardware we own, but I can tell you that Seagate's latest Cheetah 15k.4 should be one of your top choices if you were to build a reliable server.  When I received the drives, I had very little knowledge about SCSI.  There aren't many hardware enthusiasts who can afford hundreds of dollars just on a hard drive.  I'm included in that majority.  However, I do have to provide you a real life experience though.  I've been working in a company for the past 2 months and the company runs off its own server.  The server is the company's database, which means that every single employee would have to remotely connect to the server in order to retrieve a certain file.  Even browsing the internet required access through the server.  Every single employee would have a small terminal client that connects to the server.  It wouldn't be all that bad if there were only ten people connected and accessing files, but imagine about fifty workers multitasking and grabbing the same files all day.  If the server is slow, all the employees, including I, sit there and wait with anger.  It'll be like working with a first generation Pentium.  Not only do the servers need fast hard drives to have fast access times, the servers also need hard drives to be reliable.  Imagine if the server went down.  Then, imagine how much money the company would lose to repair and retrieve the lost data.  It would cost thousands of dollars.  Now imagine a bigger company.  It would only be wise to invest a little more in the beginning and save more in the future. 

SCSI is not for the home end user, that's for sure.  SCSI is definitely the ONLY choice for servers and companies.  They need that high performance and high reliability.  Seagate has always been known to be a reliable choice when it comes to hard drives and their newest SCSI would be a great choice for fast performance and reliability.

Pros:

  • Cost effective
  • Elaboration on reliability and stability
  • Longer Mean Time Between Failure than previous generations

Cons:

  • High temperatures without strong and direct cooling

We would like to thank Seagate for providing us the sample.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to hit us up in the forums. You can also check out more of our latest reviews on the front page.

 

 

 

 

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