Seagate Cheetah 36ES SCSI Hard Disk Review

Seagate has been one of the top makers of SCSI drives for some time now. But with the high entry fee, can these drives be of any real use for us? Come join Cameron "Sov" Johnson as he takes a look at the Seagate Cheetah 36ES SCSI Hard Drive. There's only one way to find out how well it really performs, and that's to throw it into the grinder and see how it handles the load.
| Apr 4, 2002 at 11:00 pm CST
Rating: 80%Manufacturer: Seagate Technologies

Cheetah 36ES -

IntroductionThe world today runs on information. Every time you access the Internet, hit "Send," trade a stock online, use an ATM or even watch a Hollywood blockbuster movie with computer-generated special effects, you create, access and share tremendous amounts of digital information. And for over 22 years, Seagate has been developing the technology and manufacturing the products that help make it all happen. When Seagate was founded in 1979, its hard disc drives helped create the PC revolution. Today, the company is helping to revolutionize the way we live, work and play by enabling the growth of the Internet, putting the world's information at your fingertips. And storage technology, Seagate's core business, has become the center of the new computing architecture.With more and more devices going digital, it's creating an enormous opportunity for new applications like Storage Area Networks, Intelligence on the drive, even mainstream consumer devices like televisions, Personal Video Recorders, gaming consoles, MP3 players, and PDAs. Seagate's position as the world's largest manufacturer of disc drives, magnetic discs and read-write heads, and a leader in Storage Area Network (SAN) solutions, puts it at the heart of today's "information-centric" world. Seagate storage products are where the Internet lives, and the growth of the Web has led to worldwide demand for storage doubling every nine months. Seagate are more well known for their SCSI line of hard disks for servers and workstations. Thanks to the good people at Text100, we have on loan the Seagate Cheetah 36ES Ultra160 SCSI Hard Disk.

Cheetah 36ES -

SpecificationsSeagate have made one of the most diverse hard disks available in the SCSI line. First have a look at our table and we will see why this is so.
Here we can see the two top competitors in the Cheetah 36ES line, the 36.9GB models. Both have almost identical features except one, the speed of the interface. The fist model uses 160MB/s SCSI where the latest uses the 320MB/s transfer, we have the 160MB/s disk in our labs.

Cheetah 36ES -

FeaturesThe Drive
Our first picture is of the actual upper surface of the drive. Looks plain Jane, no special bells or whistles; well really, what can you do to a hard disk? Performance is what matters here.The belly of the Cheetah
Here we see the underside of the drive. This is where all the important stuff goes. Here we see the DSP controller chip that allows access to the drive at 320MB/s. This chip is the same for both Ultra160 and 320 drives, only the command and control chip is changed, which we will look at next.Command and Control chip
Here we see Seagate's own Agere 5900D4 controller chipset. This chip determines the speed of the drive's interface with the SCSI controller card. The D4 is 160MB/s and the D5 is 320MB/s. So you know what to look for if you want Ultra320 speeds; but be warned, it will cost you.4MB Cache
The Cheetah 36ES series does not skimp on the cache. 4MB (2x2MB) Hyundai 6ns cache is supplied onboard to cope with heavy read/write loads. 4MB is the optimal amount for access speeds up to 200MB/s. the Ultra160 is well within this limit, the Ultra320 uses the same amount of cache, so some speed looks to go unused. Neither Seagate's website nor their information documents supplied with this drive told us the cache clock speeds. We can only guess its the maximum of 166MHz.The Connectors and Jumpers
Here we get a view of the drive from the back. It's from this view that we can see where it differs from IDE. The connector interface is a standard Ultra wide 68-pin SCSI connector, so this drive will work on any ultra wide SCSI controller card. You just need the card to support Ultra160 speeds if you want to gain the full potential.Next to this is the SCSI-ID jumpers. This allows you to set the drives ID for the SCSI channel. Unlike IDE which uses only two modes, master and slave, SCSI can allows up to 15 drives and devices on the SCSI bus. And to set this up, you need to have a jumper block to set what order it is in the daisy-chain. SCSI has always been a pain to setup for me, as I prefer IDE's simple plug and play system.Now that we have looked at the specifics, lets have a look at a couple of benchmarks.

Cheetah 36ES -

BenchmarksProcessor: Intel Pentium 4 2.0GHzMotherboard: EPoX 4BDA2+Memory: 256MB DDR-333 Kingmax Video Card: Leadtek GeForce3 Ti500Drivers: Intel Application AcceleratorSoftware Used: SiSoft Sandra 2002, Star Trek Armada, Star Trek Armada II.Editors Note We swapped out our regular SiS motherboard for an Intel motherboard because of the better ATA-100 IDE protocal of the Intel ICH2 over SiS's 961 or VIA's VT8233A. We also used a cheapo ST Labs Ultra160 SCSI Controller, to reduce costs.Synthetic Benchmark - SiSoft Sandra 2002SiSoft Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) 2002 is a synthetic windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
As expected the higher transfer rates of the Ultra160 SCSI outpowered the ATA-100 speeds of the IDE subsystem. Since SCSI is a dedicated controller that requires little in the way of CPU cycles to process the data for SCSI drives, it is the ultimate solution for servers and even digital video streaming.D3D Benchmark - Star Trek ArmadaStar Trek Armada is a real world direct 3D benchmark based on DirectX 7 enhancements. Star Trek Armada uses swap files for storage of large graphics and maps during its benchmarking and makes it a great IDE test tool rather than memory. We use command tl_set_memuse=10 to allow the system 10% memory and 90% IDE. Adding a new patch to the program for Star Trek Armada and Armada II we are able to test HDD performance in a greater extent.
First we see the Cheetah win on the Max throughput tests with the swapfile fully utilized over the memory bus.
Next we see the seek time. Amazingly, the Barracuta ATA-3 wins here; we are not sure why but its a big surprise to us.D3D Benchmark - Star Trek Armada IIStar Trek Armada II is designed on the original Armada engine but with DirectX 8.1 display support, reducing the bottleneck by using fully accelerated 3D Graphics. Like Armada I, Armada II is a more hard disk intense benchmark rather than anything else and is a good indicator if the IDE system has any weaknesses. Again the HDD performance patch was added to this program.
Star Trek Armada II is more high intense HDD performance is pushing the hard disks to their limits, and again the Cheetah is the winner.
This time in seek times the Cheetah wins. Armada II reads more from the HDD's cache, and due to the Cheetah having 4MB as apposed to the 2MB on the IDE drives, it gains a better advantage. This is a test of the HDD to SCSI card data transfer. Update Thanks to some fellas on the OCAU forums they have pointed out to us the benchmarks were wrong, this was due to the patches being IDE not SCSI and mis-reported the transfer rates, We went back adn checked up, re-applied patches for SCSI interface and came up with the right benchmarks. Sorry for all the confusion.

Cheetah 36ES -

ConclusionIn all, SCSI hard disks are always more superior to IDE due to their external controller design. IDE drives place the controller module on to the actual drive, resulting in cheaper HDD's and cheaper motherboards, as no special controller chips are needed. Just a simple bus master controller. SCSI, on the other hand, uses a separate controller chip that is either embedded into motherboards or placed onto SCSI controller cards.When testing the Cheetah, I noticed that the drive was not only heavy but hit a whopping 56 degrees Celcius. This is why they state the need to have cooling for these 10K RPM drives. While being heavy and hot, it was the quietest drive that I have ever had the pleasure of using. I could not hear the drive above my system fan on the P4; and that is saying a bit.When all is said and done, SCSI HDD's aren't really for the average users. While fast, they cost nearly 2x more than a IDE HDD of the same size and run a lot hotter, requiring case cooling for the drive. Not all cases have cooling bays on the 3.5" drives.- ProsFastQuietSCSI InterfaceCheap for entry level server drive- ConsRather expensive for the average userRuns very hot.Rating - 8/10

Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:25 pm CDT

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