Quantum Corp.'s latest broadside in the more-hard-drive-for-less-cash wars is the Fireball Plus AS. And with a whopping 60GB of storage for only US$245, it's a mighty salvo indeed. Despite its low price, the AS is state of the art in every detail. A three-platter, 7200-rpm drive with the ATA/100 interface and a generous 2048KB of cache (many low-cost drives have only 512KB), it nearly equaled the trend-setting performance of Maxtor Corp.'s DiamondMax Plus 60, a drive that took home the Best Buy award in PC World magazine's March hard drive roundup, "Livin' Large." Both drives easily outstrip the performance of slower-spinning 5400-rpm drives found in midrange and value PCs. The Fireball is also quiet: In our subjective tests, we found it nearly impossible to hear the drive over the sound of our test PC's CPU fan.
We ran the Fireball Plus AS through the same battery of real-world tests used for our "Livin' Large" roundup: copying 166MB of individual files and folders from one folder to another; copying that same data as a single, zipped 166MB file; performing a file find operation; and running scripted, disk-intensive operations in Adobe Photoshop 5.0, Microsoft Access 97, and Corel Photo-Paint 8.
The speedy AS took just over 25 seconds to complete our file and folder copy test--slightly slower than the DiamondMax Plus's 22 seconds--and it copied the single large file in 21 seconds, the same time that the Maxtor drive took. The AS slightly outperformed the Maxtor on the Photoshop test (though it came in a bit behind a Western Digital model and two IBM drives). It placed fourth in a pack of six on the file find test, but was nonetheless a mere 5 percent slower than the number one Maxtor.
The Fireball Plus AS came out too late for inclusion in the roundup. But had it arrived earlier, it certainly would have given the DiamondMax Plus 60 serious competition for the number one spot.
Ontrack's bundled Disk Manager 2000 analyzes your system before installation and provides printable custom instructions for setup. It also lets you partition your drive and format it for the operating system you intend to use: Linux or Windows 95 98, NT, or 2000. In addition, the package includes a driver workaround that you can install if your system's BIOS does not support hard drives larger than 8.4GB. A Windows-based version of the program provides assistance if you are installing the Fireball AS as a second drive in a system that already has an OS installed. If you buy a bare version of the drive at a distributor such as Fry's Electronics or Micro Center, you can download the installation programs for free from Quantum's Web site.
The Fireball's setup documentation covers how to designate the drive as master or slave for single and multiple drive configurations, and it explains how to set your computer's BIOS so that the disk stores data most efficiently, on the off chance that your BIOS doesn't automatically detect the proper drive settings. If you need tips on installing a hard drive, check our July 2000 Upgrade Guide.
Quantum provides a three-year warranty and round-the-clock, toll-free automated and fax-back support. Toll-free live support is available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST.
The Fireball Plus AS is an exceptional all-around performer, and for the price--$4.08 per gigabyte--a real bargain.