hard drive history

2000: sea change

Seagate U10

Photo by kind permission of Seagate.

Seagate U10 Family

On paper, the U8 replacement was exactly what you'd expect: a little bigger, perhaps a little faster, everything else stayed the same. Once again it came in the black rubberised anti-shock coating and, like all Seagate drives since about 1999, shipped in Seagate's clear plastic anti-shock drive container — an excellent innovation, by the way, and one that must have reduced handling damage costs significantly — very few workshops are as careful with hard drive handling procedures as we are.

The 20GB U10 finally gave our best-selling Samsung V1020 20GB drive some direct competition — there were very few 20GB drives around at that time, despite it being a popular category. It was interesting to compare the two drives from the point of view of the purchasing manager. The Samsung already had a superb reliability record, but we expected (and at least to start with got) no less from the Seagate. On paper, performance was so close to equal that it didn't matter; unlike the 7200 RPM drives, availability was rarely a problem early in the year, though Seagate ran into major component supply problems later on which left them out of stock for a long, long time. That left only price, and even there there was little to choose.

In practice, we strongly favoured the Samsung here at Red Hill, and sold it in vastly greater numbers. Despite the Seagate's good on-paper specs, the SpinPoints were decisively faster, both on benchmark tests in the workshop and in real-world, hands-on use. Ultimate speed is not what drives in this pice category wre are all about, of course. Nevertheless, Seagate could have tried a little harder with the U10. It was a capable, reliable drive, but should really have improved on the old U8 performance level — which itself was not outstanding, even for an entry-level drive. In reality, despite Seagate's wildly optimistic marketing department claims of an 8.9ms seek time for it, U 10s actually delivered seek time in the 12ms range, and the new model was a clear step backwards. The disparity between the claimed seek time and the actual, on-test performance was probably largely due to Seagate's need to supply cheap drives to the major OEMs to sell in name-brand supermarket systems, where features on a tick-list mean everything and actual performance means nothing. And it was in this market that the U 10, like all the U Series drives, was an outstanding success.

Data rate308 Mbit/secSpin rate5400 RPM
Measured seek time12.5msBuffer512k
Platter capacity10.2GBInterfaceATA-66
ST-310212A10.2GB2 GMR heads**
ST-315323A15.3GB3 GMR heads
ST-320423A15.4GB3 GMR heads*