Quantum Fireball EX

Quantum Fireball EX  HDD - Overview

In the fast paced world of computers, users are constantly faced with faster microprocessors, increasingly large file sizes, multitasking operating systems, higher bandwidth buses, higher performance memory, etc. -- the need for speed saturates today's desktop systems.

Quantum's Fireball™ line of hard disk drives have always led the way in performance for the desktop system and their EX platform maintains the status quo completely.  While SCSI interface drives have consistently led the field as far as performance, the high cost of the drive as well as the additional expense of the necessary adapter card have kept SCSI a bit out of reach.   Lower and medium priced IDE drives, on the other hand, with the rapid advancements in bus mastering and Ultra ATA/DMA 33, now provide all desktop users with an excellent price to performance ratio.   Fireball EX is Quantum's current solution for desktop user's with a need for performance and an eye toward value and reliability.

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The Fireball EX platform drives provide cutting edge  performance and  with Quantum's exclusive Shock Protection System™ (SPS™) solution, increased reliability. The Fireball EX platform design builds upon their previous generation - Fireball EL - resulting in better overall performance.  Featuring an internal data rate of up to 187 megabits (Mb) per second, the Fireball EX drives also have a 512 kilobyte (KB) buffer that is twice as large as many competitive drives. 

With the rapid growth of multimedia applications, graphics programs, and even business applications, the need for greater performance and capacity on the desktop has grown exponentially. The Fireball EX meets this demand with a wide range of capacities, from 3.2 to 12.7 gigabytes (GB). The result is an ideal balance of massive storage and blazing performance

Quantum Quality and Reliability

The reliable performance of Quantum's Fireball drives has been proven in hundreds of thousands of PCs worldwide. In addition, Quantum's revolutionary SPS (Shock Protection System) adds another layer of protection and reliability for both OEMs, VARs, and end users. That's why they confidently back every Fireball EX drive with a full three-year warranty.

Advanced Shock Protection System Solution
One of the leading causes of hard drive failure is mistreatment during handling and integration. Unfortunately, weeks or months may pass before problems develop. The Fireball EX drives combat this problem with a Shock Protection System that covers all critical points of potential failure. For systems integrators, SPS means fewer returns and more satisfied customers. For customers, it means one less thing to worry about.


New Shock Protection System (SPS) – Advanced mechanical system eliminates potential points of failure during handling and integration

Advanced performance – Quantum-patented Ultra ATA interface transfers up to 33 MB/sec, Multiword DMA Mode 2 support, Multiple AutoRead™/ Multiple AutoWrite™ technology

Fast ATA-4 support

512K buffer with 397kb adaptive segmentation cache, Look-Ahead DisCache® feature with continuous prefetch, and WriteCache™ write-buffering capabilities

Fastest data reading – Advanced MR heads and EPRML read channel technology

Blazing response time – 9.5 ms average seek time with a 5,400 RPM rotational speed

Solid reliability – Advanced embedded servo positioning system, 224-bit Reed Solomon double-burst ECC on the fly, multiple AutoRead™/multiple AutoWrite™ firmware, and AutoTransfer™ support

Enhanced performance – Adaptive segmented buffer, DisCache® and WriteCache®, AT-Bus Cable Select™

Dependability – Full three-year warranty

Quantum Fireball EX Family HDDs

  3.2 5.1 6.4 10.2 12.7
Form Factor 3.5 inch
(low profile)
3.5 inch
(low profile)
3.5 inch
(low profile)
3.5 inch
(low profile)
3.5 inch
(low profile)
Interface Ultra ATA Ultra ATA Ultra ATA Ultra ATA Ultra ATA
Formatted Capacity (MB*) 3,228 5,130 6,448 10,262 12,750
Disk Drive Configuration
Recording Surfaces 2 3 4 6 8
ATA Logical  
  Cylinders 6256 10502 13328 19885 24704
  Heads 16 15 15 16 16
  Sectors 63 63 63 63 63

Physical Specifications

Dimensions in inches


  Length 5.75
  Height 1.0
Weight lbs.


Performance Specifications

Typical Seek Times (ms)***

  Average 9.5
  Track-to-Track 2
  Full Stroke 18
Average Rotational Latency (ms) 5.56
Rotational Speed (RPM) 5,400
Maximum Internal Data Rate (Mb/sec) Up to 187

Burst Transfer Rates (MB/sec)

  Ultra ATA 33.3
  PIO Mode 4 16.6
  DMA Mode 2 16.6
Buffer Size**** 512kb

Environmental Limits
  Temperature (oC) 5 to 55
  Non-Condensing Humidity (%) 10 to 90
  Temperature (oC) -40 to 65
  Non-Condensing Humidity (%) 5 to 95
  Idle Sound (typ)
    Pressure (dBA)
    Power (bels)

Power Specifications
Nominal Voltage (v) +5/+12
Voltage Margin (%) ±5/±10
Typical Power Draw in Watts
  Idle 6.0
  Operating§ 11.0
Peak Current (mA on +5V/+12V) 700/1,700

Reliability Specifications

Start/Stop Cycles, Ambient 50,000
Nonrecoverable Data Errors (per bits read) <1 per 100 trillion
Warranty***** 3 yrs.

§Operating is defined as 40% seeking, 30% reading, 10% writing, and 20% idle.
*Quantum defines a megabyte (MB) as 106 or 1,000,000 bytes.
**LBA addressing required above 8.4 GB.
***Seek times are at nominal conditions and include settling for read.
****Upper 96 KB used for firmware.
*****This warranty is standard when products are purchased directly through authorized Quantum distributors/dealers. Unless otherwise agreed, a one-year warranty is provided to all OEMs purchasing directly from Quantum. End-user warranties provided by computer manufacturers may vary.

Installation and Setup

Testbed for Quantum Fireball EX 12.7G HDD

Mainboard Iwill XA100 Plus
Cache 512k L2
Processor AMD K6-2 350 MHz
Memory 128MB PC100 (Viking PE16642U4SN3-2226)
Graphics Adapter AOpen PA70 Savage3D  8MB AGP
Operating System Windows 98

Installing and configuring the Quantum Fireball EX is simplicity itself.  Quantum, and their manufacturing partner MKE, have once again proven their attention to detail in these robotically assembled drives.  A visual inspection of the unit can only increase your confidence in the reliability of this unit   The 3.5in form factor drive fits into the same drive bay as a typical floppy drive.  Jumper configurations are available for using the device as a Master only or Slave, cable select and as a Master with Slave. As with any type of mechanical drive, you will want to make sure that the screws are snug but don't overtighten.  The power supply and IDE connectors are easy to identify and connect and once this is accomplished you are all setup.

Although virtually every HDD comes formatted from the manufacturer, it is still a good idea and with such a large drive you will most likely want to setup partitions.  This can be quickly and easily accomplished with the accompanying Ontrack Disk Manager disk utility program Quantum provides on an included floppy disk.  For testing purposes I chose to format the drive without partitions. The next step is simply to load the operating system and software for your programs.


With the release of Winbench 99 we are now more than ever able to determine real world performance for hard disk drives in a given system.  Using Winbench and Adaptec's ThreadMark you can truly get a feel for the performance of this drive.  The scores below reflect the average over 5 runs of each test...

Winbench 99 Disk Tests

AMD K6-2 350MHz

WinBench 99/Business Disk WinMark 99 (Thousand Bytes/Sec)


WinBench 99/High-End Disk WinMark 99 (Thousand Bytes/Sec)


WinBench 99/Disk Access Time (Milliseconds)


WinBench 99/Disk CPU Utilization (Percent Used)


WinBench 99/Disk Playback/Bus:Overall (Thousand Bytes/Sec)


WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:AVS/Express 3.4 (Thousand Bytes/Sec)


WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:FrontPage 98 (Thousand Bytes/Sec)


WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:MicroStation SE (Thousand Bytes/Sec)


WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:Overall (Thousand Bytes/Sec)


WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:Photoshop 4.0 (Thousand Bytes/Sec)


WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:Premiere 4.2 (Thousand Bytes/Sec)


WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:Sound Forge 4.0 (Thousand Bytes/Sec)


WinBench 99/Disk Playback/HE:Visual C++ 5.0 (Thousand Bytes/Sec)


WinBench 99/Disk Transfer Rate:Beginning (Thousand Bytes/Sec)


WinBench 99/Disk Transfer Rate:End (Thousand Bytes/Sec)



Adaptec's ThreadMark

Data Transfer Rate (MB/Sec) 8.87
Average CPU Utilization 44.87

awardblu.gif (5629 bytes) Conclusion
With today's higher speed processors, memory and buses, upgrading you hard drive can really improve your overall system's performance.  The Fireball EX platform is an outstanding drive and shows performance increases of up to 45% over Quantum's former Fireball SE platform.  And although Quantum has released the specification for it new Fireball CR platform, whose new Ultra ATA/66 interface could improve performance even more, the EX is the one to buy for Super7 users. 

The Ultra ATA/66 interface will require a mainboard upgrade for most of us.  The EX on the other hand is ready to go now (in fact, I believe the CR and EX drives are identical except for the interface) and virtually eliminates disk waiting time in most applications

The Super 7 Hardware Guide absolutely recommends this drive to anyone seeking to upgrade at this time.  With plenty of space and an amazing throughput rate, this is the one to buy for the performance minded user .  Current pricing and availability via the internet are outstanding with costs as low as $130.00 for a 3.2G model ranging to below $300.00 for the 12.7G model.  Quantum has once again proven its ability to produce the very best available hard drive for the money. and with their reputation for excellent end-user support, you can buy this drive with confidence. - 11/20/98

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