hard drive history

size still matters: is there ever enough?

Seagate Medalist 4500

Photo: Red Hill.

Seagate Medalist 4500 Family

The last of the line. These were the last mainstream drive to be made with thin-film head technology, and the last 3.5 inch drive to spin at 4500 RPM. We had been expecting these to go end-of-life for quite a while before they did, as their once-respectable performance was getting further and further off the pace while the months rolled by.

The Medalist 4500 was never intended to be a high-speed drive, just a cost-effective product for the entry-level market. It competed with Quantum's Bigfoot and a number of little-known drives from the minor makers, not with the 5400 RPM mainstream units. And while we thought the Medalist 4500 was sluggish by comparison with a Deskstar or a Fireball, it was certainly faster than a Bigfoot!

We sold only a modest number of Medalist 4500s, though the 2.1GB ST32122A was popular for a while in mid-1997 before we switched to the much faster Western Digital 2.0 and 2.1GB drives. The cost difference between a Medalist 4500 and a 5400 RPM drive was very small by then; less than $10. (The original versions of these — same model numbers but ending in zero — came out supporting ATA Mode 4; the Ultra ATA interface was a running change.)

Footnote: February 2001. Having completely disappeared off the market for a couple of years, 4500 RPM class drives become quite common again for a while, with Quantum's Fireball LCT series (4400 RPM units) and a short lived Western Digital model too. It should be no surprise to find that they were poor performers, though the LCTs with their remarkably good seek performance stood up better than they ought to have done, largely because their entry level competitors — the 5400 RPM Seagate U Series drives — were themselves such unlovely slugs.

Postscript: July 2005. The Fireball LCT didn't last well. Over the last several years, we have seen a surprisingly large number of failed LCTs, nearly always with the same fault: a burned-out chip on the board. It's always the same chip, and it is immediately visible: a good old-fashioned let-the-smoke-out sort of failure.

Data rate87.8 Mbit/secSpin rate4500 RPM
Seek time12.5msBuffer128k
Platter capacity1.05GBInterfacemode 4 or ATA-33
Read channelRLLHead technologythin film
ST32122A2.11GB4 heads***
ST33232A3.22GB6 heads*
ST34342A4.32GB8 heads