Cheetah Review Page Head Cheetah
Cheetah/PCI SCSI Upgrade Review
Published: August 1997
By Mike B.
This article was written in 1997, since then there are far faster drives and controllers (even IDE based). Check the Storage Topics Page for the latest SCSI & IDE reviews and articles.

= Review Summary =
  PROS: Fastest Hard Disk on the market as of Aug. 1997
  APS Drive mtg bracket & Cooling Fans help keep drive cool.
  Easy installation in Apple Tower systems (85/86/95/9600).

  CONS: Expensive, fans may not last.

FWB Benchmark Test Comparisons   Applications Test Comparisons
Cheetah Ultra-Wide SCSI Drive Boosts Overall System Performance

Adding a high-performance Ultra-Wide SCSI Drive (especially a 10,000 RPM Seagate Cheetah) and controller is one way to address a gaping hole in most stock Apple Macs. Hard disk speed is a key factor of total system performance, and most OEM drives are far from stressing even the stock 10MB/sec SCSI (for more on SCSI types, see the FAQ). For this review no corners were cut - the drive is the fastest SCSI drive currently on the market as of the date of this review - the 10,000 rpm Seagate Cheetah 4LP Ultra-Wide model. (And unlike the CPU Wars, everyone in the industry agrees that the Cheetah is number one.) [Update: the new IBM 10,000 RPM ZX drives are said to be as fast or faster than the Cheetah.] The drive is paired with an ATTO PCI SCSI controller and the APS 3-Fan drive cooler and Apple drive mounting sled to make sure the fast Cheetah is kept cool.

For APS drive sled fits Apple PowerMac 85/86/95/9600 systems but not later Apple G3 or 9600/8600 models.

Easy to Install:
Installation consists of attaching the Wide-SCSI cable to the drive, routing it through the 8500 drive bay and down to the PCI slot area, sliding in the drive (after mounting the Apple drive "sled", the drive snaps in place), inserting the PCI SCSI card, and connecting the SCSI and Power cables. Install the software and you're done.

Since I've covered the installation of a PCI SCSI card previously (in painstaking detail), I'll not go into great detail here. Suffice it to say the entire installation took me less than 1/2 hour from start to finish, and the results were very satisfying. A illustrated guide to installing the drive and card follows on the next page of this review.

What you need for the total upgrade:

  • Seagate Cheetah 4LP Ultra/Wide Drive
  • APS 3-Fan cooler (
  • Apple drive mtg sled (see
  • ATTO PCI SCSI Controller (see the SCSI features page for other options)
  • Wide SCSI Ribbon Cable (included with some SCSI card kits)
  • Disk Driver (included with ATTO card but you may try Apple's Drive setup)

Prices change too often to list but check the usual sources for SCSI drives,,,, and before you buy.

Performance Tests:
Regardless of the benchmark results, the minute you start using this drive you're in for a treat. The Cheetah's performance in normal use really put a grin on my face - I'll hate to see this drive go back.

As shown on the benchmark results page - the Cheetah left even the fast Barracuda far behind on the FWB tests. Comparisons to the stock Apple 8500 drive in MacBench 4.0 at disk cache settings from 512k to 4meg are also shown. Overall, the Cheetah delivered the highest scores I've seen from a non-RAID system.

Photoshop and finder tests also showed significant gains with the faster Cheetah drive. (You must change Photoshop Preferences settings to use the faster drive as the scratch drive(s) and restart Photoshop for changes to take effect.).

Thermal Tests:
Seagate has published cooling recommendations on the Cheetah drives, but with the supplied APS 3 Fan Cooler, drive temperature was never a concern.

The Cheetah ran much cooler in the 8500 than my Barracuda, even after extensive MacBench test runs that had the drive continously exercised - far more than it would be in normal use for the same time period.

Seagate Cheetah Reference Information:
(Links later removed after they no longer worked)


I welcome comments about this review or product.

Ready for More?
Show me how you installed it!

No, take me back Home.

Index of Cheetah Upgrade Pages

Intro | Instl. Overview | Drive Install | Card Install | Software instl.

= Benchmark Results =     = Photoshop Results =

= or =

Copyright ©, 1997. All brand or product names mentioned here are properties of their respective companies.