IBM UltraStar 9LZX 9.1GB Ultra2 SCSI Hard Drive

Faster than a Speeding Bullet

UltraStar 9LZX 9.1GB Ultra2 SCSI Hard Drive


IBM Storage Systems Division

3605 Highway 52 N

Rochester, MN 55901

(888) IBM-5214

For most videographers building their own home video editing systems, the one component that usually isn’t up-to-speed is the hard drive. Today’s inexpensive Ultra-ATA drives are fast enough for some video applications, but there are times (like when you’re working with uncompressed digital video) when you need the fastest possible hard drive you can get your video-editing fingers on. It’s a good thing that IBM made the UltraStar 9LZX, a 10,020RPM SCSI drive that can really move those bits and bytes. We tested the UltraStar on our test system (Pentium II 350MHz, 192MB SDRAM, Matrox Marvel G200 video card, Canopus DVRaptor IEEE 1394 capture card and an Adaptec SCSI adapter) and edited video using Adobe Premiere 5.1.

Installing the UltraStar

Installing the IBM UltraStar 9LZX is about the same as installing any other hard drive. It uses the SCSI interface, so you’ll need to have either a SCSI adapter on your motherboard, or an expansion card. If your system already uses SCSI, installing the UltraStar will consist of adjusting a few jumpers and plugging in some cables. If you don’t already use SCSI drives on your computer, installing the UltraStar will take a little extra work, even if you have a SCSI adapter in your computer. It isn’t that hard though, so don’t let installation worries scare you away from this simple, yet valuable upgrade.


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After putting the drive in the drive bay, setting the jumpers and plugging-in the cables, you’ll need to FDISK and format the hard drive. When you run FDISK, make sure that you give your new hard drive a 32-bit file system, so that you don’t have to partition the drive into 2GB chunks. You can do this with newer versions of Windows 95, or any version of Windows 98 or Windows NT. Formatting the drive is simple and shouldn’t give anyone capable of physically installing the drive any trouble.

How Fast Do Your Platters Spin?

Let’s just get one thing straight about the IBM UltraStar 9LZX: it is fast, real fast. It’s platters spin at over 10,000rpm, 10,020rpm to be exact. Although the rotational speed of the platters doesn’t always translate into sustained data transfer rates (the real performance meter for hard drives), it is indicative of the speed of this drive. When it actually comes to performance specifications, the IBM UltraStar has a superb 15MB/sec sustained data transfer rate (well above the 5MB/sec required for video). Not only that, but it has bursts of data transfer up to 30MB/sec. This drive isn’t quite fast enough to handle uncompressed video by itself, but if you’re looking to build a system to edit uncompressed video, like a NewTek Video Toaster NT, then a pair of UltraStars in a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Drives) configuration would be right on the mark. If you are building a nonlinear editing system (NLE) that uses compressed video (like most NLE systems), then the UltraStar is plenty fast. The UltraStar had plenty of speed to keep up with the data being sent by the DVRaptor (reviewed in the August ’99 issue of Videomaker).

The Downside of the UltraStar

For some systems, a hard drive as fast as the UltraStar might be overkill. Not that overkill is a bad thing, but you could use less-expensive drives on a lot of nonlinear editing systems and have no loss in overall video-editing performance. One thing about sticking with SCSI when a lot of inexpensive editing systems are switching to Ultra-ATA interface drives is that with SCSI, you can have more hard drives on your system than you can with IDE drives (like Ultra-ATA drives). With IDE drives, you can have only two drives on each bus and most computers will only support two IDE buses. That leaves you with a total of only four hard drives and/or CD-ROMs on your computer. With SCSI you can connect seven devices (15 with wide SCSI), allowing you to add more drives to your system, without fear of running out of buses to hook them into.

Final Thoughts

The IBM UltraStar 9LZX is one fast hard drive. At $573 it is more expensive than the Ultra-ATA drives of the same size that are fast enough for video editing, but it is also reliable. If you have a video editing application that requires blazing fast speed, putting a pair of UltraStars into a RAID would be a speedy storage solution. If it’s a super fast hard drive you want, the IBM UltraStar 9LZX delivers. -LL

Tech Specs: UltraStar 9LZX 9.1GB Ultra2 SCSI Hard Drive

Type: Internal

Interface: SCSI 2 Ultra-wide

Storage Capacity: 9.1 GB

Rotational Speed: 10,020 RPM

Buffer: 4MB

Average Read Seek Time: 5.3ms

Minimum Sustained Transfer Rate: 15.2MB/s

Minimum Instantaneous Transfer Rate: 30.5MB/s

Dimensions: 1 (height) x 4 (width) x 5.57 (depth) inches

Weight: 1.5 pounds


  • fast
  • fairly affordable
  • can have many SCSI drives on same system


  • most home video editors don’t need a drive this fast


A super fast hard drive that’s affordable.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.