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The Underdog: Western Digital Caviar Blue--500 GB

A Quartet Of 500 GB HDDs Under $60
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WD’s mainstream hard drive family is called the Caviar Blue and is available in various capacities between 250 GB and 750 GB. We received the 500 GB mainstream model, which comes at a standard 7,200 RPM spindle speed and SATA/300 with NCQ. Its 16 MB cache memory falls between the cache offerings from Samsung and Seagate, and is on pair with those of Hitachi.

Unbalanced Performance

You might be disappointed if you look at the throughput results first, as this drive has the lowest maximum transfer rate of our contestants at 95.8 MB/s. Samsung is slightly faster, while Seagate and Hitachi reach more than 100 MB/s. The drive reaches mixed results in the PCMark05 application benchmark, where it is fast at the Windows XP Startup section, but loses in File Writing due to its sub-average throughput. However, the access time and I/O performance of this drive are the best in this roundup.

Low Temperature, Unbalanced Efficiency

We also measured low surface temperatures after the standardized hour of drive activity; only Hitachi’s Deskstar 7K1000.B reached a slightly lower temperature. At the same time, idle power consumption was rather high (6.1 W), while the average power required for our streaming reads and workstation I/O testing was very acceptable, and not too far away from the idle power result.

The drive actually does best in workstation I/O performance per watt, thanks to its high I/O performance paired with acceptable power requirements. Yet it isn’t particularly efficient in terms of performance per watt in the streaming reads benchmark, most likely because of the throughput drawbacks.

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  • 10 Hide
    restrain_oligopolies , February 23, 2009 2:11 PM
    Toms Hardware Tests What It Knows, Not What is Important: RELIABILITY.
    Toms Hardware used software to test these hard drives.
    After all, every computer jock knows how to run software.

    But what is important?
    These drives all run within 10% of each other for software applications.
    So, should I buy the marginally faster drive?
    I don't care about these infinitesimals.
    I have had several had drives fail -- hard drive failure is catastrophic,
    while infinitesimal increases in speed I virtually will not notice.
    Test against catastrophy!
    Rather than use software skills, get somebody with electrical engineering skills!
    Restart those hard drives every 20 seconds for 7 days -- that's 30,000 starts.
    Also, restart hard drives before they have a chance to stop -- 1 second after power down.
    Stuff lots of transactions into the hard drive, then immediately cut the power
    -- this was the problem with tens of thousands of Seagate 7200.11 disk drives.
    Run the hard drive in constant transactions for 7 days -- can it handle this.
    Run the drive in constant transactions with the hard drive in the open air
    (no case, no fan) -- what temperature results, does the drive fail after 7 days (mine failed).
    Can the drive really endure physical forces, like those I give my drives every week carrying them in a brief case for offsite storage -- do some constant physical handling tests.
    Hard drives are like light bulbs producing various lumens, then we ask what their lifetime is (750 hours, 1500 hours, 30000 hours) -- in one day, as I moved my lamp around the family room, two of my 1500 hour light bulbs failed in 15 minutes each.
    I do not want my hard drive failing within a year as 3 of my home hard drives failed this year.
Other Comments
  • 8 Hide
    turboflame , February 23, 2009 5:27 AM
    Why no 7200.12? It can be found for the same price as the 7200.11
  • 1 Hide
    ifko_pifko , February 23, 2009 6:05 AM
    A small mistake: I believe this Samsung drive features 16MB cache.

    Niece review, but I would also like to see a comparison of noise levels. :-)
  • 3 Hide
    cjl , February 23, 2009 6:08 AM
    They didn't rename the 11 - the 12 has a 500GB platter.
  • -1 Hide
    Ephebus , February 23, 2009 6:25 AM
    I owned for a few weeks an NVIDIA 570 SLI based Foxconn motherboard (N570SM2AA-8EKRS2H) which wouldn't work with my Western Digital Caviar WD5000AAKS with NCQ (native command queue) enabled for the drive. Windows would lock up at random times, and once WD's OWN diagnostics utility simply corrupted most of the data on the drive while testing it. With NCQ turned off the drive would work perfectly. I presented the problem to all three parties (Foxconn, NVIDIA and WD), and none of them was able to provide a solution and really didn't seem to care. My other two SATA-2 drives (a 320 GB Seagate Barracuda and a 160 GB Samsung Spinpoint) would work on the motherboard with NCQ on with no issues at all.
  • 9 Hide
    Anonymous , February 23, 2009 6:35 AM
    Here's something worth considering: since that firmware issue popped up, it's been very hard to impossible to get help from Seagate's tech support. Many people see issues with regards to the update and can't get any proper response. They don't respond for weeks, then send an irrelevant response (if they respond at all) and close your case without further notice. Just check out Seagate's forums - they're filled with people who are stuck with this...
  • 0 Hide
    Ezence , February 23, 2009 8:48 AM
    Just one question, what happened with the samsung drive in transfer diagrams? Is it really supposed to be like that?
  • 3 Hide
    nerrawg , February 23, 2009 10:46 AM
    Love this concluding statement: "None of the drives is perfect", hehe, well that happens to us all, just a little bit of Cleetus coming through.
    Good review - liked the personifications of the different HDs - made it a bit more enjoyable to read about then the inanimate and dry HDs I'm used to. :) 
    I think I remember hearing something about the WD640s being much faster than the 500s, something about a triple platter or something. I could be wrong, but their only 15 bucks more and if they really are faster then that sounds like the best deal.
  • 3 Hide
    Siffy , February 23, 2009 11:11 AM
    turboflameWhy no 7200.12? It can be found for the same price as the 7200.11


    $60 is exactly what I paid for my 7200.12. I even got free shipping on it from the egg.

    joeman42Probably because it wasn't around when the drives were tested. For all we know at this point they may have just did a rename of the 11 to gloss over the stigma.


    It's been out long enough they should have at least one. I've had mine for a month now and it's a great drive. I replaced a 150GB Raptor with it because I just couldn't stand the noise anymore. The single platter 7200.12 is nearly silent, just as fast, and much cooler.

    Ambient temp: 24.5C/76F
    Drive's reported temp: 30C/86F
    but mine's idle right now. The article doesn't specifically say when they measured drive temps. It was cool to the touch half way through the 16 hour low level block test that I ran the first night I had it.
  • 5 Hide
    jwl3 , February 23, 2009 2:09 PM
    I think we're seriously going overboard here with this idiotic "green" theme. I mean, c'mon, the average energy usage for HD's is like 10 watts max, and the difference between a 5400 rpm and 7200 rpm HD is probably 3 watts or less. Are you willing to sacrifice that performance just to feel smug about how you're "saving the planet?"

    The same moron who gets the 5400 rpm drive to save power probably has a terrible PSU that eat up 30 more watts than it should.

  • 10 Hide
    restrain_oligopolies , February 23, 2009 2:11 PM
    Toms Hardware Tests What It Knows, Not What is Important: RELIABILITY.
    Toms Hardware used software to test these hard drives.
    After all, every computer jock knows how to run software.

    But what is important?
    These drives all run within 10% of each other for software applications.
    So, should I buy the marginally faster drive?
    I don't care about these infinitesimals.
    I have had several had drives fail -- hard drive failure is catastrophic,
    while infinitesimal increases in speed I virtually will not notice.
    Test against catastrophy!
    Rather than use software skills, get somebody with electrical engineering skills!
    Restart those hard drives every 20 seconds for 7 days -- that's 30,000 starts.
    Also, restart hard drives before they have a chance to stop -- 1 second after power down.
    Stuff lots of transactions into the hard drive, then immediately cut the power
    -- this was the problem with tens of thousands of Seagate 7200.11 disk drives.
    Run the hard drive in constant transactions for 7 days -- can it handle this.
    Run the drive in constant transactions with the hard drive in the open air
    (no case, no fan) -- what temperature results, does the drive fail after 7 days (mine failed).
    Can the drive really endure physical forces, like those I give my drives every week carrying them in a brief case for offsite storage -- do some constant physical handling tests.
    Hard drives are like light bulbs producing various lumens, then we ask what their lifetime is (750 hours, 1500 hours, 30000 hours) -- in one day, as I moved my lamp around the family room, two of my 1500 hour light bulbs failed in 15 minutes each.
    I do not want my hard drive failing within a year as 3 of my home hard drives failed this year.
  • 5 Hide
    philosofool , February 23, 2009 2:22 PM
    Wow, Tom's does a review of something I will need and can afford!

    Sarcasm aside: thanks for reviewing some mainstream parts for mainstream consumers. As a DIY computer guy with a 1050x1680 monitor and a small budget for a computer, it's nice to see review of parts I need to get. While the occasional foray into $500 graphics cards in multi-card setups is a fun academic exercise, it's not really relevant to my life and doesn't inform my decision making. I'd much rather know about $200 graphics cards.

    By the way, Tom's should make a point of including 1 dual core or 1 quad core processor as a "control group" any time you're doing a proc review. As I approach my next computer, I would like to know how much performance the quad core price premium is worth. However, most processor reviews just do dual core or quad core, since they are in the same performance segment. I want more price segment information!
  • 1 Hide
    snarfies , February 23, 2009 2:25 PM
    Where are these "under $60" prices derrived from? The 500gb Caviar Blue STARTS at $80 on Pricewatch today (2/23/09). The Hitachi Deskstar isn't even listed.
  • 3 Hide
    lamorpa , February 23, 2009 2:55 PM
    The article is irrelevant without the Seagate 7200.12. Why bother? It's like including a review of hybrid sedans without the 2009 Prius.
  • 0 Hide
    cadder , February 23, 2009 3:09 PM
    As for space required, I've been collecting programs and other crap on my computers for over 20 years. I'm into digital photography, I have a good number of my CD's in itunes, but I'm not storing movies or TV programs. I just built a new machine and transferred all of my data to it, a total of less than 100GB, and some of that I could get rid of if I really wanted to. So why would I need even a 500GB drive? My rule used to be if I upgraded drives I would get 4 times the space I was currently using, so I might be happy with a 320GB drive. But at the low end you don't save much money doing that, and the 640WD Black has gotten a lot of recommendations due to its speed that I bought one of those. About 2 weeks ago I paid $70 for it at newegg.
    As for the slower green drives, I bought 2 of those for my NAS, since drive speed is not the limiting factor with a NAS, and I worry more about heat output in that little case with its tiny cooling fan.
  • -1 Hide
    seboj , February 23, 2009 3:22 PM
    Quote:
    I do not want my hard drive failing within a year as 3 of my home hard drives failed this year.


    Sounds like a personal problem. You should check that out. :p 
  • 2 Hide
    Area51 , February 23, 2009 5:19 PM
    when will you update the ssd charts?
  • 0 Hide
    jwl3 , February 23, 2009 5:27 PM
    snarfies:

    Someplace called newegg.com? Poor saps been buying his stuff from Best Buy, Circuit City, and uggggh Radio Shack. HAHAHAHAHA.


  • 1 Hide
    snarfies , February 23, 2009 5:52 PM
    jwl3snarfies: Someplace called newegg.com? Poor saps been buying his stuff from Best Buy, Circuit City, and uggggh Radio Shack. HAHAHAHAHA.


    The Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.B isn't listed on Newegg, wiseass. Believe it or not, there are SEVERAL THOUSAND other hardware vendors out there besides Newegg, Best Buy, and Circuit City. Checking Newegg (and Google Shopping) where such prices are collected is not unreasonable.
  • 0 Hide
    manuelcore , February 23, 2009 6:11 PM
    Have Hitachi solved their "DeathStar" series? Mine failed after 1/2 year...
  • 0 Hide
    dmv915 , February 23, 2009 8:24 PM
    snarfiesWhere are these "under $60" prices derrived from? The 500gb Caviar Blue STARTS at $80 on Pricewatch today (2/23/09). The Hitachi Deskstar isn't even listed.


    Actually your wrong the 500gb Caviar blue STARTS AT $65, SHIPPED.
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