500GB Per Platter: Three Next-Gen 7,200 RPM Hard Drives


Both the Samsung Spinpoint F3 and the Western Digital Caviar Black introduce a new level of performance for 3.5” desktop hard drives by increasing throughput from the 100 to 120 MB/s up to 140 MB/s. Both drives are capable of delivering higher throughput than a WD VelociRaptor, and WD’s 2TB Caviar Black and RE4 are even faster at PCMark Vantage, which runs the access patterns of popular applications.

However, let’s keep matters in perspective. Neither drive can compete with the latest flash SSDs when it comes to application performance. If you really want the fastest system drive possible, be prepared to spend a few hundred bucks and go for an SSD. Otherwise you’ll find a great, more cost-effective compromise in the latest 3.5” drives.

The new 500GB Samsung Spinpoint F3 delivers similar throughput to the WDs but falls behind when it comes to access time and application performance. Its real strength is low power consumption, low surface temperature, and great efficiency measured in performance per watt. Although 500GB don’t sound very cutting-edge, this drive represents one of the best options for low-cost storage that delivers high performance at acceptable capacities. Samsung will follow up with 1TB and 1.5TB drives in the coming weeks.

Western Digital did everything right. The company is now the first to offer 2TB hard drives at 7,200 RPM, and it seizes the performance crown in the desktop hard drive segment. We found the Caviar Black 2TB to have the highest throughput, quickest access time, and best I/O performance ever seen on 3.5” mainstream drive. Plus we have the RE4, a more robust, 24x7 variant of the Black.

Admittedly, this pair’s power consumption can’t compete with true power efficient drives, but our measurements still prove that the latest 2TB Black Edition doesn’t require more power than its 1TB predecessor while delivering more capacity and better performance. Therefore the 2TB WD Caviar Black drive earns our Recommended Buy Award. Be advised that this recommendation only applies to the 2TB version, since the characteristics of other capacities may vary.