1TB Evolves: New Drives, More Speed

Western Digital Caviar Black 1 TB (WD1001FALS)

Western Digital has been very active in creating products for what it deems to be important markets, as it has become obvious that a simple differentiation into server/desktop/mobile segments isn’t sufficient anymore. WD was the first drive maker to ship a 1 TB hard drive that was optimized for power consumption (check out the review). These drives are called Caviar Green and they spin at only 5,400 RPM to reach low power consumption numbers. However, Hitachi’s new Deskstar 7K1000.B provides much better performance, while still requiring less power than the 5,400 RM Caviar Green both in idle power and when running our streaming and workstation tests, so the Caviar Green clearly requires revision.

In addition to the Green, Western Digital has a lineup of mainstream drives called the Caviar Blue series and a family of performance drives (such as the WD1001FALS we’re testing) named Caviar Black. This is supposed to be the new high-end beast.

Top-Notch Features

Western Digital did everything possible to make sure that the new Black Edition dominates. It equipped the drive with a 32 MB cache, which might be responsible for some of the excellent performance results, a typical 7,200 RPM spindle speed, and a number of additional features. The data sheet mentions twin processors for increased performance, a motor shaft equipped with a mechanism to counter induced vibration (StableTrac), and a mechanism to prevent any contact between the heads and the surface (NoTouch ramp load technology). WD only offers 1 TB and 750 GB capacity points with this design.

Downsides: Temperature, Some Noise

The Caviar Black’s access noise is more noticeable than on other drives, although the drive will probably still be the quietest component in a high-end PC. Another side effect of this drive’s no-compromise performance is its surface temperature, which we measured at 117°F (47°C). This is about as high as the surface temperature of the 10,000 RPM WD1500 Raptor, but it is still considerably less than the temperatures we measured for the old Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000 with five platters.

Upsides: Performance, Performance, Performance

This hard drive is one of the quickest desktop drives we’ve seen passing our test suite. Its 12.2 ms access time is the quickest ever measured for a 3.5” 7,200 RPM desktop drive, and this dominance continues in the I/O benchmarks. The new WD Caviar Black outperforms any other 7,200 RPM drive in terms of I/O performance, and the difference is significant especially in the database and file server profiles. Its only shortcoming is throughout, as Samsung and Seagate provide better maximum performance. The Caviar Black provides a fast 106 MB/s maximum read/write transfer rate, but it cannot beat the Samsung Spinpoint F1, which has been dominating this area for almost 9 months.

High Performance Ensures Great Efficiency Despite Average Power Consumption

The efficiency test results are pretty interesting, as the Caviar Black is a great example of performance being important to reach good performance per watt. The Caviar Black is not a power saver. In fact, it requires more idle power than the Deskstar 7K1000.B. Despite this, it is still more economical than Seagate’s Barracuda 7200.11, the regular version of Samsung’s Spinpoint F1 and the aged Deskstar 7K1000 in most of the tests. The power requirements in our two efficiency testing profiles, which include workstation-type I/O and streaming read operations, finished with only average results, but this drive’s performance is actually high enough to have it come out on top for the streaming read test and workstation I/O test when performance is put into context with power consumption.