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Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB Hard Drive Review

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AkG

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Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB Hard Drive Review​




Manufacturer Page: WD Caviar Black 1 TB SATA Hard Drives ( WD1001FALS )
Model Number: WD1001FALS
TechWiki Info: Caviar Black 1TB
Price: Click Here to Compare Prices
Warranty: 5 years



While Solid State Drives are sexy, new and considered “high performance”, the truth of the matter is they are also bleeding edge technology and in some cases may in fact be slower than the more mundane alternative. More importantly, not everyone has the money or even the interest in SSDs right now and in fact most people want a drive which is large, fast and cheap. All of which are relative strengths of the old fashioned platter based Hard Disk Drive. We here at HWC believe that knowledge is power, and the more knowledge you can get before spending your hard earned money, the better.

In this vein we have decided to branch out (or more like go back to our roots) and deliver to you the detailed reviews of some kick arse Hard Disk Drives. The good folks over at Western Digital have been so kind as to help get the ball rolling with one of their Black Edition drives. To be precise we will be looking at the new Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1 TB beast. This drive not only has 32MB of onboard cache but also boasts a dual controller design. At this point it is the largest Black Edition drive listed on WD site and is widely available at retailers and e-tailers darn near everywhere for as little as $130!

Western Digital really needs no introduction as they are one of the largest and most highly respected names in the industry. They may be best known for their 10,000RPM Raptor line of hard drives, but if you take a look around at any enthusiast forum you will see many, many peoples' rigs sporting at least one of their other products. In what can only be called a stroke of genius, WD has separated their 3.5” SATA drives into three separate and distinct categories. The “green” line is their low power, earth friendly line where low noise and low heat trumps shear speed (though from all reports they don’t lag that far behind in this category either). The “Blue” line is their middle of the road line where noise and heat output are a concern but it is more in balance with performance (this is WD original line before the switch); and then you have the “Black” editions. These drives are all about performance and power, even if that means increased noise, heat output and energy consumption.

To put this a different way, the green line make perfect data drives (i.e. non OS drives) as they are quiet and draw less power. The Blue line are your all round drives and do a very, very well as a data or OS drive. You can consider these the station wagon or “yeoman” class of WD drives, perfect for most occasions. Then you have your hot rodded high performance, leather jacketed bad boys: the Black line. These drives are all about speed and while they can be used as data only drives they excel at being your number one OS drive. These beasts can supposedly come close to or even tie VelociRaptor levels of performance (and beat the older generations of WD360, WD740 AND WD1500 Raptors)….with a butt load of extra space thrown in for good measure. Add in an industry leading 5 year warranty for the Black line and you have the makings of one awesome, “enthusiast grade” HDD.

In this review we will not only be comparing the WD 1TB Black to a VelociRaptor but also a WD 640GB Black drive which is what many consider to be in the “sweet spot” of size versus price right now. For informational purposes only we will also be including SSD numbers to help you get a good feel for the positives and negatives of these high performance drives. When the dust settles it is our hope that you not only know if this drive is right for you but you will also have a clear understanding of what YOU need, want and desire in your next drive; whether it be a 10000RPM RPM HDD or SSD. So sit back relax and enjoy the carnival of drive carnage which has just come to town.


 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD1TB/specs1.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD1TB/specs2.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD1TB/specs3.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
 
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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories / First Impressions

Packaging and Accessories

As with the Intel X-25M we reviewed recently back, this drive is an OEM product direct from the manufacturer and as such does not come in a fancy box or have any accessories.

However, the packaging and box the Black did come in puts most e-tailer's OEM HDD packaging schemes to shame. The drive is suspended in the middle of the box (much like a retail optical drive would be shipped) in a antistatic bag with two large plastic end caps holding it securely in place. To this reviewer’s way of thinking this is the way ALL hard drives should come and really, really, really underscores what a class act Western Digital is. Needless to say our Black beastie arrived in perfect shape and ready to go!


First Impressions



On first blush the Western Digital 1TB Black looks a lot like darn near any other drive on the market. It is only when you pick up the drive do you realize that there is good bit of heft to this drive. Compared to the single platter WD 320GB we have in our Ye Olde Parts Bin or even the dual platter WD 640 Black it is certainly on the hefty side. This is to be expected as this is a triple platter drive and quite honestly, we all have become spoiled with ultra dense drives which only need 1 or 2 platters!


As is in keeping with the Black genre the label on this drive is white, trimmed with black. All the information you need to know is right here at your finger tips. The most notable information is the fact that this drive eats about 10 Watts of power a most. Of course, this is the max rated number and in practice it will use less than that. If you are like most consumers and you are replacing two older drives with one larger capacity Black 1TB drive, you will most likely see a net reduction in your power consumption.

Just remember, high performance parts usually come with a power consumption increase and if you are cutting your power requirements THAT close you are going to have bigger worries than whether or not your drive is “efficient” or not. Heck, ask yourself; if you were buying a McLaren F1 would really care about its MPG rating?


Before we move onto the PCB and its host of goodies lets quickly go over the features you can’t see…unless you crack open the case.



Let’s start with the more…mundane and work up from there. The top of this list is "NoTouch" technology. This is a fancy way of saying your drive heads never touch the platters and during shutdown automatically park themselves. Except for a few of us old timers, can anyone really remember having to manually tell their HDD to park the heads? It was a big deal back in the day…but now every drive does this. As for never touching the heads, it's the same deal; if your heads do hit the platter, “cow belling” will occur as the drive makes a very distinctive cow bell-like sound and is as good as dead. Technology like "No Touch" has been around for quite some time so don't let this fancy marketing jargon sell you on this drive; let its performance do the talking.


As this is an SATA-based drive, it does not come with the older Molex plug connector as should be expected on any modern HDD. The same goes for PMR or Parallel Magnetic Recording. All new drives have this technology and its what is allowing for such large drives with “only” 3 platters that still meet the 3.5" HDD standard size specification.



Moving on we come to StableTrac, which is nice to see in a 7200rpm drive. Just as their Raptor line and other manufacturer’s high speed drives (e. g. 10K and 15k SCSI units) have the need for the drive shaft to be anchored at both ends, so too does the Black. In this case it’s more for reducing vibrations, noise and increasing life expectancy than from any added stress to the assembly. This drive may not be the first with this technology but we are impressed to see this start to trickle down to the slightly lower performance drives.
 
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AkG

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First Impressions p.2

First Impressions Con't



Like many other newer drives, this HDD does not rely on attached cables to move data and power from the PCB and drive (and vice versa); rather it relies on perfect placement for the spindle power connections (the four hard points near the orangeish cable in the above picture) and a multi prong data port similar to what is seen in laptops to connect the SATA drive to the motherboard. This really is a nice step up from the old way of doing things as those old school ribbon cables were a real pain to stick back and were very delicate. To ensure proper alignment there is two small plastic posts which have accompanying holes in the PCB.


We now come to the really interesting technology the Black Edition 1TB has and luckily these tech pieces are easily visible….as long as you are willing to remove the PCB that is. When we took a look at the PCB the very first thing which stands out is the lack of a Cache chip (you can see where it “should” be in the upper right corner of the PCB in the above picture). Instead of having a separate 32MB chip, these drives come with integrated cache which means the dual processor chip has 32MB of cache built right onto its die. This certainly will reduce internal latency and should also help with the copy from and too it self tests later on.


The processor which is the brains of this drive is a Marvel 88i8845E dual processor System On a Chip (SOC). There is very little known about this chip but this is par for the course with Marvell. We can make a few educated guesses about it like the fact that we would be surprised if unit was based off of Marvell’s latest flagship series of Sheeva ARM processors. This is because the Sheeva is a brand new chipset and this chip was made in 25th week of 2008.

Our best guess is the 88i8845 is more likely to be a dual core Feroceon (or other variant) ARM based SOC. In either case, this chip comes with what ARM refers to as “TCM” or Tightly Coupled Memory (or as it is commonly referred to as “On Die” memory), as we said earlier this should help reduce latencies and make it a much more efficient setup. It is also interesting to note this is the E revision of this chip and early Caviar Blacks (though in smaller sizes) came with D revisions. All in all it’s a fast, powerful and small chip which should easily help increase the performance of this hard drive.


The Motor Controller on the WD Black is made by STMicroelectronics and to be precise this is a SMOOTH L7251 2.2 controller chip. In a nutshell if the Marvell is the “brain” of this setup then this chip is the central nervous system. It is responsible for governing darn near everything related to mechanical and electronic power functions of the drive. In many cases this is the one piece which gets overstressed and dies or takes the “ripple” (AKA power fluctuation) from an overstressed PSU and burns out; and is why swapping out the PCB of many “dead” drives will resurrect them. All in all, it’s an important piece of silicone to say the least.
 
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AkG

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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing a hard drive is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto folder on the drive in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account.

For these tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HDTune, Cystal Disk Benchmark, h2benchw, SIS Sandra Removable Storage benchmark, and IOMeter for synthetic benchmarks.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long XP startup took, Adobe CS3 (w/ enormous amounts of custom brushes installed) took, how long a single 4GB rar file took to copy to and then from the hard drives, then copy to itself. We also used 1gb of small files (from 1kb to 20MB) with a total 2108 files in 49 subfolders.

While not completely necessary a hard format and surface scan will be performed on all Hard Disk Drives before testing. It may be old school of us, but this combination has proven invaluable in ferreting out bad hard drives before using them.

For the temperature testing, readings are taken directly from the SMART data recorded via Speedfan.

For all testing a Gigabyte PA35-DS4 motherboard was used. The ICH9 controller on said motherboard was used.

All tests were run 4 times and the average results are represented.

Processor: Q6600 @ 2.4 GHZ
Motherboard: Gigabyte P35 DS4
Memory: 4GB G.Skill PC2-6400
Graphics card: Asus 8800GT TOP
OS Hard Drive: 1x WD SE16 320GB
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W
 
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Read Bandwidth

Read Bandwidth


For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed which you are likely to experience with these hard drives. The long test was run to give a slightly more accurate picture.

We don’t put much stock in Burst speed readings and the main reason we include it is to show what under perfect conditions a given drive is capable of; but the more important number is the Average Speed number. This number will tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations. The higher the average the faster your entire system will seem.



For what it is worth, the burst speed of this drive is certainly right up there with the best of them; however, its average read speed is a little on the low side…relatively speaking. Darn near 97MB/second read speed is still very, very good and considering this drive comes with a massive 1TB of storage space, its cost per GB is one of the best.
 
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AkG

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Write Performance

Write Performance


For this benchmark HD Tune Pro was used. To run the write benchmark on a drive, you must first remove all partitions from that drive and then and only then will it allow you to run this test. Unlike some other benchmarking utilities the HD Tune Pro writes across the full area of the drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.


When it comes to sequential write speed this drive does lag behind its dual platter brother (the 640 Black) but once again if you slice off the first chunk of this drive via a separate partition, your numbers would certainly be improved. As it stands it’s still no slouch when it comes to write speeds and not that long ago it would have given the best of the best a run for its money.
 
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Crystal DiskMark / Random Access Time

Crystal DiskMark


Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5. When all 5 tests for a given section were run Crystal DiskMark then averages out all 5 numbers to give a result for that section.

READ


Ah, now things are getting interesting. As we saw before it may be a little on the low side in sequential reads but the Black's numbers are STILL within striking distance of a VelociRaptor! When you add in the fact it has over 3 times the storage capacity…it goes from great to darn right impressive.


Write


Its becoming obvious sequential anything are not its strong suit but this drive OWNs the 512K test and its now slouch (for a platter based drive) at the ultra hard 4k test. As with the Read tests this drive is awfully close to the VRaptor level of performance.


Random Access Time


To obtain the absolute, most accurate Random access time, h2benchw was used for this benchmark. This benchmark tests how quickly different areas of the drive’s memory can be accessed. A low number means that the drive space can be accessed quickly while a high number means that more time is taken trying to access different parts of the drive. To run this program, one must use a DOS prompt and tell it what sections of the test to run. While one could use "h2benchw 1 -english -s -tt "harddisk test" -w test" for example and just run the seek tests, we took the more complete approach and ran the full gamout of tests and then extracted the necessary information from the text file. This is the command line argument we used "h2benchw 1 -a -! -tt "harddisk drivetest" -w drivetest". This tells the program to write all results in english, save them in drivetest txt file, do write and read tests and do it all on drive 1 (or the second drive found, with 0 being the OS drive).


Coming in dead last is not that unexpected, as this drive does have an extra platter to move (when compared to the other platter based drives used in this test) and that added momentum and weight does translate to slightly decreased performance. Of course no 7200RPM drive can come close to a 10,000RPM one and even the VRaptor still gets eaten alive by SSD technology.
 
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AkG

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SIS Sandra / ATTO Disk Benchmark

SIS Sandra


This test was run with the removable storage benchmark in Sandra XII Standard. All of the scores are calculated in operations per second and have been averaged out from the scores of 4 test runs.


Now this is unexpected! It’s obvious that SIS Sandra likes this drive…but to actually beat the VRaptor’s numbers is impressive to say the least! When you look closely and see it's with in spitting distance of a SSD….WOW is all we can say.


ATTO Disk Benchmark


The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second.

Read


In the read side of things this bad boy is only slightly slower than the VRaptor and it easily beats its little brother the WD 640GB Black. You've got to love sibling rivalry…especially when it results in kick arse performance and such reasonable prices.


Write


On the write side of things Western Digital's Black Edition 1TB actually beats the VRaptor in certain size chunks; however it does quickly start to loose to the VRaptor…but not by all that much. On the other hand it once again beats its little brother.
 
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AkG

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IOMETER

IOMETER


IOMeter is heavily weighted towards the server end of things, and since we here at HWC are more End User centric we will be setting and judging the results of IOMeter a little bit differently than most. To test each drive we ran 5 test runs per HDD (1,4,16,64,128 que depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 8 subparts were set to run 100% random, 80% read 20% write; testing 512b, 1k, 2k,4k,8k,16k,32k,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 8 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular que depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments.


That marvelous X-25 once again compresses our numbers too darn much to make a good judgment on this drive's performance…so let’s yank it and a few others and “zoom in” to get a better feel for this drive.


ZOOM



Its not that unexpected to see the VRaptor eat all the other platter based drives for lunch as it is a 10000RPM drive, but this 1TB Black beast does post some very admirable numbers. Interestingly it once again beats its little brother, albeit it is awfully darn close; but as they say “a win is a win” regardless of the distance between first and second!
 
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