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This month, WD joins the 500GB party with its Caviar SE 16 drive. Because the 400GB model is already our favorite 7,200rpm drive, we expected big things from its four-platter successor—and we were mostly satisfied.
The drive runs on a SATA 3G interface, sports a 16MB buffer, and uses four 125GB platters. This gives it a substantial areal-density advantage over its 400GB baby brother, which uses four 100GB platters.
In drive comparisons, if all other specs are the same, the drive with the higher areal density will always be faster, because the read/write heads can pick up more data with less movement. And, indeed, we see that the 500GB drive has faster read speeds than the 400GB drive, while the performance of the two is essentially equal in all other benchmarks.
The 500GB Western Digital drive set a new benchmark record in HD Tach, with an amazing 62MB/s average read speed across its platters. We figured a drive with such awesome read speeds would clean house in our “real world” application index, but it scored lower than its 400GB counterpart. Puzzled, we rang WD and received a second drive for testing, but the score did not change. The application index has always scaled perfectly with drive performance, so we’re not sure why the 500GB drive’s score is lower.
Compared with the current 7,200rpm champ—WD’s 400GB Caviar SE 16—the 500GB version is damn close in performance. We’re a little disappointed it’s not faster across the board, but the fact that it performs as well as the fastest drive around and offers more capacity makes it good enough for us.
Month Reviewed: June 2006