Faster than a VelociRaptor, and six times the capacity
After months of making do with 5,400rpm and 5,900rpm 2TB drives and odd-bird 1.5TB drives, it’s finally happening: 7,200rpm two-terabyte hard drives are coming to rigs near you. First out of the gate and into our greedy arms is Western Digital’s 2TB Caviar Black, the performance cousin to the 2TB Caviar Green we reviewed in May. And brother, it’s just what we’ve been waiting for.
The 2TB Caviar Black is spec’d to impress, with four 500GB platters, two processors, 64MB of cache, and a dual-stage actuator system that puts a fine-tuned piezoelectric actuator head at the end of the standard magnetic actuator, enabling fine-tuned tracking for speedy seek times. The Caviar Black also comes with WD’s standard No-Touch ramp loader, so the read/write head never comes in contact with the platters, increasing the drive’s lifespan.
If this is the shape of 7,200rpm drives to come, we're wetting ourselves with excitement.
All these little extras add up, and the 2TB Caviar Black offers the speediest sustained reads and writes—exceeding 112MB/s each—of any consumer magnetic hard drive we’ve ever tested. That’s 15 percent faster than the Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB’s read speeds. The 1.5TB Barracuda, previously our high-capacity speed champion, couldn’t keep up in sustained writes, either—here the Caviar was nearly 30 percent faster. And thanks to the greater areal density of the Caviar drive, its random-access read and write times are just 7.6ms and 5.0ms, respectively. You won’t find faster seeks short of a VelociRaptor or solid state drive. Of course, solid state drives offer the best performance—the $370 Patriot Torqx, our Best of the Best SSD, achieves sustained reads of over 200MB/s, sustained writes of over 175MB/s, and seek times measured in the tenths of milliseconds.
The 2TB Caviar Black has an MSRP of $300, the same price that low-powered 2TB drives like the Caviar Green and Barracuda LP debuted at earlier this year. Street prices, of course, will be lower, and keep falling—the first waves of 2TB drives, the “green” ones, are already selling for as low as $200. And the Caviar Black’s sustained reads and writes trump the fastest of those green drives by 20MB/s.
The 1.5TB Barracuda held a spot on our Best of the Best list for more than a year, but now it’s been firmly supplanted—the 2TB Caviar Black is officially our favorite hard drive.
Expect 7,200rpm 2TB drives from Hitachi, Seagate, and others in the next few months as well, with the aim of high performance. But if you buy a capacity hard drive today, next week, or even half a year from now, you can’t go wrong with this Caviar Black. It has the fastest sustained read and write speeds of any consumer magnetic hard drive we’ve ever tested. It’s faster in any benchmark than all standard hard drives save the WD VelociRaptor, which still holds the edge in burst speeds and random-access times—barely. Think about that for a second: You can get VelociRaptor-busting speed and six-and-a-half times the capacity for $300. We’re sold.
Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB
Stupid-fast; heaps of cache; dual-action actuator arm.
Random-access writes; burst speeds still slightly slower than VelociRaptor.
WD Caviar Black 2TB
Seagate Barracuda 72.00.11 1.5TB
WD VelociRaptor 300GB
Patriot Torqx 128GB
h2benchw Average Sustained Transfer Rate Read (MB/s)
h2benchw Average Sustained Transfer Rate Write (MB/s)
h2benchw Random Access Read (ms)
h2benchw Random Access Write (ms)
HDTach Burst Read (MB/s)
PCMark Vantage Overall Score
Best scores are bolded. All drives were tested on our standard test bed using a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700, EVGA 680i SLI board. HDTach 126.96.36.199, h2benchw, and Premiere Pro CS3 scores were obtained in Windows XP; PCMark Vantage 2005 scores were obtained in Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit.