Western Digital Caviar SE 3200JB


Very un-Raptor like… and that’s a good thing

We all love Western Digital’s 10,000rpm Raptor drive, but its measly 74GB capacity is barely enough for our swap file. In the face of the competition’s 300GB, 400GB, and soon-to-be-released 500GB drives, WD had to do something. What it’s done is release an all-new, 7,200rpm, 320GB Caviar drive with an 8MB buffer.

Unlike every other high-end consumer drive released in the last year, the 3200JB is a parallel ATA drive (we’re told a SATA version is in the pipeline). As the benchmarks show, its performance is by no means record-breaking, but it’s no slouch, either. Its average sequential read speed of 54.5MB per second is neck-and-neck with the current 7,200rpm record holder: Seagate’s 7200.8 drive. Access times are exactly within spec for a 7,200rpm drive, and though its burst rate of 80MB/s is on the slow side, a hard drive’s burst rate isn’t a good indicator of overall performance because a drive bursts (reads from its buffer) only infrequently.

In the application index, a test that runs a script of seven real-world applications and measures how long it takes a drive to complete the tasks, the 3200JB scored a 20.7. Anything over 20 on this test is pretty good, but the 3200JB’s performance is lackluster when compared with Maxtor’s DiamondMax 10 score of 26.6.

The 3200JB is lacking in one other area: noise. This is one of the quietest—if not the most quiet—drives we’ve ever tested. Even during benchmarking, when its read/write heads were thrashing around like groupies in a data-gathering mosh pit, the drive was nearly silent. WD also claims the drive runs very cool, a claim borne out by our highly scientific finger-on-top-of-the-case-during-operation test.

In the end, the 3200JB doesn’t break any performance records, but it embodies everything we love about 7,200rpm hard drives: It’s quiet, it’s fast, it has tons of storage space, and it’s totally affordable. It’s not as fast as Maxtor’s or Seagate’s 7,200rpm offerings, but it neatly splits those goalposts in terms of price, performance, and features. --Josh Norem

+ Potato skins: High capacity, dead quiet, decent performance.

-Caviar: Slower than the competition in “real-world” benchmarks.

Month Reviewed: May 2005
Verdict: 8
URL: www.wdc.com

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