by William Kelley on December 23, 2009 in Storage
Kicking off our hard drive coverage begins with a look at Western Digital’s Caviar Black 1TB. As an affordable “high-end” consumer drive, this model includes all of the important features, and performs quite well throughout all of our tests. It also happens to win the contest for having the lowest overall acoustic levels, and by a fair margin.
When I first started this assignment, I really was not prepared for the sheer amount of time and effort involved in properly testing storage. In the past, I had pretty much taken hard drives and their technology for granted. It sure seems simple enough until you start looking for the differences! At a quick glance, they may all seem the same, but in the aftermath, I learned a very valuable lesson which was to never make a judgment until the last benchmark is run.
When interpreting our results, it is important to remember that we have used a wide variety of different types of drives to start out our testing expedition. Our database is just beginning and will continue to expand over the coming weeks as we begin to add more and more results into the mix. Every drive will have a different set of strengths and weaknesses, and knowing each of these characteristics will certainly enable end-users to make a more educated decision with their next purchase.
Seagate had been a dominate force in the storage front for the better part of the last 3 years after their highly successful Barracuda 7200.10 series release. All the other players seemed to be playing catch-up, never quite reaching the same success. With the shaky record of the Barracuda 7200.11 series, the rest of the competition finally had its chance to showcase their drives on their own playing field. Western Digital came on strong with their Caviar Black series drives. They performed very well and were extremely reliable. Personally, I feel that the overall failure rate of the Seagate drives was very overblown, but it sure did offer the competition lots of cannon fodder.
Western Digital’s 1TB Caviar Black is no slouch of a performer on any front. After the dust settled, it clearly demonstrated the ability to run with some stiff competition on its own terms. If you consider that basically all the other drives tested were either newer or radically different in technology and design, you really begin to appreciate just how well it did perform. Aging gracefully and with class, there is still a large segment of the market in buying these drives for a variety of applications.
The main “pro” for this drive that was almost glaring, was the noise level. All the other drives were far louder and believe me, that makes a big difference to today’s consumer. When taking measurements for noise levels, I basically removed all background noise from the testing station and the surrounding area. I can hear a pin drop from 15 ft away with this room configuration. While this may seem an bit extreme, it does showcase what’s possibly the most important consideration a buyer will have, aside from density and performance. Quiet is not only expected, it is demanded.
Western Digital is also the only company to still currently offer a 5 year limited warranty. Here again is another area where the competition has slipped over the years. It’s also an area where Seagate has given the edge with the lowering of their warranty to 3 years. To the gaming/performance enthusiast, this is almost a non-issue, since they are the one segment that will almost never keep a drive more than a year or two. However, the fast rising group of mainstream/HTPC users will almost undoubtedly be looking for a more long-term solution. With data being measured mainly in gigabytes, it is very important to this segment that their data be safe. While even the best warranty cannot return lost data due to a failure, it is still nice to know you are protected for so long.
As for the bad, it is simple to see where this drive suffers. While performing at the middle level or better in synthetic benchmarks, it did suffer in most of the real-world tests. It should be noted that it did perform nearly on par with Seagate’s Barracuda 7200.12, which is its direct competition, but I did expect better performance in the real-world tests. I cannot see that you would be left wanting as the performance was still well into acceptable levels.
Coming in at a respectable $99.99 USD, you get a lot of value for your money. Couple the price with an industry-leading 5 year warranty, and you have a solid foundation for your next PC build. To get more, you have to spend more, and in some cases, a LOT more. If you are paying attention to the current trends you will do yourself a favor and buy nothing less than a 1TB drive for your next build, and this is definitely a solid unit you need to keep your eye out for.
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