Three new Western Digital drives hit top speeds

These hard drives hit top rpms and data-transfer rates

Recently, Western Digital has come to market with three drives aimed at increasing the performance of both 2.5- and 3.5-in. drives: the Caviar Black, the Scorpio Black and the VelociRaptor. Nothing about them speaks to "green power." Rather, the "black" lineup is aimed at enthusiasts who want performance and let their power supplies be damned if they can't handle the load.

Caviar Black

The Caviar Black (WD1001FALS) is Western Digital's new 3.5-in., 1TB drive and is an upgrade from WDC's venerable WD RE2-GP (WD1000FYPS) GreenPower drive. The new drive provides an interesting performance bump but suffers a power grab in exchange.

The earlier RE2-GP drive emphasized power enhancements that were aimed at saving money during operation while providing the best possible performance in the balance, using a host of intelligent features. None of the features assigned to the Caviar Black are titled "Intelli-" anything. Where the RE2 trumpets IntelliOower, IntelliSeek, and IntelliPark processes to reduce power consumption by throttling back on activity unless they're actually needed, the Caviar Black simply spells out its power needs: The drive sucks up 490 milliamps (mA) and 500mA during read/write operations, and 470mA and 420mA when idling, at 12V and 5V, respectively. The RE2-GP, on the other hand, is rated at a more modest 340mA for read/write and 254mA at idle on the 12V rail, while it uses 675mA for read/write but only 195mA on the 5V side at idle. Clearly, the Caviar Black is a bit more e-piggy than its predecessor.

Fortunately, the Caviar Black is faster, with a burst speed of 234.2MB/sec. in comparison with the RE2-GP's 211.8MB/sec., according to the HDTach 3.0 test. Using that same test, the Caviar Black had an average read of 88.2MB/sec. compared with the RE2-GP's 65.6MB/sec., and a random-access rating of 12ms against the RE2-GP's 15.1ms. Certainly, the 32MB of cache found on the Caviar Black (versus 16MB on the RE2) does make a difference.

The Caviar Black's current top capacity is 1TB with a 750GB alternative (although with Seagate Technology recently announcing a Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB drive, that might be a transitory cap). Western Digital has set the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for the 1TB version at US$250. (The RE2-GP lists for US$300.)

Scorpio Black

The Scorpio Black (WD3200BEKT) is Western Digital's first attempt at a 7,200rpm 2.5-in. drive. The good news is that the power consumption ratings for this drive haven't changed in comparison with earlier WD2500BEVS (250GB) and WD3200BEVT (320GB) 5,400rpm models (both part of the Scorpio Blue series), despite the increase in spin rate and the bump from 8MB of cache to the Scorpio Black's 16MB. The device's read/write function draws 500mA, and when idle, it consumes 400mA. It consumes 50mA during standby.

The better news is that the Scorpio Black raises the performance bar from those earlier drives. The direct competitor to the Scorpio Black is the BEVT model, which is also has a SATA 3Gbit/sec. interface and a 320GB capacity. But Blue pales in comparison to Black, according to HD Tach. The burst speed of the older drive is 194.4MB/sec., while the new Scorpio glides ahead at 238.8MB/sec. Average read for the last-generation BEVT is 51.8MB/sec., but the Black Scorpio sneaks by at 63.8MB/sec. Random access favors the new drive at 15.1ms and 16.7ms for the Scorpio Black and the Scorpio Blue, respectively.

The Scorpio Black is available in a range of sizes, starting at 80GB and topped off at 320GB, which has an MSRP of US$230. In comparison, if you can bear the slower speed, the 320GB Scorpio Blue will only set you back about US$170.

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