Western Digital 640GB - Twice the Platters, Twice the Funby Gary Key on March 21, 2008 3:00 AM EST
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Western Digital's emphasis on recent product releases has been the consumer oriented GreenPower family of products. That all changed last month with the release of the Caviar SE16 320GB drives featuring their new 320GB per-platter technology. We previewed this drive and came away impressed by its excellent thermals, power management, and acoustics but depressed by performance that was not any better than previous generation drives featuring 166GB~200GB per-platter designs. We have an answer to our performance-induced depression but that will have to wait for page two.
The second drive from WD to utilize their new 320GB per-platter technology is the Caviar SE16 640GB WD6400AAKS. This areal density places WD once again in competition with Samsung's F1 lineup featuring 334GB per-platter sizes with similar thermal, acoustic, and power envelope specifications. However, Western Digital decided to branch off in a new direction with a 640GB capacity instead of sticking with the tried and true 500GB and 750GB offerings from their competitors.
While the WD 640GB drive does not fit in with the industry-standard capacity sizes, we fully understand Western Digital's rationale behind this move. This allows WD to use economies of scale with their new 320GB per-platter design and allows a natural progression up to the 1TB~1.3TB level by simply increasing platter count for each logical step. Of course, unless you use sub-prime mortgage mathematics, three 320GB platters only equals 960GB of capacity. WD engineering told us they can easily stretch the areal density of the current platter design to get to the magical 1TB capacity to match their competitors and witness the marketing group smiling (Editors Note - anyone in engineering knows just how difficult that can be).
Why Samsung did not follow this pattern and introduce a 668GB drive with two platters and four heads is beyond us (Editor - Samsung will introduce a 640GB model listed as the HD642JJ in the "near" future) as their 750GB drive is essentially the same drive as their 1TB offering featuring three platters and six heads, just with 252GB left that could easily be filled with family pictures or Flight Simulator X. Update 3/22/08 - Several readers have questioned the actual platter density size on the Samsung F1 HD753LJ. Samsung's latest product information to us had indicated 334GB per-platter technology is being utilized on this drive. However, since Samsung's website seems to offer differing information with the latest PDF specification file listing "Max 334GB Formatted Capacity per Disk", we have asked for clarification. Hopefully, we will have an answer shortly.
However, no matter what marketing decision Samsung made in regards to the "my drive is bigger than your drive terminology", the simple fact is that their new F1 product offers seriously fast performance for the dollar. Speaking of dollars, the Samsung 750GB will set you back $139.99 and the WD 640GB about $129.99 as of today at Newegg. For the bean counters out there, that equates to around 18.6 cents per gigabyte for the Samsung drive and 20.3 cents per gigabyte for the WD drive.
Our review samples arrived from WD just a few hours ago, so naturally we were curious to see how well this drive performed against recent arrivals from Samsung. After seeing the initial results, we thought it would be prudent to post early test results with this drive and provide a short synopsis of our experiences to date with Western Digital's latest product. We still do not have any new information on the Raptor product family. However, we will finally have new products from Seagate and Hitachi next week so we can finally complete this midrange roundup.
Let's take a quick look at a few key benchmarks and see how this drive compares to the Samsung F1 HD753LJ.