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.

PCVantage Results and that's all for now...
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  • Noya - Saturday, March 22, 2008 - link

    So you're decoding video and unRAR'ing large files on a single hard disk at the same time?

    That will definitely shorten the life of a hard drive and possibly lead to corrupted data. You shouldn't read and write multiple giant data files at the same time on a single drive.

    You need multiple separate physical hard disks for that. I do similar stuff (gaming/downloading/video encoding) at the same time but I have three hard disks and nearly always read from one and write to the other...it's 5x faster than doing it on one disk.
    Reply
  • Johnniewalker - Thursday, March 27, 2008 - link

    lol

    You sound like the teenage salesperson at fry's spewing FUD to sell multiple HDs to someone.

    Just enough truth in your statement to convince someone who doesn't know better, but mostly bs.

    Adding an additional HD would be very smart. 3 HD's are not going to be 5 times faster than one, but might approach 3 times faster. The size of files is not going to affect hd life, nor corrupt data.

    How many server admins had/have servers with a single hd (sometimes mirrored, sometimes not), with hundreds of users that were reading and writing 'large' files on a single hd at the same time. I remember a novell 3.11 server we had with a single 2.1gig hd that ran for 400+ days without a reboot until we shut it down. We had 250 users on that system and we were a mfg company that ran 3 shifts/ 24/7. HD's have only gotten more reliable since then.
    Reply
  • GarfieldtheCat - Friday, March 21, 2008 - link

    Gary,

    You note that the 750Gig Samsung uses 333Gig/platters, and they are just short stroked.

    Everything I have read/seen is that this drive uses a 3x250 design. I have seen various HDtune and HDtach results that show a significant lower STR then the 1 Terabyte Samsung, which would seem to indicate lower density platters.

    Did you run HDtune on the WD 640Gig and Samsung? If the Samsung is a 2 platter drive, it should have a similar STR profile (the max STR should be the same), and the STR average should even be higher then the WD is the drive is indeed short-stroked, since the min STR should be higher then the WD.

    Reply
  • bradley - Saturday, March 22, 2008 - link

    I own the Samsung HD753LJ, and it benches very much like any other 250 platter drive. Great drive, but I'm pretty sure this is a 3x250 platter design. Information to the contrary might have originated from a poorly worded review at Tom's Hardware. Reply
  • blaster5k - Friday, March 21, 2008 - link

    I was thinking the same thing. The 750GB is a 250GB platter drive I thought, so it's not really an apples to apples to comparison. The 1TB drive would be a much better comparison. Reply
  • GarfieldtheCat - Friday, March 21, 2008 - link

    GAry,

    I found one of the threads that shows STR rates.

    http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php...">http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php...

    The WD 320Gig shows (max STR/min STR) 113/58
    The 1 Terabyte Samsung was 117/55
    The 750Gig Samsung was 96/47
    Someone even had a Samsung 320Gig, and it was 114/58

    All the 330/333 Gig/platter drives show ~113-117 Max, 55-58 Min which is pretty different from the 96 Max, 47 Min of the 750Gig.

    Reply
  • tayhimself - Friday, March 21, 2008 - link

    This is great info, thanks for sharing. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Friday, March 21, 2008 - link

    Western Digital? Eeewwww. Aside from the Raptors, every WD drive I've owned has died a premature death. My Seagates, Samsungs and Hitachis, on the other hand, are still humming along. Reply
  • Griswold - Tuesday, March 25, 2008 - link

    Yet another tool implying that his vastly limited sample size qualifies him to draw a conclusion on whole brands.

    Just for the record, I like my two 3 year old Samsungs still as much as I like the 6400AAKS I bought a couple weeks ago - despite of what all the monkeys say about Samsungs allegedly fubar QC.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Monday, March 24, 2008 - link

    I also avoided WD for a while after a few of my roommates together had 4 WD drives die over about a 2 month period. I have used a few recently though without problems.

    I purchased 2 Samsung HD501LJ drives based on the good reviews here. I have had to RMA one of them twice as it sprung bad sectors. Samsung service was fine and the third seems OK, but it is not encouraging to have a replacement drive from RMA start clicking immediately upon trying to format.
    Reply

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