Two months ago I looked at the world’s first 3TB desktop hard drive. It was a 5 platter, 3TB Seagate Barracuda XT inside an external GoFlex Desk chassis. The performance of the drive wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but the poorly ventilated chassis seemed ill equipped to deal with the thermal load a 5-platter, 7200RPM 3TB drive would throw at it. I wasn’t terribly pleased and I wondered if Western Digital’s external enclosure might be better suited for heat dissipation. WD’s 3.5” external drives fall under the My Book brand and they have visibly more ventilation than the GoFlex Desk I reviewed.

As luck would have it, last week Western Digital announced its own 3TB external drive: the My Book Essential. The Essential suffix somehow implies USB 3.0 support.

Today, Western Digital takes it one step further and announces availability of the internal drive as well. The Caviar Green line is now home to a 2.5TB and a 3.0TB model, priced at $189 and $239 respectively.

Let’s go ahead and review both shall we?

The Caviar Green 3TB

Seagate’s external 3TB offering used five 600GB platters to hit the magic capacity point. While increasing platter count is a quick way to get a larger drive, increasing areal density is the desired approach. Seagate’s quick time to market justified the former, while Western Digital’s desire to deliver a low power drive demanded the latter.

As a result the Caviar Green 3TB uses only four 750GB platters, giving this drive the highest platter density of any 3.5” hard drive.

Western Digital Caviar Green 3TB
Interface SATA 3Gbps
Formatted Capacity (Base 10) 3,000,592 MB
User sectors per drive 5,860,533,168
Cache Size 64MB
Load/unload cycles 300,000
Limited Warranty 3 years

Spindle speed is another differentiating factor between WD’s drive and the earlier Seagate offering. While the GoFlex Desk houses a 7200RPM hard drive, WD’s 3TB drive is sold under the Green label. Western Digital doesn’t disclose actual spindle speed as it isn’t consistent across all Green label drives. The 3TB specs simply list it as IntelliPower.

I asked WD for more specifics and I got a reasonable explanation. In the Green line WD optimizes for power consumption. It attempts to make all drives consume roughly the same amount of max power, which happens to be 3 - 5W below a typical 7200RPM drive. The spindle speed isn’t dynamic, it’s set at manufacturing and remains at that.

All green drives will spin below 6000 RPM and the spec never drops below 5400RPM. What this means is that all 2.5TB drives will spin at one speed while all 3TB drives may spin at another, both between that 5400 RPM to 6000 RPM range.

Like many modern drives, the 3TB Caviar Green uses 4KB sectors internally however it emulates 512-byte sectors for compatibility reasons.

Unlike Seagate, Western Digital’s 3TB drive ships with a 3Gbps SATA interface. This isn’t a problem given that neither drive can push enough data to saturate the 3Gbps SATA interface. Without SSDs there’s very little reason for 6Gbps SATA support on desktop storage these days.

Where the 3TB Caviar Green really breaks the mold is that it is shipped with a HighPoint RocketRAID 620 PCIe SATA card. The purpose? Breaking the 2.19TB barrier of course.

The 2.19TB Barrier


View All Comments

  • mapesdhs - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    I've been buying Samsung drives for a while, they are indeed pretty quick. I've
    not compared to Seagate or WD, but I've added some Samsung HDTach data to
    my benchmarks page for the 1TB editions of the Spinpoint F1 and F3, if it's of
    any use:

    At some stage I'd like to start testing random read/write with IOMeter, but finding
    the time is a problem.

  • EddyKilowatt - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    Exactly. I think the fast/high performance end of the magnetic storage market will wither pretty fast under the onslaught of SSDs, except for increasingly niche applications that need fast access to 500-1000 MB of data.

    Meanwhile, as SSDs get solidified in the fast boot/app/cache role, the need for speed will further be relaxed for these big TB-class drives, and disk builders will feel freer to optimize for areal density at the expense of speed. I think we'll see lots of 5400 drives, and who knows... maybe 4200 and other speeds that till now have seemed like grandma territory. Anything that can originate a couple of full-HD video streams, or other media stream of your choice, seems like it ought to be viable for what will increasingly be the foundation tier of the ever-diversifying storage hierarchy.
  • AFUMCBill - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    "The Essential suffix somehow implies USB 3.0 support."

    This is incorrect. The Essential suffix means USB only support, no eSATA, no FireWire. That USB support can be either USB 2.0 or USB 3.0.
  • kepstin - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    It's not actually true that a classic PC BIOS can't boot from a GPT formatted disk - I'm doing that right now!

    The design of GPT incorporates backwards compatibility, including space for an old-fashioned MBR boot sector that can be loaded with a bootloader that knows how to read GPT. As a result, Linux boots just fine on a GPT partitioned disk, even on a classic BIOS PC.

    The issue is specifically that Windows can't boot off of a GPT disk without EFI, because the boot loader that Windows uses on a BIOS machine doesn't know how to read GPT partitions.
  • Mr Perfect - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    Can it read more then 2TB? I read it to mean that BIOS couldn't handle anything bigger then 2TB, regardless. Reply
  • Etern205 - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    On page 2 , one of the images show a MBR partition HDD can be converted to GPT.

    If one has all the requirements, can they just use their OS disc to directly create a GPT partition instead of doing this conversion stuff?
  • R3MF - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    Anand - will there be 2TB green drives based on these platters? Reply
  • tiro_uspsss - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    there is no 150GB VelociRaptor in the benches/review.. ;) Reply
  • mapesdhs - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    Here's what I get with HDTach for my WD VR 150GB:

    Max: 132.0 MB/sec
    Avg: 107.0 MB/sec
    Min: 79.0 MB/sec
    Burst: 248.0 MB/sec
    Access: 6.9ms


    What does IOMeter use as its definition of 1MB? 10^6 bytes or 2^20 bytes? I think
    HDTach uses the former.

  • Mr Perfect - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    I've seen a number of sites now mentioning UEFI will show up in H1 of 2011. Is UEFI an official feature of the Cougar Point chipsets? Reply

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