Western Digital was founded in 1970 and began designing and manufacturing hard drives in 1988. The company is headquartered in Lake Forest, California, and employs approximately 23,000 people worldwide. Their innovative manufacturing facilities are located in Malaysia, California, and Thailand with research and design facilities in California.

The star of the show today is Western Digital's new 160GB per-platter technology currently being rolled out in their Caviar, SE, and SE16 drive families. While Western Digital announced this technology and started shipping the single platter drives back in July, multi-platter drives utilizing the new technology have just recently started shipping in volume to the retail channels. With this introduction, WD now joins Seagate, Maxtor, Samsung, and Hitachi in offering 160GB+ platter designs.

We will be reviewing additional drives from Hitachi and Samsung along with larger capacity drives from WD featuring the 160GB+ platter designs shortly, but today our focus is on the latest WD1600AAJS Caviar SE series product that features an 8MB drive buffer, native 3Gb/s SATA support, 160GB capacity, NCQ, and 7200 RPM spindle speeds. The SE series is available in capacities ranging from 40GB to 320GB and is considered to be Western Digital's mainstream desktop series with the SE16 series being slotted for the high performance desktop users with capacities up to 500GB.

The WD drives featuring the 160GB+ (we estimate actual platter size to be 167GB) per-platter technology can be identified by the introduction of an AA sequence after the drive designation and before the internal family identification number. As an example, the previous generation SE16 500GB drive was designated as the WD5000KS with the new 160GB+ per-platter design being identified as WD5000AAKS. At this time we expect WD to launch the AA series in the SE16 family at capacity points of 250GB, 320GB, 400GB, and 500GB. The SE AA series family will eventually have the same capacity points with the addition of the 160GB model we are reviewing today. The entry level Caviar AA series is scheduled at the same capacity points but we do not have confirmation if they will be available in retail or offered as OEM only drives.

The SE and SE16 AA series feature Automatic Acoustic Management (AAM) technology . The AAM feature allows the host user to select the acoustic level of the hard drive depending upon the controller utilized. The combination of AAM and Western Digital's advanced acoustic technologies, Whisperdrive and Softseek, generated some of the best acoustic results we have seen in testing to date.

Besides the new platter density, Western Digital is also introducing ramp load technology in the new drives. Ramp Load/Unload (LUL) technology is a proven design used in mobile devices that parks the recording head when the drive is idle and on spin up, maximizing available disk space and minimizing power usage, which usually results in lower transient acoustics, lower heat, and long-term drive reliability. Another added feature is that Native Command Queuing is now standard with the AA series drives, although as in previous reviews our initial testing we did not show any real benefits for the typical desktop user with this particular drive.

Let's see how well this drive performs and if 160GB per-platter technology makes a difference in the low-end market.

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  • orenlevy - Friday, November 9, 2007 - link

    hi everybody i would like to say that i am a computer builder .
    latly i recived this hard drive 160G aajs with access time of minimum 20m\s
    i am speaking for a wile with wd support. ill write soon for now i had 4 harddrive like that.
  • fendell - Friday, May 4, 2007 - link

    Any chance you could update this with the WD5000AAKS ?

    It is a great bargain atm :)
  • DrMrLordX - Tuesday, February 6, 2007 - link

    Any chance you could include the Hitachi T7k500 in reviews like this one?
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, February 6, 2007 - link

    Yes, we will have the new/old WD and Hitachi 500GB drive results up in two weeks.
  • DrMrLordX - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    cool, thanks
  • Rike - Monday, February 5, 2007 - link

    You might want to put up pics that are consistent. When I saw the first pic on page one, the fist thing I noticed was that the four pin was still there, which surprised me. Pics on pages 1 & 12 show a four pin power connection on the drive while the page 2 pics clearly show a big hole where the four pin would be. Of course the text on page two says . . .

    The new SE family ships with the Serial ATA data and power connectors but drops support for the 4-pin Molex power connector designed for use with older ATX power supplies.

    You might want to clear this one up.
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, February 6, 2007 - link

    The press photos that WD sent us had the old casing for the open drive pictures. We really did not want to use them and WD was unable to provide new pics. I thought it was important to show the new platter design but certainly was not thrilled with using the old pictures. I will change them up today.
  • noxipoo - Monday, February 5, 2007 - link

    if i wanted low noise and performance similar to this drive?
  • Accord99 - Tuesday, February 6, 2007 - link

    The WD5000AAKS (The AA is the important designation):


  • noxipoo - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    boo, no 5 year warranty.

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