Western Digital serves up 320GB on a Platterby Gary Key on February 22, 2008 12:00 PM EST
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Test Setup -
Not too much to say about the test platform except it is generally fast and we are utilizing Vista 64 SP1 as our OS of choice now. This platform is slightly different from our standard test bed as we are in the process of comparing our NVIDIA based setup to the Intel X48 for future drive articles. However, performance differences between the two platforms were within 1% of each other so the numbers are comparable to previous results.
Quick Tests -
We are providing PCMark Vantage results today along with initial acoustic and thermal results. The details about the PCMark Vantage HD suite tests and how results are determined can be located here. Our acoustic tests measure the decibel levels while the system is at idle and under load while running the Hard Disk test suite within PCMark Vantage. We take measurements at a distance of 5mm from the rear and front of the drive in a separate enclosure. The test room has a base acoustical level of 20dB(A).
Our thermal tests utilize sensor readings via the S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) capability of the drives as reported by utilizing the Active SMART 2.6 utility. We also utilize thermal sensors and infrared measurement devices to verify our utility results. We test our drives in an enclosed case environment. Our base temperature level in the room at the time of testing is 24C.
The drive makes a good showing in the PCMark Vantage tests that basically simulate real-world performance patterns utilizing a variety of actual applications. However, we expected more from the 320GB per-platter technology and it appears the high random access times is a culprit to some degree in a couple of the individual tests. The WD drive compared favorably in performance to one of our favorite drive choices, the Samsung HD501LJ, except in the Windows Media Center tests where the Samsung exhibited exceptional results. Scores that in our own off-line DVD (HD/SD) application benchmark testing showed similar results.
As far as acoustic and thermal testing, this drive has the best results outside of Western Digital's own GreenPower series in these particular tests. Even during heavy seeks, noise levels remained muted and at idle the drive's acoustical footprint was near silent. As much as we like the Samsung drive for HTPC duties, we would give a slight nod to the WD drive at this time based on acoustics and the fact that its video/audio performance in actual applications is still very good.
In actual application testing (results not shown) the drive has performed slightly better than the Samsung drive in areas such as program loading and digital image manipulation. The drive is on equal footing with the Samsung in gaming and compression tests but falls behind slightly in our video/audio tests. However, the differences are minor in all cases with no "actual" differences in performance being noted during application usage. This drive does excel in providing excellent acoustics and thermals and as such should be considered for situations where these attributes are important to the user.
In the end, our expectations before testing the drive were high as we thought the 320GB per-platter technology would provide a measurable performance difference compared to current drives with 167GB~200GB per-platter designs. There are some differences in early testing but not enough of a difference for us to declare the drive a winner yet (unless you need a high performance silent drive). That will have to wait for direct comparisons to the latest drive technologies from Western Digital's competitors, something we will have for you in the coming weeks.