Western Digital Caviar Black and RE4 2TB Drives Review - HotHardware

Western Digital Caviar Black and RE4 2TB Drives Review

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More Than Just Spinning Platters

Both of the Western Digital drives are brimming with interesting technologies. Besides their enormous capacities, each drive boasts dual processors; huge, 64MB caches; dual stage actuators; and more.


You've heard of multiple processors. Multi-CPU systems have been around for decades, culminating in the multi-core-single-die CPUs in today's mainstream computers; multiple-GPU graphics cards were common in the days of 3dfx (hell, that was before graphics card processors were even described by the moniker "GPU"). These drives, the WD RE4 and Caviar Black hard drives feature a pair of processors onboard.

What benefits do multi-CPU drive controllers offer? Quite simply, doubling the processing power of a hard drive should increase its performance noticeably--and platter drive manufacturers are looking for any way to compete with SDD drives in performance (obviously, the former already has the latter trumped in terms of capacity). The dual CPU architecture should just about max out the efficiency of the big buffer.


Meanwhile, what's up with a pair of actuators? WD employs a traditional actuator to zap the drive heads to the right general area of the sought-after data, and then kicks the show off to a piezoelectric actuator to quickly zoom in on the exact location. The one-two punch is supposed to reduce "short" seek times to right around 0.4 milliseconds.

That's a heck of a task with four platters each weighing in at 500GB. To extend the life of such dense drives, WD employs NoTouch Ramp Load technology. That means that, unlike CSS (contact start stop) based drives, WD drives make sure the heads and the discs never touch each other.


That all adds up to terrific theoretical performance with a low chance of data loss. We obviously can't test the longevity of hard drives (unless you give us ten or so years to report back), but performance is something we can easily quantify.

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We're confused by your summary on Page 3:

it appears from the numbers that the RE4 is the winner, not the Caviar Black.

Please clarify.



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You are correct. The wording was incorrect. The WD Black beats the Seagate drive, but the RE4 wins in that benchmark. Overall though, the Caviar Black is fastest, in terms of both transfer rates, access times, and real-world game load times.

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2TB drives are still pricey compared to their siblings (as you implied on page 7)... but it's getting closer. At the moment you can get two 1TB units for less than a 2TB (no matter what vendor it's from), but the price for 1 1/3 x 1.5TB drives is about the same as 2 x 1TB. Assuming you can find someone to sell you a third of a drive.

I expect this to change after Xmas, though, and the 2TB drives will be the price per GB champs. But I also think that many builders and upgraders will be going toward a lower-cost and more sedate large mechanical HD for storage of video and audio, and a much faster SSD for the OS and frequently used apps.

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I bought one of the 1.5TB Seagate drives when they first came out and have been very satisfied with it. A few weeks ago, I purchased a 2TB Hitachi drive that I haven't been all too impressed with. It is much louder than my Seagate, and makes some noises that don't sound very healthy. Although, at exactly half the price of the 2TB Caviar Black, it is still a bargain even if it is noisy.

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