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Western Digital Caviar RE2 750 GB
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Date: Mar 17, 2008
Section:Storage
Author: Chris Connolly
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Introduction

When it comes to 7,200 RPM desktop drives, there are few names in the industry that are quite as well respected as the Western Digital Caviar lineup. It’s a time-tested brand which has consistently held its own, in terms of raw performance, acoustics, and reliability. While the Caviar name once stood for a single lineup of drives, Western Digital has now branched out the Caviar name to different markets, slightly tweaking the feature sets to address different requirements.

Beyond the standard Caviar drives, which are now targeted for the low-end market, we’ve got the Caviar SE and SE16 drives for the performance desktop market, along with the power-friendly Caviar GP lineup for those looking to build ultra low-noise/low power boxes. There is another Caviar variant which many people don’t know about, however, and that’s the Caviar RE2.
The Caviar RE2 can’t be found along Western Digital’s traditional disk lineup.  To find one, you have to wander into the extended duty realm of “enterprise” hard drives.

Western Digital’s RE2 lineup is targeted at workstations and servers, which need lots of disk capacity along with top-notch RAID performance and long-life reliability. At its core, the RE2 lineup is identical to the SE16 lineup for the performance desktop, but has a slightly different feature set, along with more robust MBTF (mean-time between failure) ratings and warranties. WD also has features to enhance RAID performance as well, which is attractive for end users as well, since RAID is so popular even in the high-end desktop and workstation arena. Considering WD charges virtually no price premium for an RE2 class hard disk, compared to an SE16 variant, it seems like a no-brainer decision for any system with any inkling of a need for long term reliability.

Western Digital’s latest RE2 disk currently tops out at a peak capacity of 750GB, which is a full quarter less than Seagate’s competing ES2 lineup that is available at 1TB. Normally, such a drive wouldn’t get much excitement here at Hot Hardware, although the rumor going around is that these new RE2 drives can basically perform to the same level as Western Digital’s high-end Raptor lineup, with lower acoustics, lower power consumption, and a much lower cost per GB. So, we wanted to know – is it possible to get all the performance and reliability of a Raptor disk in a much more cost-efficient format? Let’s find out.


Competing against itself - Western Digital's Caviar RE2 WD7500AAKS vs. Raptor WD740

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Details and Specifications



Visually, the Western Digital Caviar RE2 is near-identical to the Caviar SE16 format we’ve come to know. The drive is based on a standard 3.5” format and features Western Digital’s signature black ring on a silver colored drive, along with a white label. Western Digital flips its circuit board to face the drive itself, so we can’t see what kind of chips they use from an external glance. The drive features standard SATA power and data connectors (no 4-pin Molex power plug), and an array of jumpers if you want access to settings like Spread Spectrum, delayed power-up, or to drop the drive back to SATA/150 mode.

While Western Digital was one of the pioneers in the industry for brining enterprise-class component reliability and warranties to the 7,200 RPM desktop disk market, competition in this arena is certainly quite fierce. Both Seagate and Samsung have competing enterprise-class 750GB / 7,200 RPM disk drives. In addition, Western Digital is also competing against its own SE16 lineup, which is not targeted at the workstation market directly, but is still popular in this arena as well. Here’s a breakdown of WD’s direct competition in 750GB offerings.

  Western Digital Caviar RE2 750GB Western Digital Caviar SE16 750GB Seagate Barracuda ES.2 750GB Samsung SpinPoint F1 RAID 750 GB
Spindle Speed 7,200 RPM 7,200 RPM 7,200 RPM 7,200 RPM
Platter Count 3 3 3 3
Cache Memory 16 MB 16 MB 32 MB 32 MB
Average Seek Time 8.9 ms 8.9 ms 8.5 ms 8.9 ms
Average Latency 4.2 ms 4.2 ms 4.16 ms 4.17 ms
Interface Serial ATA-II/300 Serial ATA-II/300 Serial ATA-II/300 Serial ATA-II/300
Acoustics 28 dBA (Min)
34 dBA (Max)
28 dBA (Min)
33 dBA (Max)
27 dBA (Min) 27 dBA (Min)
29 dBA (Max)
MTBF 1.2 Million Hours Not Disclosed 1.2 Million Hours 1.2 Million Hours
Warranty 5 Years 3 Years 5 Years 5 Years

The Caviar RE2 holds its own against its competitors on paper, but that’s about all. The RE2 doesn’t have any breakthrough features that position it above the competition in any on area. In addition, both Seagate and Samsung boast 32MB cache buffers with their 750 GB drives, whereas WD has half that at 16MB. Both of these competing products also boast slightly lower acoustic measurements, while maintaining the same 1.2 million hour MTBF and five year warranty levels. All three brands use three-platter designs based on perpendicular magnetic recording technology.

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Windows Vista Performance

Test System Details
Specifications and Revisions

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2.4 GHz) Processor
  • eVGA Nvidia nForce 680i LT SLI Ultra Motherboard
  • 4 x Kingston XMS DDR2-800 Memory (4 x 1 GB, CAS 4-4-4-12)
  • 1 x Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 512 MB
  • 1 x Plextor PX-755SA DVD+/-RW Drive
  • 1 x Corsair HX620W 620W Power Supply
  • Windows Vista Ultimate Edition (x32)
  • Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1 TB
  • Western Digital Raptor 74 GB
  • Western Digital Raptor 150 GB
  • Western Digital RE2 750 GB
Windows Vista Performance
Windows Experience Index : Storage Score


Our first simple test shows the scores for the integrated Windows Vista Experience benchmark, in particular the storage test. All of these modern 7,200 RPM and 10,000 RPM disks score the highest possible 5.9 rating with Windows Vista SP1, with the exception of Western Digital’s Raptor 74 GB, which trails a bit behind with a 5.7. The bottom line is that any of these drive scenarios will be excellent performers with Vista. On to a closer inspection...

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HDTune Pro

HDTune Pro Storage Benchmark
Version 3.0 (x32)




Our synthetic HDTune Pro benchmarks showcase some interesting results. These tests show that modern-day high-end 7,200 RPM hard disks like the Caviar RE2 and Barracuda 7200.11 can score on-par or better than a Western Digital Raptor both in average and maximum transfer rates, which is a huge feat considering how long the Raptor has held on to the performance crown. These tests also showed that in a simple RAID-0 configuration, however, the Raptor still can deliver better performance across the board. Conversely, the gap between much cheaper (per GB) 7,200 RPM disks and the Raptor is almost non-existent now.

The Raptor disks still dominate Random Access Time, and will likely always do so, which can help the Raptor deliver smoother overall performance, especially with lots of small files and application loading. However, with Windows Vista’s enhanced caching algorithms and larger amounts of onboard cache, 7,200 RPM drives can do a lot to offset their lower access times and still deliver performance that “feels” almost identical to a 10,000 RPM disk.

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PCMark Vantage

PCMark Vantage Vista Benchmark
Storage Scenario Benchmarks

 In the following tests, higher scores are indicative of better performance.

 



Our synthetic PCMark Vantage disk performance scores are all over the place, and definitely showcase that there is not one of our storage solutions which dominates the performance charts above all others. The Western Digital Caviar RE2 drive performs quite well in Digital Images in a single disk scenario, but its performance actually drops in a RAID-0 configuration (the Raptor disk in RAID-0 showed performance degradation as well). These numbers are offset by Media Center performance, where the RE2 shows excellent RAID and non-RAID performance against the Raptor disks. The Raptor drives come back and deliver better performance in gaming scenarios, whereas the Caviar RE2 falls behind.

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PCMark Vantage (Continued)

PCMark Vantage Vista Benchmark
Storage Scenario Benchmarks

In the following tests, higher scores are indicative of better performance.

 



While the Caviar RE2 falters in the “Audio” portion of the Vantage test, the drive performs quite well in the Windows Defender and Application Load areas of the test. All in all, the Caviar performs slightly slower than the Raptor in Vantage, as the Raptor disks in RAID-0 delivered a higher final score (5942) compared to the Caviar RE2 disks in RAID-0 (5732). However, this is only about a 3% difference in overall Windows Vista performance between these two disks, which is pretty small if you consider the price tag variance between these two sets of drives.

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File Copy Test

FCTest File Copy Benchmark
Storage Scenario Benchmarks

File Copy Test (FC-Test) uses a series of patterns of copying empty data files to a source (test) hard disk which emulate real-world storage scenarios.  FC-Test can emulate the disk write strains of program installers, ISO's, MP3 music libraries, modern Windows applications, and the Windows operating system itself.   In order to showcase better performance, you'd want your file copy times to be lower, representing faster speeds.   Benchmarks are reported in overall time to finish each test.





RAID-0 certainly helps copy files faster, as across the board, we see the RAID-0 disk setups completing our file copy tests faster than single-disk scenarios. The majority of tests showcase the Western Digital Raptor in the performance lead when in a RAID-0 configuration, although in terms of single disk performance, the Caviar RE2 is right on par with the Raptor. All in all, the Raptor can copy files a bit faster, but the RE2 is right on its tail.

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Crysis

Crysis Demo
Storage Focused Gaming Benchmarks

 In the following tests, lower times are indicative of better performance.





In order to test our the gaming chops of these drives, we decided on a three-pronged test. First,  how long does it take to install a game?  Next, how long does it take to load the level?  And finally,  once the level is loaded, do the hard disks have any effect on overall gaming performance?  Crytek's Crysis is the best test vehicle out there for this right now, as it’s very disk heavy.

What we found is that hard disks really don’t affect the gaming experience that much, at least for the comparisons and configurations we tested. Our RAID-0 storage configurations completed the game install in 5-10 seconds faster than some of our slower single disk configurations, but it really wasn’t enough to make a noticeable difference. Level load times were nearly identical across the board, and overall framerate was just about dead-on the same between these drive setups.

In any case, the RE2 can make for an excellent gaming rig hard drive, as it delivered performance on par with the Raptor series and other drives in our tests.

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Power Consumption

Total System Power Consumption
Measured with SeaSonic PowerAngel Hardware Watt Monitor

In the following tests, lower power consumption values are indicative of better, more efficient performance.  The following tests measure total system performance for each test system configuration.




Western Digital has been on the forefront of “green” power saving storage technologies, and of course, we are curious to see if the RE2 inherits any of the features that WD has been moving into their GP line of disks. We tested power consumption by running the drives at idle levels at the Windows desktop, and then by testing power consumption levels while running intensive disk benchmarks.

Obviously, our two-disk RAID-0 scenarios consumed a bit more power compared to our single disk scenarios. What we did find is that the WD Caviar RE2 consumes about 15-20W less power under heavy load, compared to the WD Raptor. The Caviar RE2 is very light in terms of power consumption, thanks to its tri-platter design and lower spindle speed.

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Conclusion

Our goal for this evaluation was to see if the Western Digital Caviar RE2 could deliver performance equal to the aging Raptor lineup, while consuming less power, producing less heat and noise. In reality, the results from this new WD drive were quite imrpessive at times, but the end result is somewhat mixed. Western Digital has made large performance gains in their 7,200 RPM disk drive lineup, and overall the Caviar RE2's performance is very close to that of the WD1500 Raptor. However, the RE2 did not deliver the consistently across the board enough to unseat the WD's 10K RPM workhorse in our analysis.



With that said, the Caviar RE2 is still a rather impressive hard drive. These drives, which are priced at about the same level as the Caviar SE16 lineup, deliver extremely low noise and thermal characteristics, performance at about 90% to that of a 10K RPM Raptor drive, have full SATA-II/300 support (which the Raptors don’t have), and of course, boast over four times the storage space as a high-end Raptor drive. The Caviar RE2 750 GB has a street price of $199 (0.26 cents per GB) compared to the Raptor 150 GB drive, which runs at $169  or $1.12 per GB.  From our perspective, that’s a pretty good value.

Of course, there will be holdouts saying that the Raptor is built to higher standards and is a “true” enterprise class drive. That may be the case, as the Raptor is definitely a more heavy-duty drive by design, with integrated heatsink runs and a much sturdier shell. However, the Caviar RE2 boasts the same component lifespan and warranty levels as the Raptor drive, and has a better chance of a longer lifespan due to the more modest thermals and lower vibration of a 7200RPM architecture. For a server or workstation environment, the Caviar RE2 boasts a strong feature set which definitely will make buyers think twice instead of just opting for the “faster” Raptor drive.

Western Digital is not alone in this enterprise-class 7,200 RPM market, however. Both Seagate and Samsung have enhanced feature sets over the Caviar RE2 and also offer capacities up to 1TB at this time, whereas WD is just peaking at 750GB. Hopefully we’ll see WD push the RE2 lineup to 1TB+ and get their cache levels up as well. In any case, today’s WD Caviar RE2 750GB / 16MB cache drive is powerful, quiet, and reliable, and has pretty much everything we want in a high-end disk. The Caviar RE2 is definitely a solid buy.

  • Excellent Price Per GB
  • Enterprise-Class Warranty Levels
  • Low Power, Heat, Noise Levels
  • Near 10K RPM Disk Performance Levels
  • Competitors Offering More Capacity (1 TB)
  • Competitors Offering More Cache (32 MB)


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