Western Digital 2TB Hard Drive Review

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In recent months, solid state disks have become the storage darlings of the computer world, offering consumers the promise of outrageous transfer speeds at the expense of capacity and price.  Due to the nature of SSDs, most manufacturers are relative newcomers to the hard drive game.  People have been waiting to see what the traditional storage giants are planning to do, and Western Digital has upped the ante by introducing the new Caviar Green 2TB drive.  Offering capacities that few media can hope to match, the new Caviar Green drive promises to let you store everything you want, all while taking it easy on the earth.  Is being able to pack all of that storage into one drive worth the price premium?  Read on for our full review.

Specifications

  • Capacity: 2.0GB (2000GB)
  • Spindle speed: between 5400 and 7200 RPM
  • Cache: 32MB
  • Host interface: SATA (3Gbps)
  • Read/write speeds: 90.4MB/s average read, 85.8MB/s average write
  • Acoustics: 25dB – 29dB
  • Power consumption: 10W at startup, 4W idle, 7W read/write, 1W standby/sleep

The Western Digital 2TB version of its Caviar Green drive currently carries a suggested retail price of $299.99.  The drive was installed in a custom build for the purposes of this review, which included the following components:

  • AMD Phenom 8600B
  • 4GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1 x 250GB Seagate SATA @ 7200RPM
  • 1 x 2TB Western Digital Caviar Green SATA drive
  • ATI HD3100 Integrated graphics

Build and Design

From the outside, the newest addition to the Caviar Green line doesn’t look like much.  It’s a 3.5-inch hard drive: aside from the sticker on top, it looks like pretty much every other internal hard drive–thick, metal, and heavier than it looks.  This drive is exclusively SATA, which means that if you’ve got an older IDE-based motherboard, you’ll need to look for an adapter or give up on shoving this much space onto a single drive.

Speaking of the sticker, Western Digital colors the hard drive labels based on which brand of drive it is (Caviar Blue, Caviar Black, Caviar Green), so the top and bottom of this one is green, with a leaf symbol to denote its eco-friendliness.  The label also shows the jumper schematic for the drive, giving you options for enabling and disabling spread spectrum clocking, power up in standby mode and 1.5Gbps SATA compatibility mode.  You probably know what those are if you need them, and you shouldn’t have to mess around with any jumpers to use the drive, just plug, format and play.

Once the drive was installed, I booted the computer and used the disk management console within Windows to format it with an NTFS partition, which has been the standard Windows partitioning system for some time now.  If you need to use the drive in a system with multiple operating systems, like Windows, Linux and/or OS X, you’ll probably want to format it using FAT32 for maximum compatibility.  Keep in mind, though, that you’ll be limited to file sizes of less than 4GB.

Performance

Two terabytes is an almost unimaginably large amount of memory for us to conceptualize, so let’s break it down a little bit.  Two terabytes is equal to 2000 gigabytes or two million megabytes.  If you back up your system onto single layer DVDs, you’d have to use 426 discs to completely back this up.  If it takes you 12 minutes to completely burn a disc, it would take you more than three and a half days straight, not including sleep or bathroom breaks. 

You can record every second of your life in compressed DVD quality video for over a year and still not fill this drive up.  If you’d rather just record your own personal soundtrack (MP3, not WAV), you’d have to spend eight years doing so before you could fill it up.  This drive can fit the collected works of Beethoven a hundred times over, or all the printed pages made from the pulp of a hundred thousand trees.  You’d only need five of them to back up everything in the U.S. Library of Congress.  In other words, this thing has a lot of space. 

When it comes to raw performance, you have to remember that this is part of Western Digital’s power-friendly series of drives.  That means that some trades are made in favor of power efficiency over pure speed.  That’s not to say that the drive is slow, however, because it simply isn’t, thanks in part due to its massive storage space.  As areal density (the amount of data stored within a certain area of the physical disk) rises, so does the speed of the drive, since the head doesn’t have to travel as far to read the same amount of data.

While the Caviar Green and Barracuda drives were tested on the system above, the other drives were tested on different systems.  Raw drive performance is similar enough to make the tests valuable for comparison purposes.  It must be said that the Barracuda drive was running an operating system at the time, which will always result in lower performance.

HDTune results:

Western Digital 2TB Caviar Green drive

Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 250GB drive

Western Digital 300GB Velociraptor

Seagate 400GB drive

Crucial 32GB SSD

Samsung 64GB SSD

Atto Disk Benchmark results:

Western Digital 2TB Caviar Green drive

Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 250GB drive

Western Digital 300GB Velociraptor

Seagate 400GB drive

Samsung 64GB SSD

CrystalDiskMark results:

 

Power, Heat and Noise

Western Digital engineers their Caviar Green line of drives to above all be power efficient while still maintaining an acceptable level of performance.  In that vein, they’ve developed their own algorithms for maintaining drive access while keeping power levels down, the chief among them being IntelliPower and IntelliSeek.  IntelliPower is a combination of factors, including spindle speed, firmware versions and data caching.  Each drive series can have a different share of each of those variables.  Since these factors are mutable within and between drive families, WD doesn’t publish the specs; the values can change when engineering the drive.  No matter what, the spindle speed will always be between 5400RPM and 7200RPM, even though we can’t be certain as to which side of that range the actual result falls along.

In usage, the drive was found to offer power savings of fifty percent in some cases when compared to its speedier siblings.  When the drive was connected on startup, the computer drew 10 watts more power than it did with the drive disconnected.  After boot, with the drive at idle, it typically drew an extra 4 watts of power; this jumped to seven when the drive was actively reading and writing data.  At standby, the drive has a stated power usage of about a watt.  Compare this to the 1TB Caviar Black, Western Digital’s performance line.  There, the read/write power draw is almost 8 1/2 watts, and it idles dangerously close to eight.  While these might not sound like staggering gains, they do add up over time.  In addition, consider the position held by large corporations or data centers.  If you have 2000 drives idling, going with a Caviar Green drive over a Caviar Black can reduce energy draw by up to four kilowatts.

Fortunately, the drive is very quiet, at least when in a desktop with a fan actively running (though not loudly or fast).  Drive access is nigh imperceptible, which is a nice change from drives that fairly recently managed to sound like percolating coffee makers.  Similarly, the drive remains fairly cool, not rising above 34 degrees Celsius in our tests.  This would be a great drive for an HTPC build: it’s large, cool and quiet.

 

Conclusion

When I met with WD at CES, I tried to find out what plans they had for the future with regards to the growing war between traditional hard drives and solid state devices.  After playing with both their speedy Velociraptor drive as well as this mammoth, it’s not hard to see what they’ve got planned.  Western Digital clearly feels that the rotating magnetic hard drive model is far from dead, and with products like these, it’s hard to argue.

Having this much storage available in such a small device isn’t all roses, however, as there are a few downsides.  In this case, its massive size is also its downfall: if this drive fails, it has the potential for taking an awful lot of data with it.  This makes backing up your system all the more important, and backing up two terabytes of stuff poses some logistical difficulties.  In addition, buying the first two terabyte drive carries an early adopter fee.  With this drive, you end up paying 15 cents a gigabyte– WD’s 1.5TB Caviar Green will run 10.7 cents a gigabyte, and Seagate offers a 1.5TB model that dips down to 9.3 cents/gb.

Still, having 2TB in a single drive is, in a word, awesome.  Two terabytes of storage means you don’t need to choose between keeping this movie or that, keeping that game installed or this.  It also gives you more than enough room to play around with multiple operating systems while maintaining a usable drive size.  Constance Griffiths, part of WD’s PR department, told me when I asked if they were getting into SSDs anyime soon: “We like making money.”  While Western Digital has their eye on SSDs, they will continue to focus on more traditional storage for the time being.  It’s clear that with developments like this, magnetic hard drives aren’t dead yet.

Pros

  • Huge
  • Power efficient
  • Cool
  • Quiet

Cons

  • Large size: backing up data is trickier
  • New technology means you’ll be paying more money per gigabyte than with smaller drives


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