You might think that with all the hard drives out there choosing one would be difficult, or they’d all be pretty much the same. You’d be right on both counts. Yet, there is one drive that imaging professionals turn to more than any other. The Western Digital Caviar Black. This is by far, the preferred drive for those who really care about their images. This is the storage drive we would use in our Mini-Tower i7-950 Workstation build http://www.bangkokimages.com/Articles/Equipment/entryid/944/Mini-Tower-i7-950-Workstation-Build.aspx and our Mid-Tower i7-920 Workstation build. http://www.bangkokimages.com/Articles/Equipment/entryid/180/Review-i7-920-Workstation-Build.aspx

 

Introduction

You might think that with all the hard drives out there choosing one would be difficult, or they’d all be pretty much the same.  You’d be right on both counts.  Yet, there is one drive that imaging professionals turn to more than any other.  The Western Digital Caviar Black. This is by far, the preferred drive for those who really care about their images.  This is the storage drive we would use in our Mini-Tower i7-950 Workstation build  and our Mid-Tower i7-920 Workstation build.

 

They come in capacities from 500gb to 2tb. 3tb models I’m sure are soon to be released, but so far only the Caviar Greens have been released in 3tb capacities. The WD Black is advertised with a SATA 3gbs and SATA 6gbs interface. We’ll take more about this later. Depending on model they come with a 32-64mb cache, a 3.5 inch format, and a five year warranty.

 

They come in capacities from 500gb to 2tb. 3tb models I’m sure are soon to be released, but so far only the Caviar Greens have been released in 3tb capacities.  The WD Black is advertised with a SATA 3gbs and SATA 6gbs interface.  We’ll take more about this later.  Depending on model they come with a 32-64mb cache, a 3.5 inch format, and a five year warranty.

 

Western Digital Caviar Black

 

Western Digital’s Caviar Black drives have traditionally been known as their “performance” drive, the drive to go to for maximum performance from a mechanical hard drive, and the drive to go to for maximum reliability.  They’re normally 5-10% more than the cheapest like capacity drives you’ll find on special, but I think the 5 year warranty just by itself more than makes up for this price difference.

 

Western Digital’s Caviar Black drives have traditionally been known as their “performance” drive, the drive to go to for maximum performance from a mechanical hard drive, and the drive to go to for maximum reliability.  They’re normally 5-10% more than the cheapest like capacity drives you’ll find on special, but I think the 5 year warranty just by itself more than makes up for this price difference.

They come in the standard desktop 3.5 inch format.  The back connectors include your standard SATA data connector and SATA power connector.

 

I want to talk a bit about the advertised SATA 3gbs and SATA 6gbs interface.  The SATA 3gbps interface is capable of transferring data at up to 300mbps.  The SATA 6gbps interface is capable of transferring data at up to 600mbps. Both the SATA 3 and SATA 6 interface uses ‘exactly’ the same connectors.  The fastest mechanical SATA drives can barely break the 140mbps data transfer rate.  SATA 6 is backwards compatible with SATA 3.  So the question of “why” this drive has a SATA 6 interface, and if it’s in reality any different than a SATA 3 interface would be a reasonable question.  WD, despite a half dozen emails, has failed to answer this question for me.  Personally, I think the marketing guys got carried

 

I want to talk a bit about the advertised SATA 3gbs and SATA 6gbs interface.  The SATA 3gbps interface is capable of transferring data at up to 300mbps.  The SATA 6gbps interface is capable of transferring data at up to 600mbps. Both the SATA 3 and SATA 6 interface uses ‘exactly’ the same connectors.  The fastest mechanical SATA drives can barely break the 140mbps data transfer rate.  SATA 6 is backwards compatible with SATA 3.  So the question of “why” this drive has a SATA 6 interface, and if it’s in reality any different than a SATA 3 interface would be a reasonable question.  WD, despite a half dozen emails, has failed to answer this question for me.  Personally, I think the marketing guys got carried away.

 

I want to talk a bit about the advertised SATA 3gbs and SATA 6gbs interface.  The SATA 3gbps interface is capable of transferring data at up to 300mbps.  The SATA 6gbps interface is capable of transferring data at up to 600mbps. Both the SATA 3 and SATA 6 interface uses ‘exactly’ the same connectors.  The fastest mechanical SATA drives can barely break the 140mbps data transfer rate.  SATA 6 is backwards compatible with SATA 3.  So the question of “why” this drive has a SATA 6 interface, and if it’s in reality any different than a SATA 3 interface would be a reasonable question.  WD, despite a half dozen emails, has failed to answer this question for me.  Personally, I think the marketing guys got carried away.

 

Installation

 

Installation is exactly like any other mechanical hard drive, so instead of describing the installation I’m going to list some points to be careful with on installation for optimum performance.

 

Installation is exactly like any other mechanical hard drive, so instead of describing the installation I’m going to list some points to be careful with on installation for optimum performance.

· Don’t force cable connectors.  If it doesn’t fit easily, look it over carefully before proceeding.  I’ve seen a bunch of broken motherboard connectors, and even more broken hard drive connectors, and it just isn’t necessary.

· Try not to connect more than 3 hard drives to any single power cable coming from your power supply.  Avoid using ‘t-splice’ or greater power adapters if at all possible.

· If your case provides rubber mounting washers or rubber supported screws, use them.  It will help reduce vibration and the noise created by vibration.

· Hard drives DO need adequate air circulation.  If your installation allows for an unused space between drives, take advantage of this extra space.  Consider mounting a fan to circulate air around your hard drives.

· Put a white self-adhesive mailing label on the front edge of the drive that you can see when the drive is mounted, and write the drive brand, model, capacity, and date of installation.  You’ll forget this information later, and this will help you keep track of what you have, and the age of each drive, without pulling them out of their slots.

 

Performance

 

There are three major areas to evaluate performance with hard drives. How quiet the drive is, how much power it uses, and how fast it transfers data.

 

There are three major areas to evaluate performance with hard drives.  How quiet the drive is, how much power it uses, and how fast it transfers data.

I can only give you a subjective opinion on how quiet they are as I lack a decibel meter here in Thailand.  They’re as quiet as your average mechanical hard drive, no more quiet and no more noisy than most.  Completely average.  It helps to mount them properly to avoid the drives rotational platters from passing on vibration to the case chassis.

Power draws from 1.8 watts at idle, to right over 10 watts under maximum load.  Again, average in the industry.

 

Data transfers are among the fastest in the industry for a SATA drive at ‘up to’ 138mbps.  Or so the data sheet says. Depending on file size I observed from 70-125mbps.  I have no reason to doubt their 138mbps claims with the optimum file size.  Yet, it’s important you realize that YOUR file sizes will have a great deal to so with file transfer speeds.  As will the speed your source drive can output data.

 

Data transfers are among the fastest in the industry for a SATA drive at ‘up to’ 138mbps.  Or so the data sheet says. Depending on file size I observed from 70-125mbps.  I have no reason to doubt their 138mbps claims with the optimum file size.  Yet, it’s important you realize that YOUR file sizes will have a great deal to so with file transfer speeds.  As will the speed your source drive can output data.

Considering the above average performance when it comes to data transfer speeds, it makes the average power consumption and average noise levels look all the better.

 

Summary

 

Each successive WD Caviar Black hard drive I buy is better than the last. Vintage does matter.  They’re constantly improving these.  My earliest 500gb black drives transfer data at barely 60mbps, use more power, and make more noise.  Later 500gb drives transfer data at up to 72mbps and make less noise while using less power.  Each newer model is a better drive and performs better.  When shopping for these drives pay attention to the date of manufacture and get the newest drives.

 

Each successive WD Caviar Black hard drive I buy is better than the last. Vintage does matter.  They’re constantly improving these.  My earliest 500gb black drives transfer data at barely 60mbps, use more power, and make more noise.  Later 500gb drives transfer data at up to 72mbps and make less noise while using less power.  Each newer model is a better drive and performs better.  When shopping for these drives pay attention to the date of manufacture and get the newest drives.

 

I remain convinced these are the fastest most reliable mechanical SATA drives available, and most imaging professionals share my opinion.  As mentioned, they are 5-10% more, but the warranty often makes up for this alone.

 

I remain convinced these are the fastest most reliable mechanical SATA drives available, and most imaging professionals share my opinion.  As mentioned, they are 5-10% more, but the warranty often makes up for this alone.

They’re well packed, the instructions are clear, and they perform as you’d expect.  Flawlessly.  Without a doubt, the Western Digital Caviar Black Hard Drives, are the hard drives against which all others are measured.