Western Digital has been quiet on the performance front the past several months as they have placed an emphasis on their GreenPower family of products that we recently reviewed.  However, they have been busily working on a new line-up of Caviar SE16 drives that feature their new 320GB per-platter technology.  This type of areal density places WD in direct competition with Samsung's F1 lineup featuring 334GB per-platter sizes with similar thermal, acoustic, and power envelope specifications.
 
It does not come as a surprise that the first drive from WD to utilize the 320GB per-platter technology is the Caviar SE16 320GB WD3200AAKS.  What is surprising to us is that WD is not changing the product designation on drives that feature this new technology.  It's not really that surprising as a manufacturer will want to clear out inventory of previous product before introducing new product. We would like to see WD following Seagate, Hitachi, or Samsung by changing model numbers when there is a major switch in product technology.
 
Ordering a WD3200AAKS could land you the new drive or the older design with two 160GB platters.  Since only the part number changes in this case, the one you want is WD3200AAKS-00B3A0. For all intent purposes this means you need to find a dealer that carries OEM drives and will guarantee this particular part number is available.  It's either that or take your chances with a retail package.  WD started shipping these drives in mass at the end of January so odds are that retail kits will contain mixed stock at best.
 
We have had numerous requests to test this drive and fortunately our review samples recently arrived from WD.  However, what has not arrived yet are competing drives from Samsung (F1), Seagate, and Hitachi but those will arrive shortly.  In the meantime, we thought it would be prudent to post some early test results with this drive and provide a short synopsis of our experiences to date with Western Digital's latest and greatest.  Oh yeah, before anyone asks, WD is mum as to which drive will receive the 320GB platters next although they briefly had the specs up for a 640GB drive on their website.  Also, no new updates on the Raptor product family.
 
HDTune -
 
 
 
 
HDTach -
 
 
The average transfer rate of 87MB/s~91MB/s is exceptional in this drive class and exceeds the 73MB/s~75MB/s capabilities of the Raptor 150GB drive.  However, for reasons we are still investigating, the random access time of 16.3ms is poor compared to current desktop drives such as the Samsung HD501J that feature a class high 14.0ms random access time.  Although the performance of the drive in actual applications is not hindered greatly, it is perplexing to us why this drive has such high random access times.
 
Let's take a quick look at a few benchmarks and see how this drive compares to the Samsung SpinPoint T166 HD501LJ.  
PCMark Vantage and the wrap up....
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  • Rusin - Monday, February 25, 2008 - link

    (edit-option would be great)
    There's no 320GB version tested..
    Reply
  • quanta - Friday, February 22, 2008 - link

    Considering the drive does spin at 7200rpm, the high seek time is rather unusual. Did the reviewer try to disable the silencing mode/AAM first? Reply
  • semo - Friday, February 22, 2008 - link

    are there any flash related reviews in the pipeline here on at? 2 things i'm interested in:

    1: flash ssds in raid 0
    2: usb flash drives speed comparison

    i'm looking to buy a 1gig usb drive to put my page files on but can't decide which one to buy.
    Reply
  • LTG - Friday, February 22, 2008 - link

    I hope a follow-up article can get some more information on the Samsung F1 reliability problems.

    You can just look at the NewEgg comments to see the really high failure rate.

    Can WD resolve the seek time first or can Sammy resolve the problems first?

    Reply
  • quanta - Friday, February 22, 2008 - link

    Actually, there was a post in silentreview.com[1] that Samsung discovered the MC error detected by Samsung's HUTIL was caused by version 2.10 of the utility being incompatible with F1 drives. If there is any doubt about the drive's problem, you should wait for the HUTIL update.

    [1] http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php...">http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/vi...days=0&a...
    Reply
  • trudodyr - Friday, February 22, 2008 - link

    to see a direct comparison between this model and the ne Reply
  • trudodyr - Friday, February 22, 2008 - link

    w 320gb samsung f1. Reply
  • dingetje - Saturday, February 23, 2008 - link

    check this out, review of the samsung spinpoint F1 334 gb per platter:
    http://techreport.com/articles.x/14200/15">http://techreport.com/articles.x/14200/15
    Reply
  • Christobevii3 - Friday, February 22, 2008 - link

    Testing 4 of these in raid 0 and 5 in raid 5 would give me an orgasm. Reply
  • Owls - Monday, February 25, 2008 - link

    "For all intent purposes"

    Do you guys even proofread?
    Reply

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