We’ve talked a lot about SSDs so far this year and with good reason; there’s very much a sense that the technology is rapidly maturing and we’re finally seeing drives like the OCZ Vertex which can outperform conventional hard disk drives on almost every level by significant margins.
However, when it comes to bulk storage, SSDs just don’t make sense yet thanks to the exorbitant cost of NAND flash memory making even a decent 64GB SSD cost over £100. With our home media collections expanding faster than a post-Christmas dinner waistline though, we still need a place to stick all our downloaded “Still Alive” remixes and Windows 7 RC images and it’s here that the hard disk drive is still undisputed king, for now.
Click to enlarge
Offering capacities which SSD manufacturers can only dream of and at a cost per gigabyte of less than 10p, the hard disk drive is still the only realistic place we can store our MP3 and video collections. SSDs will get cheaper over time but for now at least the vast majority of us will continue to use them only as a boot disc; the SSD remains very much a luxury, enthusiast product.
Western Digital is certainly counting on the continued need for mechanical hard disk drives, being the first manufacturer to produce a 2TB hard disk in the form of the disappointingly slow 5,400 RPM 2TB Green back in march. Now WD finally brings us the first 7,200 RPM 2TB drive in the form of the Caviar Black.
Physically there’s not too much different between the black and the green, at least on the outside, and even inside the black uses the same four 500GB platters as the Green Edition. Unlike its environmentally conscious brother though, the Black is crucially able to spin the platters at a sustained 7,200RPM whereas the Green’s spindle speed erred more towards 5,200RPM, leaving it with slower performance.
Click to enlarge - apart from the sticker, the WD 2TB Black is externally identical to the 2TB Green
In addition to the improved spindle speed Western Digital has also doubled the drive’s cache from 32MB to 64MB, as well as adding a second drive processor chip to “maximise performance.” There’s also the addition of dual drive head actuators, which Western Digital claims can cut access times by improving drive head accuracy when accessing the platters. If true, this should mean the Caviar black is noticeably faster under heavy random access tasks, like booting Windows or loading games.
The melding of performance and capacity doesn’t come cheap though, and while the 2TB Caviar Green has dropped in price by over £90 (to around £170) since March, the 2TB Caviar Black is selling for around £225. While the benefit of having 2TB of storage in a single drive will certainly be critical to some, we can’t help but point out that 1.5TB drives from competing manufactures such as Samsung sell for a third of the price. Similarly, high performance hard disks like the 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 (review coming soon) sell for just £55 and even Western Digital's own 1TB Caviar Black can be found for less than £70 if you look hard enough.
While the Western Digital 2TB Caviar Black certainly makes some bold performance claims thanks to it’s 500GB platter density, 7,200RPM spindle speed and other technological advances, can it possibly justify such an exorbitant premium? Let’s find out.