Naturally, the Caviar is best compared to the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 40. On low levels, though the Caviar turns in a slightly lower access time, it can't match the DiamondMax's 30 MB/sec sequential transfer rates
. As we've indicated in the past, though, transfer rates are hardly everything
Though the scores are close in high-level tests, the WD drive falls just short of the Maxtor's lofty scores. The Business Disk WinMark 99 run under Windows 95 reveals a negligible 2% difference in Maxtor's favor. The High-End WinMark difference is slightly more substantial, with the Caviar trailing by 7%. Traditionally Maxtor would put considerable distance between itself and its competitors when it came to the Disk Winmarks in Windows NT. Here, however, the overall difference is relatively slim, with the Caviar trailing the DiamondMax by margins of 4% and 6% respectively in the Business and High-End WinMarks. ThreadMark turns in virtually identical scores for both drives, with the Maxtor edging out the WD by margins of 1% or less.
The maturity of 7200rpm drives when it comes to heat and noise continues to become more and more obvious. The Caviar joins the DiamondMax Plus 40 with no idle noise, quiet, muffled seeks, and cool operation. To us, WD's labeling of a 7200rpm unit as a Caviar is indication that the manufacturer believes 7200rpm drives have hit the mainstream.
In summary, despite its name, the Caviar WD205BA is one of the fastest ATA drives around. The fact that it is almost as fast as the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 40 is complimentary, not derogatory. If you're looking for more than 20 gigs of space, the Maxtor is still the only choice. However, the performance margins between the two drives are slim. Combine this with the fact that both drives deliver commendable temperature and noise levels and you have a virtual tossup that may very well boil down to what drive becomes available first and at what price you can purchase them. Our only caveat is the confusing nomenclature. It's something that can throw off resellers as well as end users (this also seems to happen regularly with Maxtor's retail-box packages). As always, the buyer should make sure he/she knows exactly what's being purchased before committing.