About a year ago, we watched as Western Digital trumpeted the fruits of its alliance with IBM. The former had just started shipping two new drives, the Expert AC418000 and the Caviar AC420400. We eagerly put those drives through the paces, finding that they provided among the best performance/price values around. Performing similarly to the IBM Deskstar 22GXP and the Deskstar 25GP respectively, both drives managed to capture StorageReview.com's Summer 1999 ATA Editor's Choice Awards. WD followed up with the Caviar WD205AA and the Expert 273BA, both excellent-performing drives in their own rights... and both similar to the Deskstar 34GXP and Deskstar 37GP.
Since then, something strange has happened. WD released the 10 GB/platter Caviar WD307AA, with no corresponding release seen from Big Blue. Shortly afterwards, the Expert line was dropped. 7200rpm duties were subsequently picked up by the Caviar family with the release of the WD 205BA. Likewise, there was no corresponding 7200rpm 10 GB/platter product from IBM. Thus, following the brief period of technology exchange, it's clear that the companies have gone their separate ways.
The Caviar WD450AA is Western Digital's second-generation post-IBM product. Like the previously reviewed Maxtor DiamondMax 60, the drive stores an amazing 15 gigs of data per platter. Unlike Maxtor, however, WD has capped the flagship Caviar with three rather than four platters, resulting in a maximum capacity of 45 gigs... certainly nothing to sneeze at. As is the case with all of WD's "AA" suffixed products, the WD450AA features a 5400rpm spindle speed. The unit's seek time is rated at 9.5 milliseconds, a bit high in a market where manufacturers are often delving below 9ms. The drive features a two megabyte buffer. A three year warranty protects the drive.
Acknowledging the push towards "quieter acoustics" (at least from a marketing perspective), WD has introduced "Sound Logic" on this product. Though the company doesn't outline what exactly goes into making the drive quieter, the spec sheets note a two decibel reduction in the sound of an "average" seek pattern. As always, the ear is ultimately the judge.
Does WD's line remain a contender without close ties to Big Blue's drives? Let's take a look at some figures!