The 7200 rpm drive race is heating up. Though IBM was the first to the market with a unit featuring 15 GB/platter, manufacturers such as Quantum, Seagate, and Western Digital have all decided to skip the 15 GB plateau in favor of disks that pack 20 gigs of data on a single platter. Somewhat to our surprise, it's Western Digital that's the first to get us one of these next-generation units.
WD's 10 GB/platter Caviar WD205BA was a middling performer. Though it initially posted decent WinBench 99 scores on our original testbed, our newer, contemporary test machine combined with the IOMeter suite deployed earlier this year revealed a drive that failed to set itself apart in most tests. The Caviar 205BA seemed to be WD's first attempt at a 7200 RPM unit without the help of IBM (who's technology assisted in the Expert series of drives). Even so, WD has taken steps to assert their position at the forefront of the 7200 RPM ATA competition by rapidly deploying a 20 GB/platter drive.
In addition to its 7200 RPM spindle speed and 20 GB/platter areal density, the WD400BB features an 8.9 millisecond seek time and a 2 megabyte buffer. Like its predecessor, the 400BB's flagship incarnation features only two platters, yielding a 40 GB capacity. A three-year warranty protects the drive.
The Caviar WD400BB is the first WD drive that will ship exclusively with the ATA-100 interface. Remember that since IDE drives have yet to break sequential transfer rates greater than even 40 MB/se that ATA-66 (and in most cases, even ATA-33) interfaces will run the drive at optimal performance. Our testbed remains equipped with a Promise Ultra66 controller.