Last September, Western Digital surprised us by being the first to ship (and by quite some margin at that) a 7200 RPM ATA drive that featured 20 gigabytes per platter. The WD400BB considerably improved upon the lackluster Caviar WD205BA, standing as a compelling alternative to IBM's formidable Deskstar 75GXP. Since then, competition from Maxtor, Western Digital, Seagate, and IBM arrived. Only Big Blue's offering bests that of Western Digital; indeed, we witnessed some unfortunate regresses in performance from some manufacturers.
In March, WD turned more heads by announcing the 400BB's successor, the WD800BB. Featuring 27 gigs per platter, the 800BB again allows WD to claim the 7200 RPM density crown. This time around, however, WD has climbed back up to a flagship count of three platters... something not seen since the days of the "Expert," the manufacturer's original 7200 RPM drive developed jointly with IBM. The yielded size of 80 gigs finally dethrones IBM's long-standing 75 gig Deskstar 75GXP as the king of the 7200 RPM capacity hill. Though density and platter counts have increased, WD maintains a claimed seek time of 8.9 milliseconds. This has been an increasingly difficult thing to do as exemplified by the latest offerings from Quantum and Seagate. A standard 2 meg buffer rounds out the package.
With the 800BB, Western Digital targets end-users seeking high performance without the added costs of going to a SCSI-based drive. Entry-level servers not requiring the low access times that SCSI drives provide are also candidates (StorageReview.com's two web servers, for example, each use a 40 gig WD400BB). A three-year warranty protects the drive.
The 800BB ships exclusively with an ATA-100 interface. Remember, since ATA drives have yet to break sequential transfer rates greater than even 45 MB/sec that ATA-66 (and in many cases, even ATA-33) interfaces will run a drive with optimal performance. Our testbed remains equipped with a Promise Ultra66 controller.