According to WinBench 98, the AC313000 is one fast drive. Even when compared to the "revised" figures of the Maxtor DiamondMax 4320
, the Caviar sails by the Maxtor by a margin of 15% with a Business Disk WinMark 98 (Win95) score of 1890. Keep in mind that this is just a hair less than the figure turned in by the original Seagate Cheetah
! The WD's High-End WinMark score also nudged by the Maxtor by 6%. Maxtor drives always perform very well under Windows NT, however. Here the WD lagged its red-boxed competition by up to 16%. Even so, however, WinBench 98 NT figures were quite respectable. The Caviar's performance in ThreadMark under Win95 was also commendable, edging past the previous ATA champ, the DiamondMax Plus 2500.
It's the WinBench 98 Business Disk WinMark score, however, that draws attention, easily the highest ever produced by a non 10k rpm drive. It's so high, in fact, that a dose of skepticism may be healthy. Good thing we've begun our transition to the new WinBench 99.
Looking at the WinBench 99 results, we're starting to hear a different tune. And though the AC313000 managed to best the DiamondMax 4320 by 15% in the Business Disk WinMark 98, it lagged the 4320 by 10% in the 99 version. Ditto for the High-End WinMarks: Under 98, the Caviar led by 6%, but under 99, it fell behind by a substantial 18%. NT figures got even uglier, with the Caviar falling behind the DiamondMax by margins of up to 29%.
What's the deal? Unfortunately, we see this happen repeatedly as the year goes by. When a well-designed benchmark is freshly released, it tends to provide accurate, transportable results. As time passes by, however, hardware/firmware/software programmers "crack" the benchmark, and find ways to produce higher scores that may not necessarily translate into noticeably better real-world performance. This is the number one reason for the reactionary, knee-jerk reaction along the lines of "Benchmarks don't tell us anything! They're useless and totally unreliable." We're also treated to trite phrases such as "There are lies, damned lies, and benchmarks." Such subjectivists then go on to prove that so-and-so piece of hardware is "faster" through even less verifiable methods. While we lend such camps little credence, we do realize that benchmarks can eventually be "beat." That's why reliable sources continue to refine their benchmarks yearly. Ok, enough soapbox .
An educated guess would be that the WB99 figures correlate better to actual performance than WB98. This is confirmed by informal trials where we've "lived" with the drives in our personal systems. I hate to say it, but the AC313000's performance simply does not match the figures it turns out under WB98.
In terms of heat and noise, the AC313000 is par for the ATA course: relatively unobtrusive. The drive runs only slightly warm to the touch even outside of a drive cooler. Seeks are a rather soft, hollow metallic sound that would probably bother only the most sensitive of users.
It unfortunately appears that WD has engaged in a game of "benchmark specsmanship" with the AC313000. They've found a way to turn out fantastic figures in WinBench 98 and have set forth with a marketing campaign to emphasize this "strength." WB99, however, defeats this attempt and reveals that the AC313000 lags behind the only other ATA drive we've tested so far, the DiamondMax 4320. On a positive note, however, this escapade does show that WD cares about performance and is looking for ways to deliver more of it to the consumer. Though the method used with the AC313000 is probably not what most users are looking for, there's a bright star in the distance. The AC31300 is the last of WD's "3-platter/9.5ms" designs that have been hovering around for over a year and a half. A deal struck with IBM last year finally seems to be reaching fruition, with substantial benefits to be reaped. WD has already announced 4 platter drive designs which will finally allow the company to push the envelope in regards to capacity. Further, 8.5 millisecond seek times and 7200rpm designs have also been announced. All from a company that's been rather stagnant over the last couple years. So, though it hasn't happened yet, we may soon see state-of-the-art designs from Western Digital that will truly give the competition a run for their money. Time will tell.