The Expert, like the 18 gig Ultra2 SCSI WD Enterprise
, is the first drive of its class to hit the market. Thus, there are no other second-generation 7200rpm ATA drives with which to compare the Expert. Even so, some of the Expert's performance figures should raise eyebrows. WinBench 98 performance, particularly, are otherworldly! In High-End Disk WinMark 98 tests, for example, the Expert races past the 12,000rpm Hitachi Pegasus. The Expert's Business Disk WinMark 98 results aren't far behind either. In fact, these figures are so lofty that I couldn't help but think about the Caviar AC313000's WinBench 98 performance. Like the Expert, the Caviar posted exceptional scores under WB98, but fell flat in WB99.
So, the question is begged, how does the Expert stack up in WinBench 99? Amazingly well! In the Business Disk WinMark 99 run under Windows 95, for example, the Expert blows past the Maxtor DiamondMax 4320 by a margin of 22%. The gap widens under the High-End WinMark to an incredible 37%! That's very impressive performance for Win95. Under Windows NT, the AC418000 provides admirable, but not stratospheric, performance. Here the 5400rpm Maxtor and 7200rpm WD end up in a dead heat in the Business Disk WinMark. In the High-End tests, the Expert manages to pull ahead, though by a relatively modest 7%.
The AC41800's ThreadMark score under Windows 95 was quite respectable, a full 27% faster than the Maxtor 4320. Under NT, however, the gap fell to a miniscule 2%.
As the first 7200rpm disk from Western Digital, the levels noise and heat generated by the Expert are commendable. Outside a drive cooler, the WD operates only mildly warm to the touch. It's definitely a notch cooler than the DiamondMax Plus 2500 and the Deskstar 14GXP. The noise produced by the WD is along the same level as the Maxtor and IBM: it's quiet.
Its WinBench scores under Windows 95 seem to good to be true. Is the Expert AC418000 for real? It really appears so! I've replaced my Barracuda ST39173LW with the Expert in my personal Win98 system and have been living with it for the past two weeks. Bootup times, application loads, and heavy disk activity all feel much faster. For Win9x performance, the Expert seems like the drive to beat. Under NT, however, it looks like the WD may be vulnerable to NT-powerhouse Maxtor with it's soon-to-ship DiamondMax Plus 5120. And let's not forget about Big Blue themselves either. Even so, however, it's my pleasure to congratulate WD with its shipment of this fine product. The predictable pattern of IBM vs. Maxtor may be coming to an end. Welcome back, Western Digital!