As the successor to the 7200rpm Editor's Choice drive in our recent Drive Roundup, the WD273BA is a drive from which we expect nothing less than the best. In a way it delivers, setting record scores for an ATA drive in Windows 95. In some cases, however, the margin of victory was disappointingly slim. Let's take Business Disk WinMark 99 results, for example. The WD drive (which is, after all, based on Win-9x-powerhouse IBM's technology) edges by the DiamondMax Plus 6800 by a nearly unnoticeable 2%. When it comes to the High-End Disk WinMark, the Expert triumphs by a beefy 18% margin. It should be noted, however, that the DiamondMax is rather soft in the High-End WinMark in Win9x. When comparing the Expert to another new-generation drive, say, the Quantum Fireball KX
, the Expert still leads, but by a less impressive margin of 8%.
WinBench results under NT, however, are were things start to get tough for the Expert. NT is, after all, the traditional domain of DiamondMax drives. Here we find the Plus 6800 leading the Expert by some clear margins. The WD drive trailed the Maxtor by 15% in the Business Disk WinMark. High-End tests show WD closing the gap slightly, falling behind by 12%.
ThreadMark 2.0 mostly confirms the divide revealed by WinBench 99. Adaptec's Benchmark displays the Expert leading the DiamondMax by 8% in Windows 95. WD's disk, however, trails the Maxtor in NT by 10%.
Run without active cooling, the Expert is warm to the touch, but not too hot. It'll work in most well-ventilated cases without a drive cooler. Noise? Though there've been some isolated reports of a high-pitched spindle-related idle noise, we found the original Expert to be quite an unobtrusive drive. The new Expert continues the tradition, only more so. Our sample presents no high-pitch idle noise; seeks are even more muted than before. The Expert is one of the quietest drives we've tested; if it weren't for the Fujitsu MPD series drives, this WD would have a shot at the title "quietest around."
Overall, the Expert WD273BA delivers the best ATA performance yet under Windows 9x. In particular, it seems to be the drive of choice for users looking to run high-end applications in Win 9x. When it comes to NT, however, the Expert not only trails the category-leading DiamondMax Plus 6800, but also lags behind competiting drives from Seagate and Quantum. Make no mistake, the WD273BA is an evolutionary advancement, improving on the performance delivered by the AC418000 in virtually every category. In the end, however, the improvements don't add up to the oomph necessary to displace the Plus 6800 as the fastest overall ATA drive.