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Western Digital Caviar WD600AB
  February 26, 2001 Author: Eugene Ra  

Western Digital Caviar WD600AB Available Capacities *
Model Number
60 GB
30 GB
* The benchmark scores presented in this review represent expected performance across the entire line.
Estimated Flagship Price: $229 (60 GB)
Evaluation unit provided by Western Digital Corp.


Flash back nearly three years ago, around the time launched. March 1998: Maxtor prepared for the imminent release of its latest DiamondMax, a 4-disk, 2.9 GB/platter drive packed what at the time was a monstrous 11.5 gigs of storage into a single low-profile unit. Maxtor's execution in bringing the highest areal densities to the market was enviable. On the other end of the spectrum sat Western Digital, who's flagship 6.4 gig drive seemed downright paltry. WD eventually released a 2.9 gig/platter disk... several months after Maxtor. It was clear who was leading then.

Times have changed. Though Maxtor (poised to merge with Quantum) is far from the precarious situation that faced (and still faces) Western Digital, today it's the latter that presents the more intriguing drives. WD's 40 gig, 7200RPM WD400BB hit the streets a full quarter before models from the competition arrived. And the 400BB isn't a slouch rushed to the market... it's the heir-apparent to the 7200 RPM Leaderboard throne as IBM Deskstar 75GXPs and Quantum Fireball Plus LMs become increasingly scarce. And how about the drive we're about to examine here? The WD600AB has been available on superstore shelves for several weeks now... the competition, on the other hand, has yet to announce similar units. What makes the 600AB so special?

Well, WD's newest 5400 RPM drive is the first to feature 30 gigs of data on a single platter. In other words, the WD600AB packs ten times as much data on a platter as the DiamondMax 2880 does. Not bad at all for a mere three years of progress. As we journey towards ever-higher densities, it becomes increasingly apparent that massive capacities are required only by niche applications. As a result, this latest Caviar utilizes only 2 platters... a flagship capacity of "just" 60 gigs. For sure, its nothing to sneeze at... but not quite large enough to dethrone the Maxtor DiamondMax 80 as the largest ATA drive around.

Seek times are pretty mundane at 9.5 milliseconds. Buffer size remains at an industry-standard 2 megabytes. A three-year warranty backs the drive.

The 600AB 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.

WB99/Win2k Low-Level Measurements

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Click here to examine the STR graph for this drive

The Caviar WD600AB's access time measures out at 14.9 milliseconds. Subtracting 5.6 milliseconds of rotational latency yields a measured seek time of 9.3 milliseconds... a rare instance where measurements actually beat the specs! Overall, access times on the newest Caviar rival that of IBM's Deskstar 40GV.

Decisive advantages in areal density power the 600AB to the top of the heap when it comes to outer-zone sequential transfer rates. The 600AB's score of 35.1 MB/sec is at least 10% faster than the competition. Inner-track rates of 20.9 MB/sec aren't quite as dominating, but still sufficient to retain top billing.

WB99/Win2k WinMarks

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The 600AB's solid low-level scores translate into a formidable showing in ZD's Disk WinMarks. WD's score of 7.4 MB/sec in the Business test bests the second-place Maxtor DiamondMax 80 by 4%. High-End results are similar, with the Caviar again leading the DiamondMax... this time by 5%. In either case, the 600AB's showing is the best 5400 RPM showing to date.

IOMeter Performance

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WD's drive turns in respectable scores in our IOMeter indices (normalized averages of our access patterns using Light, Medium, and Heavy loads). Only IBM's Deskstar 40GV outstrips the 600AB. The WD, nonetheless, sets itself apart from the competition.


The 600AB features a whopping 2 platters... so, as one would guess, heat and noise are non-issues. The drive barely becomes even slightly warm to the touch- it's about as cool as they come. Despite the lack of fluid-based bearings, the 600AB's idle noise, as well as that of seeks, is virtually non-existent.

The Safe Buy Award

Simply put, this designation means we'd purchase this product without regret. Sure, there may be a slightly better, slightly faster, and/or slightly less-expensive model from a competitor, but you can't go wrong with this particular unit. This award is applicable, of course, to all units at the top of their class, but also applies to units that, though not quite best-of-class, provide a strong showing nonetheless.In conclusion, Western Digital's newest 5400 RPM drive is one of only a handful of contemporary ATA drives that universally improves on its predecessor. As its 7200 RPM brother did, the 600AB bucks the trend of sacrificing performance for the relentless pursuit of areal density. Though it doesn't quite offer the IOMeter results of the IBM Deskstar 40GV nor the 80 gig capacity of the Maxtor DiamondMax 80, the 600AB delivers much of the strengths of both. It's a winner.

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