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Western Digital Caviar WD800BB
  May 17, 2001 Author: Eugene Ra  

Western Digital Caviar WD800BB Available Capacities *
Model Number
80 GB
60 GB
* The benchmark scores presented in this review represent expected performance across the entire line.
Estimated Flagship Price: $279 (80 GB)
Evaluation unit provided by Western Digital Corporation.


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 ('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.

WB99/Win2k Low-Level Measurements

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Click here to examine the STR graph for this drive

WinBench 99 measures the WD800BB's access time at 13.3 milliseconds. Subtracting the standard 4.2 milliseconds of rotational latency yields a measured seek time of 9.1 milliseconds. Though this is still a hair off of WD's claimed 8.9 ms spec, we should note that this represents a significant reduction from WD400BB's score... this despite increased density and an extra platter.

Despite its high density, the 800BB's outer-zone transfer rate tops out at just 34.9 MB/sec. This figure is lower than all 20 gig/platter drives save WD's own. To the drive's credit, however, it maintains transfer rates above 34 MB/sec over more than half of its capacity, all the way to the 42 gig point. Inner-track rates finish at a respectable 24.1 MB/sec.

WB99/Win2k WinMarks

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Western Digital's new drive improves on its predecessor with a Business Disk WinMark 99 score of 8.6 MB/sec, an ATA record (and just a hair behind all-time leaders such as the Seagate Cheetah 73LP and Quantum's Atlas 10k II). Its High-End Disk WinMark score of 20.5 MB/sec is also respectable, trailing the ATA-leading IBM Deskstar 60GXP by just 1%.

IOMeter Performance

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The 800BB's improved access time translates into significant IOMeter index gains. Its Workstation Index (a normalized average of Light, Medium, and Heavy loads) of 162.90 places the WD just 2% behind IBM's Deskstar 60GXP, providing Big Blue its first serious challenge since Quantum's venerable Fireball Plus LM. WD's Database Index of 145.88 is also quite respectable. Its File Server Index of 136.49, however, remains significantly behind that of IBM's.


Noise levels for the WD800BB are respectably low, though not as whisper-quiet as its predecessor. Similarly, due to its platter count and reduced access times, the drive runs much warmer to the touch... almost hot after extended heavy use outside of a drive cooler in our smallish testbed case.

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. Overall, when it comes to workstation usage, the WD800BB provides formidable competition for IBM's Deskstar 60GXP. It's superior in the WinBench 99 Disk WinMarks, it comes very close in the IOMeter Workstation Index, and it offers something that the 60GXP doesn't: 20 gigs more capacity. The 60GXP retains an edge in entry-level file server applications, but if it's priced aggresively, Western Digital's drive may be a better choice for general workstation use.

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