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Revisiting the Caviar WD1000BB and the 'Cuda ATA IV PayPal Donations

Revisiting the Caviar WD1000BB and the 'Cuda ATA IV
  October 8, 2001 Author: Eugene Ra  


In theory, disabling AAM should result in increased seek noise on the Barracuda ATA IV. Through subjective listening, however, we detect no increase in noise. Without AAM, the 'Cuda remains the quietest 7200 RPM drive that SR's ever tested in both idle and seek situations. The WD1000BB-SE's noise is, not unexpectedly, in line with the BB's. Unlike the 'Cuda, it doesn't plumb the absolute depths of today's noise floors. Even so, the drive's overall profile is hardly objectionable when used in our testbed. Remember, this test system's standard cooling incorporates only the CPU fan on the retail 700 MHz Pentium III and a PC Power & Cooling Silencer 235 ATX power supply. It's hardly a system overrun with the latest in exotic and noisy cooling.

Seagate Barracuda ATA IV AAM Conclusion: In the end, disabling AAM results in small performance increases across the breadth of our tests. Despite the improved speed, there's no detectable increase in noise. As a result, performance-minded users may wish to disable AAM to ensure that their 'Cuda delivers its absolute maximum in speed. On the other hand, however, measured increases are indeed small, so those less inclined to fiddle with their drive's settings are hardly missing out on a landmark speed increase.

In the end, does a 0.9 millisecond reduction in access time deliver? It's difficult to say. Results suggest that the difference is minimal. And remember, 0.9 ms is 75% of the reduction in access time achieved by moving from a 7200 RPM to a 10,000 RPM spindle speed. At any rate, these minimal margins shed light on why manufacturers such as Seagate and Maxtor ship disks with AAM enabled. Though the 'Cuda IV doesn't exhibit a difference in noise either way, other drives may noticeably benefit from AAM.

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. Western Digital Caviar WD1000BB-SE Conclusion: The BB-SE delivers mind-blowing performance increases over what already was a best-of-class drive. It not only achieves 20+% increases in metrics most relevant to single-user machines but it also yields improvements in file server performance, making it a viable option for those building a server on the cheap. Further, experimental IOMeter indices indicate that the WD1000BB-SE tops the IBM Deskstar 60GXP in a benchmark that many readers highly regard.

An increase in buffer size, properly coupled with a well-conceived caching strategy, yields dramatic improvements in performance. Though Western Digital primarily manufactured the BB-SE for an OEM order, it's clear that they're gauging the market for ultra-high-end ATA disks by offering surplus units to end-users. A survey SR recently conducted comes to mind: Member Poll Results
  Responses     Question  
Would you buy an IDE drive that featured a 10,000 RPM spindle speed if it were less costly than a SCSI drive yet more expensive than a 7200 RPM IDE unit?
  Times Chosen     Choice     Popularity Graph  
  114   No
  486   Yes

Want to see more poll results? Click Here!

While the WD1000BB-SE doesn't feature a 10k RPM spindle speed, it's the first product the industry has witnessed in years that dares to break a significant ATA paradigm. Like 10,000 RPM rotation, 8 MB buffers were previously reserved for high-end SCSI units. In fact, the IBM Ultrastar 36Z15, Seagate's Cheetah 73LP, and the original Cheetah X15 all feature just half the cache of the WD1000BB-SE. Performance results suggest that the increased speed delivered by the BB-SE's larger buffer may in fact eclipse the gain that would be realized by cranking the WD1000BB up to 10k operation. Remember, the BB-SE is second only to the X15-36LP in both the Business Disk WinMark 99 and in our prototype RankDisk access pattern. 81% of participating readers say they would purchase a 10,000 RPM ATA drive even at a significant price premium. To us, this suggests that a majority of readers want to purchase an ATA drive that breaks the ranks and elevates performance to a new level. At $379 directly through WD's own online store, the SE commands just a 27% price premium over its $299 little brother. We hope performance-oriented users will demonstrate that there is indeed a market for ultra-high-performance ATA drives! Methodology Conclusions: SR continuously strives to research improvements in methodology that may be incorporated into our rigorous, exacting, and controlled standards. As more findings from Intel's IPEAK SPT come to light, it's becoming apparent that we should implement some methodology improvements before the hardware (ATA-133 controllers, serial ATA controllers, Ultra320 SCSI, Socket 478 motherboards with 64-bit, 64 MHz slots, etc.) for Testbed3 is in place. We'll start to roll out these changes in the coming weeks. In the mean time, follow (and participate in!) our Discussion Forum for more information.


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