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Western Digital Caviar AC36400

  May 4, 1998 Author: Eugene Ra  
See also our Summer 1998 ATA Drive Roundup

The Storage Review first took a look at Western Digitalís AC36400 6.4 gig ATA drive in the 6.4GB Ultra ATA drive roundup. Since it is easy to get our hands on two of these drives, weíve decided to use them in another look at the Promise FastTrack. In this brief article, weíll flesh out the examination with ThreadMark and NT results as well as seeing how the drive compares to current offerings from other manufacturers.

Western Digital CaviarThe 6.4 gig Caviar consists of three 2.1 gig platters, features a spindle speed of 5400rpm, an average seek time of 9.5 milliseconds, and a 256k buffer. A standard 3 year warranty backs the drive. The retail version tested here comes with the nicest manual Iíve seen in any package so far. A quick-reference poster, cables, screws, and rails complete the offering.

As well all know, Western Digital Caviar drives are available anywhere and everywhere. Retail versions with the eternally-present $30 mail-in rebate abound in virtually all stores while OEM versions are readily available from computer shows and mail order vendors.

ZDBopís Winbench 98 along with Adaptecís Threadmark 2.0 were both run on the unit in Windows 95 OSR 2.1 and Windows NT Workstation 4.0. The drive was partitioned into a single volume of maximum size. The average of 5 trials are presented below.

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Weíve decided to set the default database comparison to the 5.7GB Maxtor DiamondMax 2880. So far we havenít run the full suite of tests on any other 6.4 gig drive. In addition, most of the 6.4GB drives have been eclipsed by newer models. Maxtor drives are as readily available as Western Digitalís. The Maxtor 5.7 offers slightly less capacity for slightly less cost.

The DiamondMax is weakest in WinBench 98 under Windows 95, yet even in such a setting the Maxtor drive bested the Caviar by a notable 17%. The gap widened to 25-30% under Windows NT. ThreadMark results showed yet a greater disparity, a whopping 40% difference in performance.

I should note that this second sample of the AC36400 runs much quieter than the first weíve tested. Its still not as quiet as the Deskstar 5/8, but its no louder than the DiamondMax series. As is the case with most ATA drives, the unit runs quite cool.

There are those who swear by Western Digital for its reputation of reliabililty. It seems, however, that there are just as many who curse the company for providing strings of troublesome units. The plain fact is that the same dichotomy exists with any drive manufacturer. Until we can set up a comprehensive and secure reliability survey, I canít incorporate phrases like "its reliable" or "its not very reliable." Performance, however, is another matter. While the AC36400 was a competent if uninspiring performer when put up with previous generation drives, itís clearly left behind by new designs from other manufacturers.

Western Digital Caviar AC36400
Estimated Price: $280
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* Note: All reported test results are the average of five trials.


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