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Western Digital Caviar WD307AA

  October 27, 1999 Author: Eugene Ra  
See also our Summer 1999 ATA Drive Roundup.
Evaluation unit provided by Western Digital Corp.

With all remaining quiet on 7200rpm and 10,000rpm fronts, 5400rpm ATA drives are where we find all the action. Maxtor recently fired the first salvo with its 10.2 GB/platter DiamondMax 40. The DiamondMax proved to be an adept performer, achieving an incredible (for a 5400rpm drive) 26 MB/sec transfer rate. The improvements combined into the DM40 package allowed it to outmuscle the previous 5400rpm champ, the Western Digital Caviar WD205AA.

The WD205AA, unfortunately, will more likely be remembered as the drive series involved in one of the most publicized storage recalls in recent memory. Contamination in a third-party company's manufacturer plant has introduced a defective chip into hundreds of thousands of drives. WD acted quickly on the matter, earning the approval of a large majority of readers.

The successor to the WD205AA, the Caviar WD307AA, is already upon us. Hopefully this new unit will be able to ditch the ghosts of its predecessor. The newest Caviar, like the DiamondMax 40, packs 10 gigs of data onto a single platter. Combined with the standard 3-platter Caviar packaging, this yields a 31 gig capacity. Like its predecessor, the WD307AA retains 5400rpm operation, a 9 millisecond average seek time, and a two meg buffer. A three year warranty backs the drive.

As we've done with all other ATA-66 drives, the WD307AA was tested using Promise's Ultra66 controller. This ATA-66 Caviar does not work properly with our old-bios (kept to control variables) LX-based motherboard. Though this shouldn't be an issue with most motherboards these days, WD provides a utility to force the drive into ATA-33 operation. No loss of performance would occur should this be necessary.

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Like the ill-fated WD205AA, the newest Caviar explores new frontiers in 5400rpm performance. Comparisons with the DiamondMax 40 yield favorable results. In Windows 95, for example, the WD leads the Maxtor by margins of 13% and 9% respectively in the Business and High-End Disk WinMarks. The Caviar maintains its edge, albeit slight, in Windows NT, an OS that's traditionally Maxtor territory. Here the Caviar slides by the DiamondMax by 6% in the Business WinMark and an unnoticeable 1% in High-End tests.

ThreadMark results, however, place the WD307AA behind the DiamondMax 40. The WD trails the Maxtor by 18% under Windows 95. The gap narrows to 10% in NT.

Noise-wise, the WD307AA is unobtrusive. Our sample seems a hair louder than the DiamondMax 40, which, quite simply, means it's still darn quiet. As has been the case for virtually all 5400rpm drives, heat is a non-issue.

Overall, the Caviar WD307AA follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, establishing new heights in 5400rpm speed. Hopefully (and there's no reason to believe that this won't be the case) this new Caviar won't suffer the same beatings to its image that the 205AA. If you're looking for the largest drive around, however, the Caviar's 31 gigs, while certainly nothing to sneeze at, falls short of larger offerings from Maxtor and IBM. Even so, though new drive models from several other major manufacturers are pending, for now WD's entry is the performance champ.

Western Digital Caviar WD307AA
Estimated Price: $329
Also Available: Smaller Capacities Pending
No link available at this time.
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* Note: Threadmark 2.0 test results are the average of five trials.
WinBench99 test results are the average of three trials.


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