Western Digital Caviar Special Edition 120GB Hard Disk Drive Review

Western Digital has been making hard drives for a while now. They have always been known for their excellent build quality and superior performance. But currently, WD makes some of the best hard drives on the market. I personally favor them, as this is my 2nd Western Digital, and after 5 years, the 1st WD, a 10GB Caviar, is working wonderfully. Although hard drive reliability is purely subjective, everyone has their own experiences on the matter. There is no “best” hard drive manufacturer, IMHO, but WD currently has the fastest drives out. Another point to consider is that this drive is ATA100. You may think this is odd, since most new drives are ATA133, but since ATA133 offers no real performance increase, as no drive today can read at that speed; the performance of this drive is no different than a similar rated drive in ATA133.

The drive came packaged in a pretty colorful WD standard box, with two big stickers announcing it to be 120GB and w/ an 8MB cache. The drive was packaged well with an anti-static bag, and bracers to each side of the drive. WD also has the good sense to package in an IDE cable, mounting screws, a manual, a quick setup poster, and WD’s own proprietary Data Lifeguard software.
          Setting itself apart from the fodder, the WD1200JB has an 8MB cache, aside from the regular 2MB. The ‘standard’ WD1200BB has only a 2MB cache. Because of this, the SE is pretty much the fastest single IDE drive on the market today. And, at capacities ranging all the way from 80GB to 200GB, it’s also quite roomy. In order to allow for more protection to the sensitive controller card, Western Digital has also inverted the chip found underneath the drive, and placing some soft foam padding in between the bottom and the top of the controller card. A sign of true great build quality. Western Digital has also claimed the Special Edition series of drives can handle up to 200G’s of non-operating shock and 65G’s of operating shock for 2ms. Although I wouldn’t want to test this if I were you

For the basics, here are some of the manufacturer-supplied specifications of this drive:

Rotational Speed 7,200 RPM (nominal)
Buffer Size 8 MB
Buffer To Disk 602.0 Mbits/s (Max)
Read Seek Time (Average) 8.9 ms
Write Seek Time (Average) 10.9 ms (average)
Track-To-Track Seek Time 2.0 ms (average)
Full Stroke Seek 21.0 ms (average)
Average Latency 4.2 ms (nominal)
Mode 5 Ultra ATA 100.0 MB/s
Mode 4 Ultra ATA 66.6 MB/s
Mode 2 Ultra ATA 33.3 MB/s
Mode 4 PIO 16.6 MB/s
Mode 2 multi-word DMA 16.6 MB/s
Cylinders 16,383
Number of Heads (Logical) 16
Number of Heads (Physical) 6
Sectors Per Track 63
Formatted Capacity 120,034 MB
Interface EIDE
Actuator Type Rotary Voice Coil
Number of Platters 3
Bytes Per Sector 512
User Sectors Per Drive 234,441,648
Servo Type Embedded
Height (English) 1.028 Inches (Max)
Length (English) 5.787 Inches (Max)
Width (English) 4.00 Inches (+/- 0.010 inch)
Weight (English) 1.32 Pounds (+/- 0.14 pounds)
Operating Shock (Read) 65G, 2ms
Non-operating Shock 200G, 2 ms
Idle Mode 35 dBA (average)
Seek Mode 0 39 dBA (average)
Seek Mode 3 37 dBA (average)

          Now about partitioning strategies. I loosely followed Radified’s Partitioning Strategies, with the following configuration:

          Now for the benchmarks. The testing platform is as showed:

Athlon XP 2100+
ATi Radeon 8500 Pro
Sound Blaster Audigy MP3+
Western Digital Special Edition 7200RPM 120GB HDD
Western Digital Caviar 7200RPM 10GB HDD
Seagate Barracuda 5400RPM 20GB HDD
Windows XP Home

PCMark 2002 Free – Build 100
Higher is better
HDD Score – 1155
That’s the highest score I’ve ever seen for a single drive.

SiSoftware Sandra 2003 Standard (Test file size: 512MB)
Higher is better
Drive Index score: 32769 kbps

C: - Buffered Read: 87 MB/s
Sequential Read: 41 MB/s
Random Read: 7 MB/s
Buffered Write: 88 MB/s
Sequential Write: 40 MB/s
Random Write: 13 MB/s
Average Access Time : 7 ms (estimated)

D: - Buffered Read : 87 MB/s
Sequential Read : 47 MB/s
Random Read : 8 MB/s
Buffered Write : 87 MB/s
Sequential Write : 42 MB/s
Random Write : 12 MB/s
Average Access Time : 7 ms (estimated)

E: - Buffered Read : 87 MB/s
Sequential Read : 46 MB/s
Random Read : 8 MB/s
Buffered Write : 88 MB/s
Sequential Write : 41 MB/s
Random Write : 14 MB/s
Average Access Time : 6 ms (estimated)

F: - Buffered Read : 87 MB/s
Sequential Read : 45 MB/s
Random Read : 8 MB/s
Buffered Write : 88 MB/s
Sequential Write : 40 MB/s
Random Write : 14 MB/s
Average Access Time : 6 ms (estimated)

G: - Buffered Read : 87 MB/s
Sequential Read : 33 MB/s
Random Read : 8 MB/s
Buffered Write : 88 MB/s
Sequential Write : 30 MB/s
Random Write : 13 MB/s
Average Access Time : 6 ms (estimated)

K: - Buffered Read : 559 MB/s
Sequential Read : 26 MB/s
Random Read : 13 MB/s
Buffered Write : 19 MB/s
Sequential Write : 18 MB/s
Random Write : 12 MB/s
Average Access Time : 2 ms (estimated)

J: - Buffered Read : 54 MB/s
Sequential Read : 13 MB/s
Random Read : 2467 kB/s
Buffered Write : 6 MB/s
Sequential Write : 13 MB/s
Random Write : 4 MB/s
Average Access Time : 21 ms (estimated)

L: - Buffered Read : 54 MB/s
Sequential Read : 10 MB/s
Random Read : 2089 kB/s
Buffered Write : 6 MB/s
Sequential Write : 10 MB/s
Random Write : 3894 kB/s
Average Access Time : 25 ms (estimated)

As you can see, performance really differs between the partitions. K: is a completely different file system, and it takes up 1/3 of the drive, so you can’t really compare it to the others. The difference between the 2MB and 8MB WD models are clear: as much as 22 ms. Avg. access time.

HD Tachometer 2.61

WD Special Edition: Bottom picture
WD Caviar: Middle picture
Seagate Barracuda: Top picture


          From the results, the WD1200JB is one monster of a drive. It's performance is outstanding, it's build quality is exceptional, and the 3 year warranty is also great, not that (I hope) you'd need it. Western Digital has always been known for excellent drives, and the Special Edition only extends that feeling. Western Digital is definitely one of the top hard drive manufacturers. Currently, they just released an external USB2.0 200GB HDD. I would love to review that...but this drive is settling enough.
I don't believe there's one thing that I didn't like about this drive. Now that file copies take a significantly shorter amount of time, I can easily mess around with any partitioning strategy I please. And I can store .iso's of pretty much every CD I have (In the Junk partition), just because I'm really paranoid when it comes to losing, scratching, or breaking CD's. Plus I can store my entire music collection...Ah! The possibilities are endless when it comes to high amounts of storage. It truly is nice…especially if you’re stuck with <30GB of storage, as I was pre-upgrade.
          Knowing some of you may be of the mind to upgrade your HDD's, if I were you I'd get a WD SE. Seriously...this drive is the fastest one out there right now. I was pleased, and I have high expectations when it comes to electronics; I only buy the best. I almost bought an 80GB Seagate drive instead; to save money, but this one did look more appealing because of the extra space and the 8MB cache. And I think it was only $40 more.


By Donovan Montross, aka Vehementi

Comments/Suggestions to Vehementi@msn.com, flames to ignore@dont.read.nu.ll

Friday, December 6th, 2002


You may find this review, in it’s full extent, along with my comments and the comments of others, at http://www.techspot.com/vb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3407. Feel free to register and share your thoughts with others, not only my review.