Good performance, silent operation

Good performance, silent operation

At 160GB, this 3.5-inch internal Serial ATA hard drive (the Western Digital WD1600AAJS) is definitely not the most capacious desktop drive on the market, but it's aiming to be one of the quietest and coolest.

The key feature of this hard drive is its disk platter. Most hard drives generally spread their capacity over multiple double-sided disk platters and multiple sets of heads. This drive, however, contains only one double-sided platter, which spins at 7200rpm, and has one set of heads. Its power requirement is lower because of this. The single platter also helps to reduce the amount of noise the disc makes when it spins and the amount of heat that is produced after long periods of operation compared to multiple platter drives.

Western Digital aims to make this one of the most reliable drives on the market by incorporating ramp load technology.

This technology is present in many mobile hard drives, which experience more shocks and vibrations on a daily basis than typical internal desktop drives. Its purpose is to reduce the chances of the heads crashing onto the platter if the drive receives a hefty inadvertent bump or experiences excessive vibration. Instead of being positioned over the platter during times when the drive is powered off, idling or spinning up, ramp load technology actually parks the heads on a ramp until they are needed to read or write data.

The data density has been increased without using perpendicular recoding technology (a technology that stands the data bits up instead of laying them fl at end-to-end, thereby allowing more bits to fit in the same space) in order for Western Digital to be able to fit 160GB on a single double-sided platter. This new capacity will also allow it to produce more efficient high-end capacities with two and three platters (320GB and 500GB, respectively).

For the moment, this 160GB drive, which features an 8MB cache and native command queuing (NCQ - which orders the data requests so that they are executed in an orderly fashion rather than out of sequence, so as to maximize the drive's efficiency and reduce the wear on the drive), remains an excellent choice for a media centre PC or even a silent PC. With a formatted capacity of 149GB and a retail price of $95, its cost per gigabyte is around $0.63. This compares well to one of the best value drives on the market - Seagate's 320GB Barracuda 7200.10 - which has a cost per gigabyte of around $0.51.

In our tests, the drive proved to be a very quiet performer. It was hardly audible during our testing period, even during vigorous seek operations.

We tested the drive by copying large sets of files from one location on the drive to another. The drive was able to copy at an average of 20.72MBps, which is just about the average for a typical 7200rpm hard drive. This compares favourably against larger drives with multiple platters, such as Western Digital's 250GB Caviar, which recorded an average rate of 20.2MBps in the same test.

Using the HDTach 3 benchmarking program, the 160GB drive recorded an average read speed of 64.7MBps. This is a good result compared against larger drives. The 250GB Caviar scored 52.3MBps in the same test.

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