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March 29th, 2002


Western Digital Caviar WD1000BB
Contact And Other Information
Manufacturer: Western Digital
Product Home Page: WD1000BB Home Page
Description: 100 GB Internal EIDE Hard Drive
Address: Western Digital Corporation
20511 Lake Forest Drive
Lake Forest, CA 92630

Price: US$249 from Western Digital
Telephone: 1.949.672.7000
Requirements: Mac with ATA/IDE Interface

System Used
For Testing:
Apple PowerMac G4 (AGP Graphics) 450 MHz
Built-in ATA/66 IDE Interface
640 MB RAM
Mac OS 9.2.2
Mac OS 10.1.1
Firmware 4.28f1
[Review] Western Digital Enters Mac Market With A Bang

Western Digital Caviar WD1000BB EIDE Hard Drive Review
by John F. Braun

Introduction

Although Apple used to champion the SCSI interface to connect hard disk drives (and other devices) to their computers, today's Macs use the IDE/ATA interface for hard drives, and for good reason. These drives are inexpensive, thanks in part to their popularity on Intel machines, and their performance is nearly as good as SCSI. Western Digital appeared for the first time at MacWorld Expo in New York in 2001, and we decided to check out one of their Mac-compatible offerings.


Documentation

The bundled installation guide is PC oriented, but does make some mention of the Mac. When discussing jumper settings, it has a specific section about the Mac and Master/Slave configuration options, and even attempts to direct one to an Apple Knowledgebase article which describes IDE support on G3 and G4 computers. Unfortunately, they give the incorrect (24343 instead of 24342) article number. Plus, most Macs don't support the CSEL (Cable Select) mode, which is the default setting for the drive.

The section on formatting software does mention that Apple users should run Apple Drive Setup to partition the drive, but this few lines of text is easy to miss. Between instructions provided in Apple's own Setup Guide and the Western Digital documentation, most users should be able to get by, but there is definite room for improvement. Since this is the boxed retail version of the product, which includes documentation and costs more than the drive alone, we would expect a bit more guidance.


Installation

The boxed retail version of the drive comes with everything one should need, including documentation, a 40-pin cable, screws and an extra jumper. The jumper on the drive is set for Cable Select mode, which is NOT supported on the Mac's built-in ATA/IDE controller. You'll probably want to set the drive to a Slave, since the built-in drive should be set as a Master. If you are in doubt about a drive's Master or Slave status, run Apple System Profiler. A Master shows ID=0, and Slave ID=1.

Once you follow Apple's instructions for installing a drive, attach the data and power cables, and close things up, you are ready to go. Turn on your machine. If you are running OS X, you'll be told that there is an unrecognized drive, and be given a chance to run Apple Disk Utility. Under earlier Apple operating systems, you'll probably notice nothing different, so should also proceed to Apple Disk Utility.

For most users, telling Apple Disk Utility to partition the drive as a single Mac OS Extended partition is probably your best bet. Once you partition and then erase the drive, you'll be ready to put it to use.


Operation

After installation, we put the drive to normal use, mainly copying huge folders of stuff from our other drives so that we could free up some space. The WD1000BB seemed snappy enough, but we really wanted to quantify this performance with some numbers. We decided to use the drive tests included with the latest Norton System Info, a part of Norton Utilities.

Make
Western Digital
IBM
Quantum
Model
WD1000BB
DDRS-39130
Fireball KX
       
Random Read 2923 351 405
1K Read 3544 2818 4038
4K Read 9234 7137 13079
16K Read 15762 9822 18975
64K Read 42239 6018 18965
256K Read 42072 9807 18981
       
Random Write 1967 161 248
1K Write 1057 2284 1599
4K Write 10642 6922 8581
16K Write 23958 9778 18986
64K Write 35117 9780 18997
256K Write 38140 9768 19003
       
Bus Type
ATA/100
SCSI/20
ATA/66
RPM
7200
7200
7200
Buffer Size (MB)
2
0.5
0.5
Seek Time (ms)
8.9
7.9
8.5

Performance Summary on Test System
All Read and Write Speeds in K/sec

The Quantum Fireball drive is the drive that our test machine was shipped with. The IBM SCSI drive was connected to an Adaptec 2930 SCSI interface, which also came installed in our test machine.

Discussion of Results

While the Western Digital drive is clearly the fastest drive of the bunch, one may notice that none of these drives reached the theoretical maximum transfer rate offered by their respective interface. Since the interface in our PowerMac G4 (AGP Graphics) is only ATA/66, we would expect a maximum of 66 MB/sec, but the maximum transfer rate we observed was around 42 MB/sec.

When queried, our Western Digital technical contact stated that while 66 MB/sec is indeed the maximum speed of an ATA/66 interface, the transfer rate from the drive to the buffer is less, explaining our results. Sure enough, when we dug a bit deeper into the product specification, we found a Disk to Buffer speed of 525.0 Mb/s, maximum. This, coupled with our Western Digital source saying that 42 MB/sec is what we should have expected to see, help clarify the results.

One may question why anyone would bother with an ATA/66 or ATA/100 interface if a drive can't keep up with it. The answer is that, while the faster interface is not fully utilized, it does make for faster overall system operation. This is because your ATA/IDE interface will have to spend relatively less time transferring data, thanks to the interface being faster than the maximum disk-to-buffer transfer speed.


Conclusion

From a hardware and performance point of view, the WD1000BB is a clear winner, displaying the best performance of any drive we've tried on our test system to date. Those who need an inexpensive, fast, large drive that you can just drop into a Mac, need to look no further than Western Digital. Although other vendors provide larger and/or less expensive drives, they typically have slower rotational speeds, smaller buffers, and slower disk to buffer throughput that their Western Digital equivalent.

Our only gripe with the product is the level of Mac-specific information. The included Quick Install poster makes no mention of the Mac. The opposite side of the poster, which describes the installation for the (PC Only) Data Lifeguard tools, only says that you should refer to the Installation Guide if you have a non-Windows operating system. Plus, the references to the Mac in this guide are infrequent and easy to miss. We would have preferred a Mac-specific guide, or pointers to the appropriate info on the Apple site. With better Mac-specific documentation, our score on this drive would have been a half-Thumbs Up higher.

Documentation issues aside, we think this drive is a winner, and will help Mac users store the increasing amount of digital data that they are creating and receiving.


Final Score (Maximum Score is 5 Thumbs Up)
4 Thumbs Up
Pros

Big
Fast
Retail boxed product includes (wimpy) documentation, cable, screws, extra jumper
Works great with the Mac

Cons

Default jumper setting won't work with Mac
Wimpy Mac-specific documentation; seems like an afterthought



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