ConclusionThe first thing that comes to mind here is the complexity of the Western Digital range. It includes no fewer than seven 1 TB drives, not counting the enterprise range! This range is all the more complex as Western doesn’t give information on how many platters a drive has, so much so that even though 500 GB platters are now widely accepted as the best solution, you can still find yourself with a three x 333GB platter WD drive, such as with the WD10EADS and WD1001FALS that we’ve tested here. In the EADS range however, the 2 TB version uses 500 GB platters, as does the Caviar Black 2 TB and the Caviar Black 1 TB but in the WD1002FAEX version. Seeing as the range lacks simplicity, a bit more transparency would be a help!
Another problem, which has already come up on the 2 TB drives, is that the EARS series suffers from quite poor write performance when writing small and even medium-sized files. Remember, these drives are the first, among all manufacturers’ products, to adopt the Advanced Format 512e standard and its 4 KB sectors. This transition has clearly not been made without some difficulty. The latest versions of these drives resolve the problem to a great extent, with throughput for small files increasing x5, but it is regrettable that WD went to market with the first versions given their performance and, indeed, we apologise for not testing them earlier in order to alert you to the problem.
Apart from these two complaints, you have to say that the 7200 rpm Western Digital drives are the fastest on the market if you want to use them for your disk system. The Black models don’t give much more than the Blue and we would therefore recommend this drive (the WD10EALS) as it's cheaper and quieter during accesses.
When it comes to pure storage, the drive that stands out is the Samsung SpinPoint F3. However, because of its rotation speed, it won’t be right for you if you’re looking for a very quiet configuration, in which case two other choices should be considered from among the 5400/5900 rpm drives: the EcoGreen F3, which is fastest for file copying, or the Barracuda LP, which is the quietest. It is also the drive with lowest energy consumption and which stays coolest, though only slightly more so than the other models tested. More importantly, in spite of its 5900 rpm rotation, it gives pretty good performance as a system disk and can represent a good choice for use as such.
To finish with, the Western Caviar Green range offers no significant advantage over the competition and the same goes for the Hitachi 7K1000.C. Neither of these are necessarily models we would recommend on the strength of our tests.
Of course it's impossible for us to give our own data on reliability. We do however have access to the stats of a large French etailer. The Hitachi 7K1000.C is the least reliable according to its figures, with a returns rate of 4.89% on drives sold in the first half of the year. It is closely followed by the Barracuda LP with 2.63% and the WD10EADS with 2.43%. Next comes the Seagate 7200.12 at 1.82% returns, and the WD1001FALS and WD1002FAEX (Caviar Black) which are both at 1.09%. The SpinPoint F3 has a returns rate of 0.93%. Next come the Western drives with 0.86% for the WD10EARS and 0.83% for the WD10EALS. Surprise! In the short term at least, a 7200 rpm drive has the lowest returns rate. Note that we don’t have enough data about the WD10EAVS and EcoGreen F3, as they didn’t sell well enough over the period analysed.