Western Digital 250GB SATA II Drive Review

					Western Digital 250GB SATA II Drive
Review
Specific Model: WD2500JS




Reviewer: Ian Wells
1.0 Introduction........................................................................................... 3
2.0 First Impressions.................................................................................. 4
3.0 Specifications ....................................................................................... 5
4.0 Features................................................................................................. 6
5.0 Testing................................................................................................... 8
5.1 Temperature Tests............................................................................... 9
6.0 Competitors .......................................................................................... 10
7.0 Conclusion ............................................................................................ 11




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1.0 Introduction
Storage requirements have increased dramatically since the early days of
computing. Some of us started our IT careers with tape drives, while the
fortunate had “massive” 20MB hard disks. Bill Gates has been quoted saying
that we will never need more than 640KB of RAM. It didn’t take very long to
prove that wouldn’t be the case. Today, a base install of Windows XP takes at
least 1.3GB of hard drive space. Games are being released on DVDs now
instead of CD-ROMs, or god forbid 3.5(or 5.25!) inch floppy disks. There is
one simple explanation for all this. If they create the space, we will consume it!

Games, music, and video are often the filler of choice, with each of these
activities gradually taking more and more hard drive real estate every year.
Not that long ago a 2GB drive was massive. “How could we ever fill that?!”
people would cry.

So what better hard drive to review, than a drive that is currently in a sweet
spot for prices. Enter the Western Digital WD2500JS.




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2.0 First impressions
Before you even take the drive out of the box, the heft of the hardware is
immediately obvious. Western Digital definitely hasn’t skimped on build quality
here, with the drive totalling 600 grams, however it feels much heavier! Of
course, we couldn’t wait to take this little black beauty out of its static bag that
it arrived in. Upon opening, what struck us at first was the simple, industrial
look and feel of the drive; dark, solid, and cold. There would be no mistaking
the quality of this animal.




                          The bare PCB of the WD2500JS

Simply by looking at the specifications (below) you are made aware of the
quality and possible performance of the drive. This drive is tailored for
workstation and power users, with low seek times, high capacity, and near
silent operation.

As you can see, the PCB on the bottom of the drive is completely bare of any
visible ICs. While this would definitely help in reducing any physical damage
to the chips themselves from inserting or removing this drive and others
around it, therein lies one problem: cooling. If the drives ICs are getting just a
tad too warm, which may be likely in the coming hot Australian summer, there
is no way for us to easily cool the topside of the PCB.

Will this be an issue in the coming summer months? Possibly. For this reason
we will also be testing the performance of this drive in a heated room, to
simulate the temperatures that our PCs will be enduring over summer.




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3.0 Specifications:
General
Warranty:                  3 Years
Rotational speed:          7200RPM
Buffer size:               8MB
Operating temperature:     5° C to 55° C
Non-operating:             -40° C to 65° C

Seek Times
Average latency:           4.2ms
Read seek time:            8.9ms
Track to Track:            2ms
Full Stroke:               21ms

Power Dissipation
Read/Write:                9.50 Watts
Idle:                      8.75 Watts
Standby:                   1.60 Watts
Sleep:                     1.50 Watts

Physical Specs
Formatted Capacity:        250,059MB
Capacity:                  250GB
Platters:                  3
Interface:                 SATA II (300MB/s)
Power:                     SATA and Molex
Bytes per Sector:          512

Acoustics
Idle Mode:                 26dBA (average)
Seek Mode 1:               31dBA (average)
Seek Mode 2:               27dBA (average)


As can be seen, there is nothing out of the ordinary here, with access times,
acoustics, and power usage only slightly superior to most other 3.5” 7200RPM
drives. Hard drive manufacturers are often known to quote more than
optimistic figures when it comes to performance. It should be interesting to
see how well this disk handles itself in relation to the figures quoted by
Western Digital.




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4.0 Features
Data Lifeguard Tools™

The first piece of software by Western Digital is the Data Lifeguard Tools.
After physically installing the new drive, we have two possible options to
initialise the disk. The first method is the Windows Management interface,
which after you start Logical Disk Manager, will automatically bring up a new
disk wizard. Following the prompts to create a single primary partition, setting
NTFS as the file system and selecting a drive letter, the disk was ready for
use.




Secondly we could use the Western Digital Data Lifeguard Tools utility. After
clicking on the Set Up Your Hard Drive option, and selecting the new drive, we
are asked if we wish to set up the drive as additional storage, or set up as a
boot device. If we select additional storage here, the program sets up our new
disk with a single partition spanning the entire disk.

Selecting boot device however sets the drive up with a 48GB boot partition,
and a 202GB storage partition. Nothing special here you might think, apart
from the fact that the utility actually copies all data from your current boot
device across, without the need for any additional imaging programs like
Norton Ghost or Acronis Image. For upgrading from your old drive, it really
could not be any easier.




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Data Lifeguard Diagnostic™

Western Digital also produce a hard drive utility called Lifeguard Diagnostics
which tests and reports on a number of basic drive statistics. After selecting
the disk to run the tests on, you have the choice of:

Quick Test
Extended Test
Write Zeros
View Test Results

Each of these is self-explanatory. Quick Test and Extended Test do exactly as
you would expect of them. However Write Zeros is a little more dangerous,
with the ability to totally wipe your drive. While there is no doubt some reason
to do this, we can’t help but feel that even with the warnings, it’s a little too
easy to wipe your entire disk.




The most useful section of this utility though, is without a doubt the SMART
disk information tool. While it reports nothing amazingly different than any
other SMART utility, it allows you to see which of the statistics warrant a
return for failure if your drive is exhibiting reliability or performance issues.




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5.0 Testing
Test Machine

     Motherboard:                 DFI nF3 250GB (504 BIOS)
     CPU:                         Sempron 2800+
     RAM:                         512MB Corsair Value Select
     Graphics:                    Powercolor ATI 9550 256MB
     HDD 1:                       Seagate 120GB ST3120827AS SATA 150
     HDD 2:                       Western Digital 250GB WD2500JS
     Optical Drive:               Pioneer 110D @ A10XLA
     Power Supply:                Antec SL350
     Operating System:            Windows XP SP2


On a brand new Windows XP install, we ran a number of Benchmarking
utilities. After turning on the system, the first thing we noticed was the sound
levels compared to my current Seagate hard drive. While the Seagate is by no
means a loud disk, the Western Digital surpassed it easily, not only in idle
acoustics, but also when accessing data. The Seagate has very sharp ‘ticks’
when accessing data, while the Western digital has more of a low rumble.
Chances are the actual acoustic levels of both the drives were very similar,
but due to the human ear being more sensitive to higher frequencies, the
perceived level from the Western Digital was much lower.

Setup of the disk was entirely trouble free, with the drive being supported by
windows without the need for any additional drivers or updates to be applied.




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5.1 Temperature Comparison
As we discovered earlier, the drive in this review has a slightly different layout
of its controller board when compared to drives from other manufacturers.
Due to the controller chips being entirely protected from physical damage, we
also felt that this may pose problems in Australia’s summer.

In an enclosed room, we heated the air temperature up to 35 degrees, and
turned off any fans inside the computer’s case in order to simulate even
higher temperatures. SMART reported a temperature of 52 degrees, which
was sustained through the duration of the test.

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As can be seen, the performance differences between the two testing
temperatures were minimal. Buffered and random speeds remained
unchanged, however read speeds decreased in performance slightly, while
write speeds seemed to benefit from the increased temperature, again – only
slightly. The minimal changes in performance of this drive not only show that it
has been manufactured to very tight tolerances, but that it is also ideally
suited to Australia’s harsh environment.




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6.0 Competitors
This drive isn’t the only 250GB disk on the market. With this capacity being
the sweet spot for the price/capacity ratio, the Western Digital drive has some
stiff competition including:


     •    Hitachi Deskstar 8Mb 250GB             (SATA 300)
                 $210
     •    Maxtor Diamondmax 250GB                (SATA 300)
                $187
     •    Samsung Spinpoint 250GB                (SATA 300)
               $172
     •    Western Digital WD2500JS               (SATA 300)
                $164
     •    Seagate Barracuda 7200.8 250GB         (SATA 150)
               $159
(Prices accurate as of 5/12/2005 )


While these are only a handful of the hard drives available on the market, we
feel that these are the ones that are in direct competition with Western Digital.
While the Seagate website shows the 7200.9 series drives available in
capacities from 80GB, through to 500GB, at the time of writing the only SATA
300 drives available for purchase in Australia from Seagate were the 160GB
and the 500GB 7200.9 drives.

In regards to pricing, the Western Digital drive is one of the cheapest on the
market, beaten in price by only the Seagate Barracuda. Seagate and Western
Digital are without doubt the market leaders, not only in price, but quality. It
should be said however that while the Western Digital drive comes with a 3
year warranty, which Seagate tops by giving its owners a fantastic 5 year
warranty.

The Hitachi, Maxtor and Samsung drives all pale in comparison to the test
drive, in both performance and pricing, but would without a doubt work
perfectly fine in a machine that has lesser requirements, for instance office
machines or your average home internet/music machine.




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7.0 Conclusion
Western Digital have set out to create a drive with not only impeccable
performance, but also with a rugged build and solid reliability. During the
testing process – approximately two weeks – the reviewer has had a chance
to comprehensively test many aspects of the drives operation.

Performance has been found to be of a high standard, with read and write
speeds being quite respectable. Sequential write speeds came in at 59MB/s,
while the random read speeds measured 42MB/s, which should be said is not
significantly slower than some RAID set ups.

Sequential read speeds, it should be noted, don’t mean very much in the
greater scheme of things. Data is often scattered half way across the drive
and the random access time becomes a little more influential in the outcome
of this area of the drives performance. Luckily owners of this drive can be
thankful that the 13.2 millisecond random access time will ensure speedy
access across the entire disk’s surface.

Acoustically we have to say this drive is possibly the second best we have
come across. Access acoustics are without a doubt fantastic, which has
previously been rumoured to be an issue with Western Digital drives, when in
competition with rival Seagate disks. When idle, this drive is near silent, and
when inside a computer case, there are far more items inside a computer that
would drown out the noise from the test disk. We should note however, that
the noise levels encountered when the drive was either entering or exiting idle
or sleep mode were far greater than other disks we have previously come
across, with levels reaching approximately 42dBA(50cm). In all seriousness
however, ask yourself how often you’ll have your computer case open, next to
your head, actively bringing your drive out of, and back into sleep mode.

One thing that has only been mentioned in the specifications section, is the
additional power connector that this drive is equipped with. Many SATA disks
are often only provide one method of powering the device, more often than
not through the SATA power connector. While for many power supplies this is
not an issue, the Western Digital drive allows the use of a standard Molex
connector instead. This could be found to be useful in older computers,
especially for people upgrading hard drive space through the use of a PCI
SATA controller.

Western Digital have therefore, without a doubt produced themselves a very
respectable drive here, which would serve well not only in a home computer
environment, but also one that would serve well in a RAID configuration in
either a workstation or server environment, due to the addition of hot-plugging
support.

Recommended.




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