WD Caviar GP: The Green 1 TB Drive

Hitachi was the first hard drive maker to offer a 1 TB model, the Deskstar 7K1000, as early as the spring of 2007. Although Samsung and Seagate announced their 1 TB hard drives months ago, Samsung is past due, and Seagate’s first 7200.11 sample had to be sent back because of faulty firmware - what a pity. Thus, Hitachi has held the capacity crown for half a year, while Western Digital still holds the speed record with its 750 GB Caviar SE16. WD has now caught up with Hitachi in terms of capacity with its new Caviar GP 1 TB, which also delivers "power savings as the primary attribute" by flexibly adjusting the rotation speed between 5,400 and 7,200 RPM.

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The emergence of power savings and energy efficiency as important issues isn’t a temporary phenomenon. In fact, reducing power consumption in every aspect of our lives will not only help to reduce CO2 emissions (produced by most power plants based on fossil fuels) to limit the effects of global warming, it will increasingly be noticeable at the end of the month when you look over your energy bill.

Switching off the display or hard drives when the system is idle for a long time was the first step. Power saving mechanisms such as Cool’n’Quiet and SpeedStep in AMD and Intel processors are a second one. We expect more and more silicon components to be equipped with features that help reduce energy consumption where possible. WD’s GreenPower drives are a logical evolution of this trend, as hard drives do, in fact, spend a lot of their time running idle or at low loads.

Who Needs A Green Hard Drive Anyway?

Looking at hard drives to accomplish power savings may seem pointless, given that many other system components consume several times more energy than hard drives do. Typically, a 3.5" hard drive consumes between 6 and 10 W when it runs idle, doing nothing, though it can require over 20 W when it’s highly active. Power requirements vary with the type of interface - SATA is more power hungry than Ultra ATA - and a drive’s geometry, too: the more platters used in a drive, the more energy it will consume.

It seems more logical to apply power-saving mechanisms to components such as the chipset, which can consume more than 40 W in a high-end desktop PC (Northbridge and Southbridge) or graphics processors that use anywhere between 25 W for low-end parts and 100+ W in the high-end. However, it can require significant effort to implement smart power-saving mechanisms that will work as intended and not disrupt the user experience or a product’s feature set.

Reducing a component’s operating speed typically is the easiest way of achieving power savings. Obviously, this is something that can be applied rather easily to hard drives, as it isn’t very difficult to use spindle motors that can operate at variable speeds. If you have a look at optical drives (CD and DVD drives) you will quickly learn that most of them work at a constant linear velocity, which means that the rotation speed has to be adjusted to maintain a certain disc velocity at which the laser can read or write. WD goes down this path with its Caviar GT drives, as they adjust the rotation speed anywhere between 5,400 RPM and up to 7,200 RPM dynamically.

Consequently, we should not expect exciting performance results from the new hard drive, which also means that it won’t be a recommendation for enthusiasts with little patience. We typically recommend that you either use a balanced hard drive for your operating system and your data, or use one fast hard drive for the OS and a second, large hard drive for all your data. The WD Caviar GT certainly offers sufficient capacity at up to 1 TB, but it is more suitable for DVRs, NAS devices, media servers, other types of storage servers and backup drives than it is for performance PCs. As I already pointed out in the introduction of this article, the primary design attribute for the Caviar GT drives is to deliver maximum power savings, which is the aspect upon which we’ll focus with the new WD10EACS.

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  • turcca
    Nice review, but again I am missing the noise statistics. For me, the loudness and consumption are much more important than some 10% more speed.