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Western Digital Caviar Green 3TB review

Western Digital Caviar Green 3TB

Verdict

The pinnacle of disk storage, and performance is attractive too

Review Date: 30 Nov 2010

Reviewed By: Darien Graham-Smith

Price when reviewed: £162 (£190 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
3 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

Mechanical hard disks are looking unfashionable these days as solid-state storage filters into the mainstream. But they’re still much cheaper and can offer vastly greater storage capacities, as Western Digital’s monster 3TB disk – the largest we’ve seen to date – demonstrates.

The Caviar Green range focuses on quietness and low power consumption, rather than maximum performance, but this drive’s quoted idle draw of 5.5W is surprisingly high; the 2TB model is listed as just 2.5W. Still, it’s no worse than average for a desktop drive, and lower than the 6.3W rating of the A-Listed Samsung Spinpoint F3. The drive proved quiet in operation too, spinning with a gentle whirr but none of the chattering you get from some units.

While speed isn’t a major selling point, the drive still completed our file-copying tests in good time. In our large file tests it averaged read and write speeds of 110MB/sec and 169MB/sec; some way off the Samsung’s scores of 138MB/sec and 208MB/sec, but still fast enough for general-purpose use.

Western Digital Caviar Green 3TB

The best news came in the small-file exercises. Last year’s Caviar Green drives performed dreadfully in our Labs tests, taking ten times as long to write data as their rivals. But the 3TB Caviar Green gave a strong performance. It read our 15,000 files at an average rate of 73MB/sec, about on a par with other green drives, and wrote them back at a remarkable 71MB/sec – faster even than Western Digital’s flagship 2TB Caviar Black, which managed 50MB/sec in the same test.

Doubtless that’s partly thanks to the Caviar Green’s generous 64MB cache, but it’s also a thumbs up for Western Digital’s “advanced format”, which improves efficiency by storing data in 4KB clusters rather than the 512-byte clusters used by older drives. We suspect it was teething troubles with this format that crippled last year’s drives, but evidently it’s working perfectly now.

There is still one catch, however. Windows can't boot from a disk larger than 2.19TB unless you have a UEFI motherboard and a 64-bit OS — and Windows XP doesn't support drives of this size at all. For most users, the 3TB Caviar Green will therefore be usable only as secondary storage, and you may also have to connect it via the bundled PCI-E x1 SATA controller if your motherboard doesn't recognise the full capacity.

Top-of-the-range hardware is never cheap, either: at £162 exc VAT, the 3TB Caviar Green costs a lot more than you’d pay for two 1.5TB units (now selling online for around £47 each). At 5.8p/GB it’s the sort of price you’d associate with a high-performance workstation drive rather than a green model.

Still, with our favourite SSD – the Kingston SSDNow 100V – coming in at £1.48/GB for a 128GB model, the 3TB Caviar Green doesn’t look bad. It's a shame that most of us won't be able to use it as a system drive, but it’s still undeniably convenient to get this much storage with decent performance in a single unit and, as the price falls, that appeal will only grow.

This review was updated on 30 November to make clear that there is limited hardware and software support for drives of this size.

Author: Darien Graham-Smith

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User comments

Appealing

You can't really complain at 5.8p/GB...
I think, until SSDs become more competitive price wise the only choice is a two disk set up, an SSD for OS install and a large HDD for data storage and other tasks.
Call me old fashioned though, I get nervous thinking about having that much data on a single point of failure. But at that price , having multiple drives for RAID or backup is viable.

By Bluespider on 30 Nov 2010

You don't mention...

that the LBA addressing is 32-bit and cannot go beyond 2TB (2.1?). The MBR is also stuck in 32-bit and can't go beyond 2TB.

3TB needs either the drive to lie, use larger blocks or switch to a GUID based addressing system and booting from a 3TB drive needs Windows Vista 64-bit or Windows 7 64-bit (or modern Linux distros) and a motherboard with UEFI.

By big_D on 30 Nov 2010

An excellent point.

Thanks for pointing that out - I've updated the review.

By DarienGS on 30 Nov 2010

UEFI motherboards - they hardly exist

I was checking up on UEFI (and therefore available motherboards) a couple of weeks ago wondering if I could run 3TB drives in a Windows Home Server when Vail was released.

Now Vail is crippled I'll probably buy a ready-made WHS v1 box - and even if I built one myself, WHS v1 will neither recognise or boot from 3TB drives (as far as I can discover - unless anyone knows differently).

But what I did discover is just how few UEFI boards are available... something PC Pro could cover in the near future perhaps?

By Cantabrian on 30 Nov 2010

UEFI motherboards - they hardly exist

I was checking up on UEFI (and therefore available motherboards) a couple of weeks ago wondering if I could run 3TB drives in a Windows Home Server when Vail was released.

Now Vail is crippled I'll probably buy a ready-made WHS v1 box - and even if I built one myself, WHS v1 will neither recognise or boot from 3TB drives (as far as I can discover - unless anyone knows differently).

But what I did discover is just how few UEFI boards are available... something PC Pro could cover in the near future perhaps?

By Cantabrian on 30 Nov 2010

Caviar Green Speed Query

I recently purchased a pair of 1TB Caviar Green drives for a desktop machine (to set up a RAID mirror), and was surprised to see that they only spin at 5,400 RPM, rather than the customary 7,200 RPM for desktop drives.

Despite that it is a very rapid drive at a very reasonable price, and very quiet too.

WD provides some useful utilities on it's website to clone drives and to activate the WD Advanced Format. The Advanced Format is supposed to be applied after the OS is installed; however, I found that this corrupted my XP installation, and I had to reinstall everything again. So, make sure you have a backup before upgrading your drive!

By NigelClegg on 10 Jan 2011

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