Western Digital Caviar SE16 (WD5000AAKS)

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Western Digital Caviar SE16 (WD5000AAKS)
  • Western Digital Caviar SE16 (WD5000AAKS)
  • Western Digital Caviar SE16 (WD5000AAKS)
  • Western Digital Caviar SE16 (WD5000AAKS)
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Excellent performance, cool and quiet operation

Cons

  • Nothing of note

Bottom Line

At 500GB, the Western Digital Caviar SE16 (WD5000AAKS) is great value for any type of computer system. Its performance makes it suitable for a high-performance PC, while its cool and quiet running makes it an ideal choice for a media centre or silent PC. We recommend it.

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Western Digital's Caviar SE16 range of internal hard drives is built with performance in mind. We received the Caviar SE16 WD5000AAKS and found it to be a great performer that also runs quite cool, and very quietly.

The specifications of the drive are impressive: it has a 500GB capacity (465GB formatted capacity), 16MB buffer, 7200rpm spin speed and a 300MBps SATA interface. It's suited to almost any type of desktop computer and, in particular, would be a fantastic choice for a media centre PC, due to its low noise, low temperature and large capacity.

During our tests, the drive was almost silent, even during vigorous seek operations. Also, after three hours of continual data transfers, and without any cooling aids, the surface temperature of the drive reached a very cool 35 degrees, which is an excellent result. A media centre PC case equipped only with modest cooling features (say, one extraction fan) should benefit greatly from this drive.

Our tests also showed this drive's performance to be stellar. In our tests, we transfer both a large number of files (of various sizes) and a small number of files (of larger size). Across both tests the transfers were performed very quickly which we found to be rather impressive. Using an ASUS P5B Premium motherboard, an Intel Core 2 Quad E6700 CPU and 1GB of DDR2 RAM we installed the drive in a single-drive configuration under the Windows Vista Ultimate operating system.

In our data transfer tests, we copy data from one location on the drive to another. Using over 17,000 files in a 13.2GB folder, the WD5000AAKS attained a transfer rate of 23.7MBps (megabytes per second). This rate was consistent over multiple tests and is actually slightly faster than what a 150GB Western Digital Raptor achieved (23.23MBps) on the same test system. This is despite the fact that the Raptor has a faster spin speed (10,000rpm).

Transferring a handful of large files in a 1.12GB folder, the WD5000AAKS attained a rate of 30MBps, which is an excellent result. The Raptor attained a rate of 23.33MBps in this test. In our WinZip test, where an archive is created and extracted, the WD5000AAKS completed the task in 259sec, while the Raptor took 289sec. These results justify Western Digital's claims that this drive is suitable for high performance multimedia systems and business machines. As mentioned previously, we also think it's a great drive for a media centre PC.

As for the WD5000AAKS' technology, Western Digital has used longitudinal recording technology (meaning it does not use perpendicular recording), which means that data is stored on the drive in a horizontal orientation (parallel to the disk), rather than vertically (as is the case in perpendicular recording). In any case, this drive improves on the company's previous 500GB models by using fewer disk platters to store its data (three as opposed to four). Having fewer platters in a disk means it runs cooler, as there is more air space inside the drive.

The WD5000AAKS also has Ramp Load technology, which protects the drive from shock-related damage by parking the disk heads away from the platters when the drive is switched off and also during spin up/spin down operations. Of course, this doesn't mean that the drive can survive harsh handling; it's merely a safeguard against accidental bumps that may be sustained during transportation, while the drive is off.

As for the drive's cost per gigabyte, we think it's great value. At time of publication, the recommended retail price is $229. At this price, the cost per gigabyte is just 49 cents (calculated on 465GB formatted capacity). If you shop around, you may even be able to pick it up for a little less.

Overall, if you've got aspirations of building a silent PC or a media centre, this drive should be at the top of your shopping list. Likewise, if you want excellent performance at a decent price for a gaming or video-oriented machine, this is an excellent choice.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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