WD refreshes 7,200-RPM Black hard drives

A few days ago, an eagle-eyed reader emailed us about some new Black hard drive he spotted on WD's site. (Thanks John!) The drives had FZEX model numbers instead of the FAEX designation that adorns the 4TB unit we tested in April, but there was no accompanying press release to announce their arrival. We asked WD about the drives and now have some additional information to share with you.

Let's start with what hasn't changed. The old Black 4TB stacked five 800GB platters, and the new revision appears to do the same. When we asked WD if it was switching to 1TB platters, the firm told us "the product is the same." The 7,200-RPM spindle speed remains intact, as well.

What's new? Better performance. The 4TB model's maximum sustained data rate has jumped from 154 to 171MB/s, for example. The lower-capacity variants get similar speed bumps, which are detailed in the latest datasheet. WD mentioned even larger performance increases to us, including a 48% boost for the 4TB drive, but we'll reserve judgment until we can test one for ourselves.

The Black's higher speeds appear to come largely from improved algorithms and an updated controller with "double the bits" of its predecessor. According to WD, the "high resolution controller" improves tracking precision, which in turn accelerates overall performance. The processor still has dual cores, but it looks like those cores have been upgraded from 32 to 64 bits—with tangible results.

The last addition WD touts is new vibration control and "corruption protection" tech that allows the Black to "adapt to any mounting problems or vibration conditions inside the case—resulting in increased data accuracy, performance and reliability over time." Drive vibration has been on my mind lately, and that might be something we can test. Stay tuned.

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