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Test notes
We'll be comparing the performance of the Caviar Black with that of a slew of competitors, including some of the latest and greatest Serial ATA drives from Hitachi, Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital. These drives differ when it comes to external transfer rates, spindle speeds, cache sizes, platter densities, and capacity, all of which can have an impact on performance. Keep in mind the following differences as we move through our benchmarks:

Max external transfer rate Spindle speed Cache size Platter size Capacity
Barracuda 7200.11 300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 250GB 1TB
Barracuda ES.2 300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 250GB 1TB
Caviar Black 300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 334GB 1TB
Caviar GP 300MB/s 5,400-7,200-RPM 16MB 250GB 1TB
Caviar SE16 (640GB) 300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 320GB 640GB
Deskstar 7K1000 300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 200GB 1TB
Raptor WD1500ADFD 150MB/s 10,000-RPM 16MB 75GB 150GB
RE2-GP 300MB/s 5,400-7,200-RPM 16MB 250GB 1TB
SpinPoint F1 300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 334GB 1TB
VelociRaptor VR150 300MB/s 10,000-RPM 16MB 150GB 300GB

Performance data from such a daunting collection of drives can make our bar graphs a little hard to read, so we've colored the bars by manufacturer, with the Caviar Black appearing in brighter blue than the rest of Western Digital's drives.

Our testing methods
All tests were run three times, and their results were averaged, using the following test system.

Processor Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4GHz
System bus 800MHz (200MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard Asus P5WD2 Premium
Bios revision 0422
North bridge Intel 955X MCH
South bridge Intel ICH7R
Chipset drivers Chipset
Memory size 1GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Micron DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz
CAS latency (CL) 3
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 3
RAS precharge (tRP) 3
Cycle time (tRAS) 8
Audio codec ALC882D
Graphics Radeon X700 Pro 256MB with CATALYST 5.7 drivers
Hard drives Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB SATA
Seagate Barracuda ES.2 1TB SATA
Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB SATA
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000 1TB SATA
Western Digital RE2- GP 1TB SATA
Western Digital Caviar GP 1TB SATA
Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB SATA
Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA
Western Digital Caviar SE16 640GB SATA 
OS Windows XP Professional
OS updates Service Pack 2

Thanks to NCIX for getting us the Deskstar 7K1000 and Spinpoint F1.

Our test system was powered by OCZ PowerStream power supply units.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems' Windows desktop was set at 1280x1024 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.