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Our sample was tested according to our standard
hard drive testing methodology. Our methodology focuses specifically on
HDD noise, and great effort is taken to ensure it is comprehensively measured
and described. Performance is not tested, for reasons discussed in detail in
the methodology article. For comprehensive HDD performance testing results,
we recommend Storage
Review, who have established a long reputation as the specialist in
this field. Their review of the Western Digital Green Power can be found in
a roundup of
several terabyte drives.
Our test drive was compared against our reference drives, the Seagate Barracuda
IV and Samsung Spinpoint P80, which are profiled in our methodology article.
To get a good idea of where the drives in this review stand, it is important
to read the methodology article thoroughly. It was also compared against our
current low-noise champ: A 500
GB Western Digital WD5000KS. A
250 GB Spinpoint P120 was also included in the comparison.
Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:
- Airborne acoustics
- Vibration-induced noise.
These two types of noise impact the subjective
perception of hard drive noise differently depending on how and where the drive
Both forms of noise are evaluated objectively and
subjectively. Both the subjective and objective analyses are essential to understanding
the acoustics of the drives. Airborne acoustics are measured using a professional
caliber SLM. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter above the top
of the drive using an A-weighted filter. Vibration noise is rated on a scale
of 1-10 by comparing against our standard reference drives.
A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments
are relevant to the sample we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There
are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without
Ambient conditions at the time of testing were 18 dBA and 20°C.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the numbers don't lie: This is the quietest desktop drive
we've ever tested. Well sometimes they do, but not this time; subjectively,
the drive was just as quiet as its barely-above-ambient objective results suggest.
The biggest difference? A large reduction in air noise. It makes sense
just like a fan, a slower-spinning drive produces less air turbulence, which
means less noise. The lower amount of air noise uncovered a faint trace of electronic
noise, but this was not audible from a distance, and it would disappear entirely
inside a system.
Seeks were soft, low, and measured very well. However, they were slightly more
obvious than the last Western Digital we looked at mainly because the
seeks on that drive disappeared under the whoosh of air noise. Without this
broadband noise, the seeks on the Green Power were clearly audible once more.
That said, measurement for AAM seeks was indistinguishable from the idle measurement,
so there's no question they are quiet. Any fan running above ~700 RPM should
generate enough noise to cover the seek noise completely.
Besides idle and seek noise, the Green Power produced one more noise: A pair
of sharp clicks whenever the heads were loaded or unloaded (that is, whenever
the drive went into or came out of idle mode). This noise was louder than the
similar noise made by most notebook drives, but quieter than the infamous head
reset noise made by certain Hitachi models. The noise was quite similar to seek
noise and was roughly the same volume. On close listening, it seemed slightly
sharper than the seek noise.
In addition to low direct noise, the Green Power also tied the best (that is,
lowest) vibration of any desktop drive we've tested. Once again, the lower rotation
speed can be credited. Not only does the lower speed translate into less momentum,
but the resonant frequency is lower and thus harder to hear. On our highly resonant
aluminum test box, the drive produced just enough hum to have a presence, but
it was difficult to pick out the hum on its own. In a real system, it would
be unlikely to be heard at all.
With such good measurements, we were curious to see how the Green Power stacked
up against the legendary Barracuda IV. This drive has stood as the quietest
desktop drive ever since we first saw it, though it has been obsolete for years.
The verdict? The Green Power had slightly more air noise, but it lacked the
slight whine that the Barracuda IV's exhibited. Of the two, the air noise was
slightly easier to ignore, but it's not a huge advantage either way. Seek noise,
on the other hand, was squarely in favor of the Green Power. The Barracuda IV
had short, staccato seeks that drew attention to themselves with their suddenness.
The Green Power sounded far more relaxed (as well as being quieter overall),
and the rumble of the seeks blended easily into the background.
The Green Power's biggest claim to fame is power consumption, and our measurements
confirmed its efficiency. Measuring the power at idle proved difficult, since
the drive appeared to cycle certain functions on and off apparently at random,
so the power consumption rarely stayed the same for more than a few seconds.
During our measurements, we observed everything from 3.3W to 5.9W at idle, but
the most common level was 3.7W when the heads were unloaded. This is by far
the most efficient drive we've tested, with the next-closest competitor being
a 160 GB model from Hitachi, at 4.7W. Seek power was similarly frugal, with
no other drives coming close.
Western Digital's estimate of a 40% power savings actually seems a little conservative
on the basis of the drives we've tested, as the Green Power actually drew less
than half the power of some of the drives in our database. This was true no
matter what state the drives were in.
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