Western Digital's single-platter 320GB Caviar SE16 WD3200AAKS

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April 9, 2008 by Mike Chin

Western Digital Caviar SE16 320GB

7,200 RPM Desktop Hard Drive
Sample Suppliers
Market Price

Western Digital underwent a major makeover of sorts a couple of years ago, transforming its HDD lines from one of the noisiest in the industry to one of the quietest. Wholesale adoption of Fluid Dynamic Bearings marked the beginning of this change. Most WD products offered in the last couple of years have been very quiet, competing closely with the other low-noise HDD leader, Samsung. Their traditional emphasis on high performance has not been ignored, as they continue producing the 10,000 RPM Raptor drives. The Green Power line introduced last year broke convention with its 5400 RPM spindle speed, which exacts a price in performance, ameliorated by high areal density. It also set new records for acoustics; the GP drives are simply the quietest 3.5" drives available today.

Samsung, in the meanwhile, released the 7200 RPM F1 series, with an industry-leading 334GB maximum capacity per platter. This was 33% higher areal density than its closest competitors when the line was first released, and their terabyte model has been widely reviewed as the best performing of today's 3.5" desktop HDDs. Now, WD has nearly caught up with a couple of new models in their SE16 Caviar line that offer 320GB per platter.

Only two models are offered at this time, a 320GB model with a single platter, and 640GB with two platters. Normally, fewer platters means less noise, due to lower moving mass and less air tubulence; low capacity drives have often been acoustically preferable. This did not hold true for single-platter models from Seagate and Hitachi that we reviewed back in 2005; neither challenged the quiet leaders of their day. Will this new 320GB Caviar SE16 reconfirm the platters-and-noise truism?

WD Caviar SE16 320GB model.

WD Caviar SE16 WD3200AAKS
(from WD's product overview)
Top performance for Windows Vista - WD Caviar SE16 SATA and EIDE drives are certified for Windows Vista and are top performers on the Windows Vista Experience Index. The usual marketing fluff.
16 MB Cache - Bigger cache means faster performance. Quickly becoming standard.
Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) - The latest generation of WD Caviar SE16 drives employs PMR technology to achieve even greater areal density. PMR is quickly becoming standard. It's part of what makes the high areal density possible.
IntelliSeek™ - Calculates optimum seek speeds to lower power consumption, noise and vibration It sounds good.
SecurePark™ - Parks the recording heads off the disk surface during spin up, spin down and when the drive is off. This ensures the recording head never touches the disk surface resulting in improved long term reliability due to less head wear, and improved non- operational shock tolerance. Will it cause audible clicking?
3 years End-user Limited Warranty OK, but not as good as Seagate's 5 years.


The specifications below are specific to the model that we examined. Capacity, cache size, platter number, interface, and performance can vary from model to model. Don't assume they're the same in a given line. Acoustics and power dissipation also vary depending on the number of platters in the drive; smaller capacity drives tend to have fewer platters, and tend to produce less noise and use less power.

It's possible that an earlier version of this model, which has two 160GB platters, might still be floating about in the market. The identifier for the single-disk version is the last part of the model number: 00B3A0.

Specifications: WD Caviar SE16 WD3200AAKS-00B3A0
(from WD's product overview)
320 GB
16 MB
Disks / Heads
1 / 2
Interface SATA 3Gb/s
Spindle Rotation Speed
7,200 RPM
Data Transfer Rate / Buffer to disk (Max.) 70 MB/sec
Data Transfer Rate / Buffer to Host (Max.) 300 MB/sec
Average Seek
Average Latency
4.2 ms
600 g
Power Requirements: Idle / Seek (avg.)
7.2 / 7.8 W
Acoustics: Idle / Seek / Seek with AAM
25 / 29 / 26 dBA

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