WD SE16 Caviar 640GB is now Blue

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The averge read speed of 90.8 MB/s with maximum burst speed up to 237 MB/s was similar to the results obtained with the 320GB Caviar SE16 samples, as was the 12.4ms random access speed. The read speed was faster than the 750GB Samsung F1's 77 MB/s, and about the same as the 1TB F1. Access speed at 12.4ms was slightly better than both the Samsungs, at 13.6ms and 13.8ms. In actual use, most users should see little or no differences among those various drives, except, perhaps, for big file transfers with the Samsung F1 750GB taking a bit longer. Turning Automatic Acoustic Management on to the minimum noise setting exacted a 4ms price in access speed.

Almost identical to the WD 320GB model, and similar to the Samsung F1 1TB drive.

With AAM engaged for lowest noise, random access speed suffered.


Audio recordings were made of the drives and are presented here in MP3 format. The recordings below contains 5 seconds of ambient noise, and 10 seconds of idle noise followed by 10 seconds of seek noise with AAM enabled and 10 seconds without.

Keep in mind that the recordings paint only part of the acoustic picture; vibration noise is not recorded, and drives often sound different depending on the angle from which they are heard.

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Most recordings are made from a distance of one meter. The recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. For best results, set your volume control so that the starting stretch of ambient is just barely audible. Be aware that very quiet drives may not be easily audible in idle — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.


Technical Note: Acoustically astute listeners may notice a qualitative difference in the ambient at the start of the WD6400AAKS sound file, and the ambient in all the other files. You are not hearing things, it is there. The WD640GB drive MP3 is the first recording made with our new 1" test microphone system from ACO Pacific. The new mic has a different sonic signature than the Sennheiser ME-66 we've used for the past couple of years. The Sennheiser is optimized for speech intelligibility, and to that end, it has a frequency response which drops steadily by about 2 dB/octave starting from 500Hz to a maximum drop of about -8 dB at 40Hz. In plain words, it sounds a bit thin in the bass. There's a broad peak of about 3 dB centered around 8kHz which helps with voice intelligibility but also adds a brightness to all sounds. The ACO Pacific mic is much more linear, with a ruler-straight response from under 10Hz all the way to over 15kHz, and it has less internal noise. The differences can be heard, and it may affect your perception of how audible and/or annoying a particular noise really is. Be forwarned that recordings made with this new mic may make the earlier ones sound brighter and thinner. This will tend to give an unfair advantage to new recordings when you're comparing them to earlier ones. Focus on the difference between the ambient and the product noise within each recording. This difference should be your guide.

Sound technologists may ask why not just apply a frequency tailoring filter to the new sound files to emulate the sound of the Sennheiser mic and avoid the discontinuity? This option was explored and rejected after much experimentation because the effect was not truly convincing (ie, the ACO Pacific mic still didn't sound like the Sennheiser) and it would artificially extend the use of a less accurate recording tool. Better that you all get used to the sound of the new, more accurate mic sooner rather than later.

After it is operational, we'll record a sampling of reference quiet products with the new mic in SPCR's sound isolation / anechoic chamber and use them as comparative references in future reviews. This was also done the last time we made an upgrade in our microphone. Some of our product samples are long gone, some products are discontinued, and some products are not worth refreshing, so many of the existing sound recordings will never be updated. This is a bit unfortunate, but impossible to avoid when trying to maintain a reference library in a field where products have such short lifespans.


The WD640 is a highly viable alternative to the Samsung F1 750GB and 1TB drives, which appear to be their natural competitors. None of the other drive makers have released drives with greater than 300GB/platter areal density. The WD640 is the equal of the Samsung F1s acoustically, and very close in performance. It betters the F1 750GB model in sustained read speed, and matches Samsung's 1TB model (at least on our test system). Note, however, that the performance of this drive is excellent, at or near the top of the current 7200 RPM desktop drives.

There have not been any reported variants of the WD640's casing, unlike the single platter WD320 we mentioned at the start of this review. The casing feels quite sturdy, more substantial than either of the WD320 casings we examined. Despite the the WD640's 2 platters, it seems subjectively a touch quieter than the quieter sample of the single-platter WD320.

The bottom line on the Western Digital WD6400AAKS is that it is a very quiet desktop drive offering excellent performance and high capacity at a sweet price. What's not to like?

Many thanks Western Digital for the review sample.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR's Hard Drive Testing Methodology
SPCR's Recommended Hard Drives
WD VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS
WD WD3200AAKS single platter drive
Samsung F1 750GB & 1TB Drives: Fast... and Silent?
WD Green Power: A New Benchmark in HDD Acoustics & Power
The Terabyte Landmark: Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 Terabyte drive

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