WD Caviar Green 2TB & Seagate Pipeline HD 500GB: Two Very Quiet Drives

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Pipeline HD Pro 1TB on the left, Pipeline HD 500GB on the right. The 500GB Pipeline has a shorter circuit board and the casing has less girth, looking "hollowed out."

Seagate Pipeline HD ST3500321CS: Key Features & Benefits
(from Seagate's product web page)
Eco-friendly and best-in-class power savings enabling the most energy-efficient system designs How eco-friendly the drive is is beyond our scope. We'll take them to task on power consumption though.
Industry-leading reliability in an always-on environment supports longevity of consumer electronics and low-power applications. We'll have to take their word for it.
Designed for cool, quiet, worry-free, 24x7 operations "Designed for hot, loud, worrisome, occasional operation" probably wouldn't be the best thing to say.
Performance enhanced for multimedia streaming applications Sounds good.
Seagate SoftSonic™ motor technology enables years of ultraquiet, worry-free operation with acoustics performance as low as 1.9 bels. The 1TB Pipeline was surprisingly quiet. The 500GB model with its lower rotational speed should improve on that further.
Up to 1-TB capacity enabling up to 200 hours of HD storage or 1000 hours of SD television recording. 1TB is nothing to brag about any more.
Sweet-spot capacities enable premium television services such as video on demand, high-definition storage and multi-room streaming for DVRs and media centers. Only the 1TB model is really in a sweet-spot based on price per gigabyte.
Seagate Think Green™ sustainability goes beyond green with improved reliability, low power consumption, leading recycling programs, RoHS compliance, PVC free, halogen free and brominated flame retardant free OK, we get it: Green is definitely the message.


Specifications: Caviar Green 2TB & Pipeline HD 500GB
Capacity 2TB 500GB
Cache 32MB 8MB
Disks / Heads 4 / 8 2 / 4
Interface SATA 3Gb/s SATA 3Gb/s
Spindle Rotation Speed IntelliPower
(5400 RPM)
5900 RPM
Sustained Data Rate OD 100 MB/s 90 MB/s
Average Latency ? 5.1 ms
Weight 730 grams 530 grams
Power Requirements: Idle / Seek (avg.) 3.7W / 6.0W 4.3W / 5.0W
Acoustics 24 / 25 / 29 dBA (idle / quiet seek / performance seek) 2.1 / 2.4 bels (idle / operating)

Both manufacturers are reluctant to state rotational speeds for their respective "green" hard drives, not wanting consumers to get the (correct) impression that they do not perform as well as typical 7200 RPM models. Western Digital uses the marketingspeak of "IntelliPower" — which suggests that each individual drive is set to an optimal speed between 5400 and 7200 RPM before leaving the factory. An amazing coincidence that our 2TB turned out to be a 5400 RPM drive just like our 1TB and 750GB samples. Seagate's current data sheet does not list rotational speed at all, though an earlier version showed the smaller Pipelines (160GB, 320GB and 500GB models) all spin at 5900 RPM.

Other than the slight rotational speed advantage of the Pipelines, most of the published specifications favor the 2TB Green drive as it has double the areal density (500GB vs. 250GB), more cache and a higher sustained data rate. Both drives claim to be low power. The acoustics claims are difficult to compare, as WD cites dBA (we presume at 1m distance) sound pressure level, while Seagate cites bels sound power. Never mind, we measured them side by side in our own anechoic chamber.

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