REVIEW: WD Caviar 640GB WD6400AAKS SATA II Drive

In the previous review (Seagate ST3640323AS 640GB), we found out that the cache and platter areal density contributes or influences the overall performance of the drive. And, from the results, it is quite clear that the trend is a direct proportion.

What we will see in this review prompted us to correct that view and state the above statement must be true for two-platter drives. Or this may perhaps be a general rule but with exceptions, of course. What does this mean?

First, please allow me to give a background of what happened. We were using the ST3640323AS 640GB as primary (boot) drive, standalone. After launching several applications, the PC would seem to freeze with the HDD activity LED lit up. Eventually the system will recover after random lengths of "freezing". Other times the drive would "disappear" and go undetected by the BIOS.

After hours of troubleshooting, BIOS flashing, and re-installing Windows, and days of waiting for replacement for the brand new ST3640323AS that we thought to be defective.. we soon discover that there is an incompatibility between the ST3640323AS and the Asus Maximus II Formula. After going through three ST3640323AS replacements, the decision was to replace the drive with a similarly-sized WDC 640GB WD6400AAKS.

(For purposes of traceability, the firmware on the ST3640323AS drives is SD13.)

To gain better confidence with the health of the drive, we ran the same check and found it to be in perfect shape with the obvious conclusion that there must be a compatibility issue with the chipset and the 640GB ST3640323AS.

We ran the benchmark of HD Tune to see if the drive lives up to its standards. And indeed it does!

There are several facts gleaned off this experience and the empirical observations gathered. Not only is the Western Digital Caviar 640GB WD6400AAKS faster than its 1TB next generation counterpart, with higher areal density, it is also incompatibility-free (for the lack of a better term). This seems to be a logical explaination to the previous puzzle on the price premium of WD drives over its counterparts.

Comparing apples to oranges is unfair. Three (3) platter disks are not the same as two (2) platter ones but from the point of view of areal density, bigger does not always translate to faster. It may be too, that the firmware of the 1TB WD1001FALS needs more tweaking to perform better. This line of reasoning seems to be more applicable in this case.

Regardless of the reasons behind, this fact does not escape our notice: the WDC 640GB WD6400AAKS is a fast drive that will pimp your rig!

Acknowledgments, again, to my good friend Xavier Zulueta for the review of the WD6400AAKS.

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