Review – WD Caviar Black 1.5 TB SATA drive WD1501FASS


Western Digital WD Caviar Black 1.5 TB SATA Hard Drive WD1501FASS

This is a review of the Western Digital Caviar Black 1.5 TB SATA II 7200 RPM 3.5 Inch Internal Hard Drive (WD1501FASS) .

Rating:  4.5 stars (out of 5)

This drive is a member of the WD “Black” series, and not a WD “Green” drive. It is 1.5TB model (WD has a 1TB and 2TB black models). It has a 64MB cache, 7200rpm and a 5-year manufacture warranty.  What this means is that these drives are able to store 50% more files than just 1TB drives.  For example, a 1TB drive can store about 250 DVD-quality movies, whereas this drive can store 375 of the same movies. That’s a huge difference!

These drives were available at another site last summer, and the price went as low as $90 when I purchased these in January.  Now, you can find these online for about $80.  What this means is that these are relatively cheap yet high-performance drives and are very good for data storage.  If you need to upgrade your computer’s drive, this may be one to consider. At 1.5TB, it offers a very good price-to-storage compromise. More storage than the 1TB model, but cheaper than the 2TB model.

The question everyone seems to be asking is:  Is this drive part of the Advanced Format Technology (or AFT)?  I asked WD for the answer.

The question everyone seems to be asking is:  Is this drive part of the Advanced Format Technology (or AFT)?   All of the AFT drives come with 64MB cache, but not all drives with 64MB cache is an AFT drive.  And this IS NOT an AFT drive.  I’ve verified it with three separate inquiries to WD.  So no need to set/change jumpers, or use the WD alignment tool.  This drive should work out of the box.

As far as I can tell, these drives are sold as OEM drives, and have never been sold in a retail package (boxed with cables, screws, etc.).  According to WD, the company occasionally makes OEM products for manufacturers. However, WD also states that they do not usually honor the warranty on OEM drives (???). This can easily be verified through the reseller (Amazon, Newegg, TigerDirect, etc.) to see who is honoring the warranty. This information can also be checked on the WD website using the serial number.
Being the gadget geek that I am, I tested one of these drives on a desktop PC. I really did not know what to expect, since I’ve heard nothing of this drive. First thing I did was format it to NTFS using PartedMagic (single partition). These are actual numbers from this drive model:

Using HD Tune Pro, I got the following specs:
Average Read – 118 MB/s
Burst Read – 146 MB/s
Aveage Write – 114 MB/s
Burst Write – 144 MB/s
Temp: 39 C in operation

Using HD Tach…
Read – 119 MB/s
Write – 110 MB/s

Using CDM, I got some really impressive numbers…
Read – 256 MB/s
Write – 130 MB/s

Clearly, these benchmark numbers are impressive.  The CDM benchmarks approaches the advertised 300 MB/s speed, and from what I’ve seen with hundreds of drives is that this WD Black drive is one of the top performers in speed and storage space.  Somehow, the benchmark numbers for this drive are just a touch more impressive than the WD Black 2TB model (WD2001FASS), but quite similar for all intents and purpose.  Because the read and write speeds, as well as the random access times, are also comparable to the 2TB model, this makes me speculate if these 1.5TB drives are “refurbed” 2TB drives minus a failed platter.  The 2TB model has four x 500GB platters (the 1TB model has two x 500GB platters).  I tried to search for this drive (WD1501FASS) in the WD site with no success.  There is minimal information or documentation about this drive online.

It is also not clear if this drive has WD’s dual actuator technology. The 2TB model is the first of WD’s drives to utilize two independent actuators, which is essential to improve head positioning accuracy. I don’t think the 1TB model has this dual actuator system. This will be a tell-tale sign if this drive was based on the 2TB model (or refurbed from one).

I did not find this drive to be particularly noisy. My Hitachi 1TB 7200 and my WD Raptor are louder (though this is obvious). On my PC, the boot drive is noisier because it is a 10K rpm drive. However, it is noisier than my 5400 and 5900 rpm drives (not surprising). I’ve never tried this drive on a RAID configuration (having only one). If it goes on sale again, I may buy at least one more. I would say that the comparable Seage drive is the Barracuda XT, which come in 1TB and 2TB models (so far, no 1.5TB model for the Barracuda XT).

Overall, these drives are very nice drives for backups. For the price, (whether 90 or 120 each) these are excellent drives. Only time will tell how reliable they are. Highly recommended.


About Ask Conrad
I am a University Professor. A Neuroscientist by trade, and a technophile/geek on the side. My work and research is heavily dependent on computers and state-of-the-art technology. I like Jazz and Bossa Nova. I play the piano, guitar, and ukulele.

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