Western Digital Black 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). 

WD1501FASSHopefully you’ve read my blog about what to consider when it’s time to upgrade a hard drive.

When the time comes for the need to replace your hard drive, choosing the right drive is not always the easiest task.  If you do a significant amount of audio/picture/video processing, you will need a high-performance drive to run your computer (ie. boot drive) and/or to run your editing programs.  An eco-green drive may not be sufficient for this purpose, unless you are just replacing a data storage drive.

If you are interested in upgrading to a high-capacity performance (7200 rpm) drive, do you go for a 2TB drive, which has more space but also costs more, or do you get a 1TB and save some money?  In this case, how about somewhere in between.  For drive performance, this WD Black 1.5 TB drive receives a top-5 recommendation.  Sure, there are others with similar performance, but IMHO this drive has the optimal balance when considering performance, storage, and price.

With this drive, you will have the space and speed to store and edit all your space-consuming HD videos of your dog swimming in the lake or the bachelor party you never should have filmed.

The WD 1.5 TB (WD1501FASS) drive is currently listed the same price as its 1TB counterpart, so you get more drive space for your money.

This drive is part of the “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.   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!

Currently these drives are going as low as $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.

What do I think about these drives?

As far as I can tell, these drives are sold only as OEM drives, and have never been sold in a retail package (boxed with cables, screws, etc.).  This means that it comes in a brown box, maybe with some bubble padding or secured by plastic holders.  It does not come pre-formatted, nor does it come with cables, disks, instruction manuals, or in a pretty retail box.  According to WD, the company occasionally makes OEM products for manufacturers.

One thing to keep in mind is that WD also states that they do not usually honor the warranty on OEM drives (???) which does not make much sense.  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 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).  I ran a benchmark test on these drives using my workstation with the following specs:

Dell Precision 490, Quad-core Intel Xeon 5300, 4GB DDR2 fully buffered DIMM 667MHz ECC memory, Dual ATI FireGL V7200, WD Raptor 160 GB, WinXP Pro SP3

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

Clearly, these benchmark numbers are impressive. It does not reach the advertised 300 MB/s speed, but from what I’ve seen with hundreds of drives is that this drive is one of the top performers in speed and storage space. Somehow, the benchmark numbers for this drive are a bit more impressive than the WD Black 2TB model (WD2001FASS). 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. Because WD is vague about this information, I will have to take off half a star (rounded down to 4-stars).

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 80 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.

One Response to Western Digital Black WD1501FASS

  1. Pingback: Upgrading a Hard Drive « Ask Conrad

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