Author: Antti Valkeinen
Published: 02.09.2003
Manufacturer: Western Digital
Product group: Hard drive

WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB

WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB

Largest capacity Serial ATA drives are currently enormous 250GB models from Western Digital, Maxtor and Hitachi. We received two 250GB Serial ATA drives from Western Digital and now it is time to look them a bit closer. Are they just all about storage capacity or is there speed behind? Let's find out.

Western Digital Caviar SE series has few interesting benefits compared to almost any other similar Serial ATA drives. First is of course its maximum capacity, which is quite impressive. Secondly FlexPower™ – connector technology supports both old Molex and new SATA power adapters and lastly SecureConnect™ provides a 500 percent stronger cable-to-drive connection than first-generation SATA hard drives and cables.

We looked differences between Serial ATA and Parallel ATA closer on a Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 review so I'm not going to explain same stuff here. Let's look what kind of drive WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB really is.


WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB is ordinary looking drive. No glittering or fancy marketing stuff, it's just a 3.5" drive. However, ehen I turned it upside down I noticed that Western Digital has done clever thing and located all electrical components to drive side of PCB. This surely protects them against static electricity and other damages that careless handling can do to them.

There is even padding under PCB, which removes noise and protects PCB components short circuiting themselves to drive body. My only concern is that this kind of protections heats sensitive components too much but it is probably not going to happen because during my tests I didn't notice that back side of PCB would have been too warm.


On the rear there is Serial ATA connectors, FlexPower™ – connector and some jumpers. WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB supports also old Molex power plug, which is quite unique feature. However one should be careful because SATA power and legacy power connectors shouldn't be used together, that might damage the drive. There are also few jumpers whose function I couldn't understand. I didn't found any document concerning them so because they probably do something I recommend that one should not touch them unless otherwise instructed.


Serial ATA power adapter

Serial ATA power adapter & Serial ATA data cable

SecureConnect™ worked very well. Serial ATA cables locked to connectors very tight, there is absolute no chance that they will pop out accidentally. Very nice and easy.

Technical information:

Capacity:250,059 MB
Interface:Serial ATA


Internal Transfer Rate:748 Mbits/s max
Max. External Transfer Rate:150 MB/s
Average Seek:8.9 ms
Average Latency:4.2 ms
Cache:8 MB
Spindle Speed:7200 RPM


Limited Warranty:3 year

Power Requirements:

Power Management:
Read/Write:10.6 W
Idle:10.0 W


Operating Temperature:5-55°C
Nonoperating Temperature:-40-65°C
Operating Shock:30 G (write), 65 G (read)
Non Operating Shock:250 G

More detailed specifications from manufacturer's product page.

Technical informations are very usual for a fast 7200RPM drive. Internal transfer rate is very high and external transfer rate is maximum effective SATA 1.0 transfer rate 150MB/sec (which is actually faster than internal transfer rate). Average access time is around 13.1ms (8.9ms + 4.2ms) and cache size is 8MB. So we have here drive, which is very well comparable to almost any other modern Serial ATA or PATA drive. Except that WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB has one advantage, it's capacity.

It is also nice that whole Caviar SE series has 8MB cache which seems to give clear speed advantage over 2MB models. Se series has also 3 year limited warranty, which I find very promising and gives a picture of reliable product. Power requirements are quite usual but maximum operating temperature is 5C lower than I have used to. Maximum noise levels are quite high too.

Using experiences:

Installing drive is easy task since cables are easy to plug on and there should be no compatibility problems with Serial ATA drives and controllers. However I found that when I connected two WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB drives to ICH5R SATA controller, system refused to boot to Windows XP. With one drive there was no problems at all. So I tried other motherboard, which had newer bios for ICH5R SATA controller and system worked flawlessly. Very strange.

I have to say that WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB is not silent drive. Operating noise is high frequency yelping, which is quite annoying. What I found surprising was that drive was very cool compared to few other 7200RPM drives.

WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB


ProcessorIntel Pentium 4 2.40GHz 800MHz HT
MemoryKingston HyperX PC3000 2x256MB
MotherboardEpox 4PDA2+ & Albatron PX865ProII
SATA-controllersIntel ICH5R & Silicon Image 3112A

I drove tests using two different SATA controllers: Silicon Image 3112A and Intel ICH5R chipsets integrated SATA RAID controller. Reason to this was clarify if used controller make any performance and compatibility difference. Seagate delivered two drives so I drove RAID test too. Benchmark programs were this time HDTach 2.61, SiSoft Sandra MAX3 and Futuremark’s PCMark2002. I also included many quite new and widely used SATA and PATA drives to comparison charts.

I drove tests on my 2.4GHz P4 system using integrated ICH5R SATA controller, except Hitachi 180GXP 120 GB and Samsung Spinpoint V40 60 GB drives which was tested on AMD system.

HDTach 2.61

WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB is little slower than Seagate but not by much. Write speed does not seem right and it is probably bug in HDTach 2.61 and nothing worry about. Random access time is 13.7ms, which is 0.6ms slower than drive datasheets tell. Other 7200RPM drives are little faster on this section.

SiSoft Sandra MAX3

Seagate is faster again but WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB follows very closely. This time write speed seems to be where it should be and scores seems reliable. Speed differences among test subjects are large.


WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB is again second of the pack. Write result is somewhy very different than on SiSoft Sandra MAX3 and cached results do not seem reliable. However it is clear that WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB one of the fastest and only Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 showed continually better results. So this WD is not just a huge storage device, it is also fast one.

RAID 0 -tests:

RAID tests are driven on Silicon Image 3112A as well as on ICH5R RAID controller. On the charts there is results of one drive and RAID 0 results with both controllers. RAID 0 strip size was 16kb.

HDTach 2.61

WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB perform very well on RAID 0. Test results are very good and there is no sign of any compatibility problems (Seagate clearly has). Write speed is again much slower than it should be, but that is HDTach 2.61 problem.

SiSoft Sandra MAX3

Western Digital is fastest again.


Even on PCMark2002 Western Digital managed to take strong lead. It seems that WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB is much better on RAID than Seagate Barracuda 7200.7. So although Seagate was fastest single drive Western Digital is fastest on RAID. Only problem during test was compatibility problem on ICH5R SATA controller which was solved with newer BIOS.



WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB

+ RAID Performance
+ Capacity
+ 3 year warranty

- Price

WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB is not just all about capacity, it is also lightning fast drive. If you are need of a fast and big drive, WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB is very good choice. Especially RAID performance was very good and although price is quite high you get what you are paying for: fast, a lot of storage space and reliable drive with 3 year limited warranty.

36db operating noise is quite high but it is just a little annoyance. I was surprised how cool drive was during operation compared to other 7200RPM drives. As a whole I liked WD Caviar SE Serial ATA (SATA) 250GB very much and if I had to build RAID 0 these drives would be definitely my choice.

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Additional information

Western Digital

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