Hard Drive manufacturers have been spending quite some time improving the technology in their drives to allow for more and more capacity with each successive generation. The only problem, though, is that most motherboards and older operating systems have not quite kept up. Since hard drives now exist in sizes beyond 2TB, there was a new limitation that hard drive manufacturers had to overcome in order to get their drives to work properly in most people?s systems.

This limitation is more commonly known as the MBR wall or the 2.2TB wall [technically 2.19TB]. This wall is a function of the fact that older operating systems[like XP] will have issues properly recognizing and utilizing all four 750GB platters of the 3TB drive. This is a limitation of using an MBR when formatting a drive rather than a GUID partition. Many operating systems will support the 3TB drive as a storage drive with the exception of XP. This means that Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS 1.5 and higher and Linux should all get support. The only problem that then arises is that the drive must communicate with the motherboard via a UEFI motherboard firmware. Current motherboards run a BIOS based firmware which is not conducive to the 3TB drives as they need GPT Partitioning and a UEFI motherboard firmware.

As far as current solutions go, in order to make using these drives easier on customers who do not have UEFI based motherboards, WD has supplied an AHCI compliant HBA [Host Bus Adapter]. In the case of the HBA, they?ve included a RocketRAID PCIe card that has two SATA connectors and enables the seamless installation of the 2.5 and 3TB HDDs without worrying about needing a UEFI based motherboard. Using GPT combined with UEFI yields a final result allowing the formatting of up to 18 Exabytes per drive. Currently, most of us could never imagine seeing an 18 Exabyte drive, but then again who would?ve thought we?d have 3TB drives 10 or 15 years ago?
Furthermore, these drives can be used in conjunction with external solutions but it is on the USB bridge manufacturer to make sure that their devices are compatible with 3TB and 2.5TB drives. Judging by the current limitations of these drives and their overall size, we probably wouldn?t expect many to use these drives as boot drives to begin with.

Below is a useful chart that explains the compatibility or lack thereof across operating systems.

WD Caviar Green 3TB Specifications
    Buffer Size[cache]    64 MB
    Interface    SATA 3 Gb/s [SATA 2.0]
    Height    1.028 Inches [26.1 mm]
    Depth    5.787 Inches [147 mm]
    Idle Mode    24 dBA (average)
    Seek Mode 0    29 dBA (average)
    Seek Mode 3    25 dBA (average)
    Read/Write power consumption    6.00 Watts
    Idle power consumption    5.50 Watts
    Standby power consumption    0.80 Watts
    Sleep power consumption    0.80 Watts

The packaging that the WD Caviar Green 3TB came in appeared to be OEM, but still came with the appropriate information that was needed in order to successfully install the 3TB drive. These included the drive itself, the manual, and the HBA from RocketRaid. As you can see, it was very easy to take everything out and everything appeared to be well protected from any kind of shipment movement. The drive and HBA all arrived in good condition and most everything was made out of recyclable cardboard which reflects the green aspect of this drive.

The box opened with the Quick Install Guide, drive, and HBA

All of the contents nicely packaged and protected

The side box holding the RocketRAID controller

The RocketRAID card utilizing the Marvell controller

Performance and User Experience

Intel Xeon X3350 [Q9450 Equivalent] CPU
4GB of Kingston HyperX DDR2-1066 RAM [Provided by Kingston]
DFi LT X38 T2R Motherboard
Coolermaster Real Power Pro 850w PSU [Provided by Cooler Master]
3TB Western Digital Caviar Green [Provided by Western Digital]
2TB Seagate Barracuda XT HDD [Provided by Seagate]
600GB Western Digital Velociraptor [Provided by Western Digital]

For this review, we wanted to stick with larger capacity drives and stay away from SSDs as we all know that SSDs would easily win this battle, but there is not SSD on the market that comes close to offering 1, 2 or even 3TB at a remotely affordable price. As such, we?ll be sticking with 3 HDDs in this review but we?ll cover the appropriate aspects of the drives. Furthermore, it is good to note that the WD Caviar Green is a 5400RPM drive while the other two are 7200 and 10,000 RPM respectively and that the WD Caviar Green does not run any hotter than either of the drives. Nevertheless, comparing this drive to those should give us a good idea of what kind of performance we can expect from a 3TB ?green? drive.

Reviewer Experience and Testing
Before we even attempted to test this drive we wanted to make sure that it would work from the very first try. This meant involving the RocketRaid HBA that was included with the drive itself.

Installing the RocketRAID card was easily, but because the bracket was too short and had to be removed entirely. This is temporary as Western Digital informed us that consumers will get the full length bracket and will not have the mounting issues that reviewers might experience with the shorter bracket. Once installed, the card we proceeded to plug in the SATA cable to it and then connect the power to the drive, it booted with no issues and the drive was immediately detected properly as a 3TB drive, circumventing the problem that some OSes and motherboards may have with this drive.

Once we were done with that part, we ran some synthetic benchmarks using ATTO and CrystalMark

Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB

WD Caviar Green 3TB

Looking at these ATTO speeds, we really don’t see anything stellar by comparison with our previously reviewed drives, but we also have to factor in that this is an ‘Intellipower’ drive meaning that it has a variable speed that isn?t naturally running at 7,200 or 10,000 like our other drives. Going off of this speed, we would have to say that this isn?t a drive we would recommend for a quick boot or even fast data access.

Next, we ran CrystalMark and compared the different speeds between the three different drives.

Going from left to right, WD Caviar Green 3TB, Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB, and the VelociRaptor 600GB

Once we did that, we noticed that the WD Caviar Green 3TB once again wasn?t nearly as fast as the other drives we tested. This is perfectly understandable considering the circumstances, but under these conditions we?d have to say that the 3TB drive is starting to look better as a backup drive that doesn?t get too much use. It gives you the capacity you need in a single drive, but it lacks in overall speed. We hope that Western Digital comes out with a Caviar Blue or Caviar Black version of this drive for those who want higher throughput on a larger drive.

Afterwards, we ran SiSandra and compared the drive?s read speeds against those of other drives of 1TB or larger. While the database is somewhat limited, it does increase the amount of drives you can compare this drive to, also recognizing that most of them are 7,200 RPM drives.

Looking at this, we see that when compared to lesser [not as high performance] physical HDDs, the WD 3TB appears to be at the top of the pack, even though it is a green drive. The 750GB platters probably do help the WD Caviar Green accomplish this more easily, but it is a good thing to consider when comparing a 3TB drive against a simple 2TB or 1.5TB.
We also did notice that the 1.5TB drive slightly edged out the WD 3TB drive by less than a percent which indicates there?s room for improvement for WD when it comes to 3TB drive speeds.

Real World Testing
After the synthetic tests, we ran a series of real world tests to test the performance in real world applications and to determine the performance consumers can expect when using the drive.

First we ran Cinebench 11.5 like we have in the past.

Looking at our Cinebench results, the WD Caviar Green 3TB doesn?t actually look to be too much worse than the slowest drive that we ran which was the Barracuda XT. This performance difference is likely reflected by the fact that the XT is a 7200RPM drive which does make it faster.

Next we ran a series of two write tests that tested both large file writes and a series of many thousands of smaller file writes. These came in the forms of a single 3GB 1080P file and a 5GB folder containing 3,133 pictures.

Looking at both of these graphs, we see that the WD Caviar Green really starts to struggle in writes especially when we went with the smaller file writes. It was almost twice as slow in the small write test as both the Barracuda XT 2TB and the Velociraptor 600GB. In the case of the VelociRaptor, it was actually more than twice as slow, which is a bit concerning since this is supposed to be considered a data backup drive before anything else. When we look at the single large file test, we see more of the same, but at a slightly less significant scale. The 32 seconds it took the WD Caviar Green 3TB was 11 seconds slower than the VelociRaptor and 8 seconds slower than the Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB.

Based on the running of our real world tests, we notice a fairly wide rift between the 3TB drive and the rest of the drives that we?ve tested in the past. While we do understand that this is a ?green? drive, we would have like to see better numbers than these. All we can hope for is that Western Digital comes out with faster drives that can replace these ?Green? drives, as they lack the performance to be effective backup drives.

WD Caviar Green 2.5 TB hard drives [model number WD25EZRSDTL] and 3 TB hard drives [model number WD30EZRSDTL] are available now in the U.S. at select resellers and distributors. MSRP for the WD Caviar Green 2.5 TB hard drive is $189.00 USD and the 3 TB hard drive is $239.00 USD. WD Caviar Green hard drives are covered by a three-year limited warranty. Based on this, we can conclude that if you need the space, the 3TB drive is a better solution if speed is not a factor and you do also get the HBA card included as well which does drive up the value added factor. Overall, though, based on the performance we?re a little hesitant to say that these drives are still appropriately priced. They are cheaper than what we would have expected, but we believe that is because of the lacking performance.

The Western Digital Caviar Green 3TB drive overcomes a boundary that has taken hard drive manufacturers quite some time to overcome, but it falls short of wowing us. The overall performance of the drive is extremely lacking and we found that even as a backup drive, it lacked the speed that it?s other competitors offered. Heck, WD?s own 2TB Caviar Black drive would be a better choice when comparing to the 2.5TB drive that WD offers.

If you absolutely need 3TB, this is without a doubt the drive to go with but we do caution that these drives are slow and we?d probably recommend waiting for the Caviar Blue or Caviar Black versions to get acceptable performance levels out of these drives. The synthetic numbers themselves looked promising, but once we started to test these speeds against our real world tests, the drive’s capabilities really began to show and we were reminded that we were dealing with a ‘green’ drive.

The good thing, though, was that this drive ran cooler and quieter than either of our drives and is probably one of the saving graces of this drive. For being the first 3TB drive that isn’t hot and is still quiet, we still are comfortable with awarding the WD Caviar Green 3TB with the BSN* mainstream innovation award.