Western Digital – Expert 18GB review

high-capacity EIDE hard drive
Photo of Western Digital – Expert 18GB
£210 + VAT for bare drive, £235 + VAT for retail pack

Hard drives continue to get bigger and faster. Western Digital’s new EIDE drive offers nothing particularly new in terms of capacity, since there are other desktop hard drives available with capacities of more than 18GB. But what it does offer is speed. This is one of very few desktop drives with a spindle speed of 7,200rpm as opposed to the more common 5,400rpm. This difference is important since it reduces the latency of the drive; the time taken for a particular part of the four hard disk platters to arrive underneath the read/write head.

Western Digital quotes an average seek time of 8.5ms for this drive, which is pretty fast, and the peak data transfer rate is also high at 66MB/sec. This is only a potential maximum, however; you’ll need an Ultra-ATA/66 EIDE controller chip or card in your PC in order to get anything approaching this rate, and even then the 2MB buffer is likely to supply only short bursts of data at that speed, depending on the files being transferred. The drive has a built-in error recovery routine that operates invisibly to the user, and which can help prevent data loss by checking for bad sectors before they appear.

The Expert 18GB is available either as a bare drive or as a full retail pack. With the former, you get the drive and nothing more, since this is primarily intended for use by system builders, OEMs and the technically-aware end-user. The retail pack has more to offer, though, making it appealing for the relative novice looking to upgrade his or her system. There’s a set of drive mounting rails, an interface cable, a quick start guide and a good, comprehensive manual.

The retail box also contains a copy of Western Digital’s EZ-Drive software supplied on disk. This is useful for partitioning and formatting the drive, as well as for installing it on systems whose BIOS may not otherwise be too happy handling a drive of such a huge capacity. Perhaps more importantly, this software also allows you to copy the contents of your existing hard drive to the new drive with little or no technical knowledge.

Company: Western Digital

Contact: 01372 360055

Like other hard drive manufacturers, Western Digital has realised that there's money to be made from decent retail-boxed hard drives as well as bare ones. The Expert 18GB is very fast, has ample capacity and can be installed relatively easily by any half-competent user. The drive-copying software is an excellent addition, and should help boost the company's presence in the retail upgrade market.