Western Digital AV-GP 2 TB Hard Disk Drive

Dec 15 2010
Western-Digital-AV-GPOver the years there has always been one constant when it comes to digital media consumption--hard drives, an essential necessity in the world of digital entertainment. If it wasn’t for a hard drive we would not have digital video recorders, computers and in our niche of the world, home theater computers. It seems like yesterday when I got my first computer which came with a whopping 40MB hard drive that was three times the size of todays standard hard drives. My how the times have changed. Now my HTPC runs 4 terabytes (TB) of storage space for recording TV shows and my WHS machine has over 10TB of storage. In the latest of a long line of hard drives from Western Digital comes their AV-GP line of hard drives. Courtesy of HDStor, Inc the 2TB AV-GP is an audio-video optimized version of their WD Caviar Green hard disk drive line. With specialized firmware this drive is optimized for recording and storing audio and video. This review will dive into just how well this hard drive performs, and if it does what it says it will do.

 

BACKGROUND

Most people will ask, "do I really need an AV based hard drive?" That is a tough question. One item you need to look at is how you use your DVR or HTPC. Do you run your setup 24/7/365? Need the hard drive as quiet as possible? Run cool? If yes for all those questions the Western Digital AV-GP might just be what you are looking for. An important consideration when discussing DVR’s is they do in-fact run without powering down regularly, as it needs to be always ready and waiting to record your next tv show or movie.

The AV-GP line of Western Digital hard drives is mainly geared towards digital surveillance systems, but once you look at what they do you see they are a perfect match for DVR solutions.  Since they are based off of the WD Green Power hard drives they are low power, low heat and low RPM (think noise), which is great for a DVR and longevity.

FEATURES

Long-term reliability- these drives are designed to last in high temperature always-on streaming digital audio/video environments such as PVR/DVR, DVR recorders and surveillance video recorders.

Quiet - Noise levels have been optimized to less than one sone* - virtually below the threshold of human hearing.
* A sone is a subjective unit of loudness as perceived by a person with normal hearing.

Reduced power consumption - WD has reduced power consumption by up to 40 percent compared to competitors’ drives with the combination of WD's IntelliSeek, IntelliPark, and IntelliPower technologies.

Compatible - Tested for compatibility in a broad range of AV products including set top boxes, DVD recorders, and mainstream surveillance systems.

SilkStream™ - Optimized for smooth, continuous digital video playback of up to twelve simultaneous HD streams. SilkStream is compatible with the ATA streaming command set so CE customers can use standard streaming management and error recovery options.

IntelliSeek™ - Calculates optimum seek speeds to lower power consumption, noise and vibration.

IntelliPower™ - A fine-tuned balance of spin speed, transfer rate, and caching algorithms designed to deliver both significant power savings and solid performance.

Preemptive Wear Leveling (PWL) - The drive arm frequently sweeps across the disk to reduce uneven wear on the drive surface common to audio video streaming applications.

Ideal For Set-top boxes (PVR, DVR and IPTV), media servers, media centers, surveillance.

SPECIFICATIONS

Model WD20EVDS (2 TB)

Formatted Capacity

2,000,398 MB
Guaranteed Sectors 3,907,029,168
Bytes Per Sector 512 bytes
Sectors Per Track NA
Cylinders NA
Platters 4 Platters
Read/Write Heads 8 Read/Write Heads
Recording Method NA
Interleave 1:1
Spindle Speed Fixed, between 5,400 to 7,200 RPM
Cache Buffer 32 MB SDRAM
Internal Data Transfer Rate 110 MB/s (sustained, maximum)
Maximum I/O Transfer Rate 3.0 Gbits/s
Average Seek 8.9 ms
Average Latency NA
Drive Ready Time 14.5 seconds (average)
Interface Serial ATA 3 Gb/s
Supported SATA Data Transfer Mode 3.0 Gbits/s
SATA Hotplug Capability YES

AUDIO AND VIDEO OPTIMIZATIONS

The Western Digital AV-GP is optimized for recording audio and video for use in devices like DVR/PVR, Home Theater Computers and Video Surveillance systems. The AV-GP drive has a specialized firmware on the drive that is setup specifically for recording video which is not found on normal retail hard drives.

  • Capable of operating at temperatures above 75 degrees Celsius
  • Full support of ATA streaming commands
  • Firmware optimized for write-intensive operations
  • Ships in quiet seek mode for noise and power consumption

The Western Digital AV-GP is a drive that while it looks like a normal drive, is optimized for large and continuous sequential write operations. As a result it allows users to record multiple HD streams on a single drive.

SETUP / HARDWARE

While there is nothing special about the hard drives' form factor visually, everything about these drives are special firmware wise on the drives. When these drives arrived the first thing I did was install them into my bench testing HTPC. I received two identical hard drives, so I RAID-ed them together.

Motherboard: Zotac GF9300-G-E GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi Mini ITX motherboard

CPU: Intel E5400 dual core CPU

RAM: 2 x 1Gig Corsair DDR2 1066 RAM

Hard Drives: OS: Western Digital 1.5TB 5400rpm Green Drive

Data: Western Digital 2TB 5400rpm Green Drive AV Edition

Optical Drive: Lite-on BD SATA

p1070889_1024x768

This case may be a little familiar as it's the same Vidabox case I reviewed earlier this year

USAGE / TESTING

I installed my Ceton Corp Infinitv4 along with my Silicon Dust HD Homerun tuners with my bench  HTPC setup. My goal in this review was to see how many HD video streams I could record at the same time. In my initial testing I was seeing dropped frames and pixelation when I recorded more than 4 HD streams at once. After some research and troubleshooting I came to the conclusion that the onboard raid of the Zotac board wasn’t working correctly. I took the drives out of RAID and used a single drive for the test. After going to a straight drive with no RAID I was easily able to record all 6 HD streams at the same time without issue.

resourcesSystem resources when recording all 6 HD streams

This review was one of the harder reviews I have had to do: while I can swap in a new hard drive and start recording HD, trying to figure out how to test this drive to make sure it is doing what it says it can do was a bit of a challenge. While I could run these drives through performance applications that test its disk transfer rates, like Disk Winmark and the like I figured I would give it the “real world” test and throw it into my HTPC and put as many tuners as I could. While I only had 6 HDTV tuners (4 Ceton cable card, and 2 ATSC Silicon Dust HD HR) I also had 4 NTSC SD tuners I decided to throw into the mix.

After I installed the 4 NTSC SD tuners, I had a total of 10 video streams recording all at once. The 10 streams were roughly 110 to 120 mbps to the hard drive sustained. I had absolutely no issues recording 10 streams at once.

6 HD streams6 HD streams recording at once

CONCLUSION

While not everyone may need to record 6 HD streams, and an additional 4 SD streams at once, knowing you have the hardware to back it up is a great thing. Having a reliable and reputable hard drive to accomplish those tasks is what I’ve come to expect from Western Digital. I’ve been using WD hard drives for years and having the chance to review a specialized hard drive like this was a  pleasure. Like I explained before I might not have been the best choice to review this from an extremely technical perspective, but a more “real world” view point might just be what was needed in this case and 10 tuners did just that.

While I can’t comment directly on reliability of this drive in particular as I didn’t have a chance to use it year in and year out I would still trust WD as they have always made reliable hard drives that I have been running for years. While my anecdotal evidence can’t speak for everyone I am sure there are plenty of users that can definitely speak on Western Digital's behalf.

In the end if you are looking for a drive that can keep up with your digital video needs, the Western Digital AV-GP line of hard drives just might be what you need.

PROS:

  • Cost
  • Reliability
  • Ease of use and setup
  • Performance
  • Noise

CONS:

  • Not intended for Desktop PC use
  • No long term review data

Thanks goes out to Western Digital and HDSTOR for the review units

Comments

What is the price premium for the AV-GP series over the normal caviar green series?

They are going for around $129.99 on Amazon right now.

Did you try to record 10 streams with the regular 2GB WD green and what were the results of that?

I unfortuantely didn't have a 2TB WD green drive, but I did have a 1.5TB WD green drive and between running 10 streams and using show anlazyer at the same time I did have I/O issues with the 1.5TB green drive.

Thanks for reminding me about that test. Completely forgot about it.

I'd be most curious about noise comparison.   Since I'm putting all my HDDs in my NAS now, the network/SMB is the performance bottleneck, so heat price and noise are now my primary concerns.    There would have to be a considerable difference between this and the WD20EARS, especially since it's now only $79

I would look into whether or not this drive would support NAS operations. Becuase of the firmware optimizations it is not recomended for every day PC desktop use.

Basically video and and audio recording only from the documentation I have.

So is it totally silent? Last night I was watching Hawaii Five-0 and my wife was watching Biggest Loser via an extender and I had to turn the TV up quite a bit to overcome the sound of the 2x250 Seagate drives I had in my HTPC. 

Seagates are known to be noisy drives. All of the WD green drives I run including these AV-GP drives are nearly silent.

Seagate's are notoriously noisy.  At 250GB, they're probably getting up there in age, which means they're going to get even noisier.  I have a few 1TB AV-GP drives and they're virtually silent, even packed in as tightly as they are in my cavernous case.  I imagine it's quite similar to my 1TB version, but I'm positive they're significantly quieter than your Seagates.

I've been using the 1.5TB version of this drive in my HTPC for several months and it's dead quiet.  I've got enough background noise in the viewing area that it would be difficult to hear it anyway but I can usually hear the HTPC if the drive is seeking constantly.  I have yet to hear this drive clatter or click from my viewing chair.  It costs a few bucks more than the standard drive, but so far I'd have to say it's worth the investment.

While recording the 10 streams, were you also running showanalyzer/comskip/etc. on the files?  I'm in the market for a couple 1TB drives to replace my aging 500GB drives and going with cooler/lower power drives would be ideal.  Unfortunately, at one time I tried the basic GP drives and just trying to record 2 HD and 1 SD (while running Showanalyzer on two of the shows) would cause horrible stuttering/pixelation while watching a previously recorded HD show.

The basic GP drives (of which I have a few, as well) are definitely bottlenecks in my server.  I will never buy one of them again for server storage.  I had been thinking the AV-GP's were bottlenecks, as well, but it turns out I was wrong about that.

This is one of those situations where I think WD could make some money by charging to update the firmware of a regular GP drive, so that it becomes an AV-GP drive.  I know I'd do it.

I'd gladly pay a 3-5% premium for a drive like this (or rather, this very one) if I was building an HTPC right now, provided it really is as good as it sounds.

"would still trust WD as they have always made reliable hard drives that I have been running for years."

Their DOA rate is no better/worse than anyone else's. Seagate and Samsung also make great drives. There is nothing "special" or "magical" about WD drives. I have nothing against WD. I just take issue with the HTPC community's unrelenting embrace.

This had nothing to do with this specific drive, for the record.

Its all personal expereince my friend. I've had 7, yes 7 Seagate drives fail on me in the last two years now. I still have WD drives that i've had for over 10 years still running strong.

Don't kid yourself, getting to market first has *huge* advantages.  Even though every drive manufacturers got a respectable horse in the low heat/noise/power race the WDGP was the first one out of the gate and, until they screw up, they get to reap the rewards of loyal HTPC customers.

It wasn't always like this, I remember when Seagate was the 'it' HTPC drive with their fancy liquid bearings, but then they started getting noisy and people started looking elsewhere.  I'm sure it'll happen again someday.

If we're going to start the whole HD debate, you need to consider other factors. Seagate USE to be THE brand for HTPC back in their Barracuda IV days. Then they acquired Maxtor, and then suddenly their drives got quite louder and failure rates increased. Western Digital has done an admirable job of taking advantage of that.

I also agree that it's all 100% personal experience. if you have someone who's only had 3 hard drives in their life, and one was Seagate and failed, then they will obviously be very passionate about the unreliability of them.

That being said, I've used a lot of drives (both personally and professionally) and have *not* had good luck with Seagates, take that for what it's worth.

No matter what you buy, please just make sure you have a backup strategy in mind for your critical information--Seagate, WD or anything else.

Every drive maker has failures.  If you get all your drives from the same place, shipped to the same location, via the same method, chances are you will run into issues.  My theory is that, more likely than not, it's the shipping/handling which damages the drive.  I buy based on reviews, not past history of failures.  That said, if I continually get bad drives from a reseller, I'll change suppliers for a while, hoping they'll get a new batch in the interim.  You'll notice this trend on sites like Newegg, where the reviews will be bad for a period of time and then, suddenly, people think previous complaints were ridiculous.

To help illustrate this point, I've had nearly every brand of drive in my computers over the years and the one drive I distinctly recall not failing was the infamous IBM Deathstar.  In fact, I retired it before it ever failed on me.

Great write up... long time lurker, first time poster...

I am looking to buy a couple more WD 2TBs - but my question is would these drives be good for my movie collection?  Typical RIPped bluray to x264 MKV container 1080P movies that sit idle until played.

I will get an AVGP drive for the main DVR Recorded TV folder (single tuner now, waiting for the InfiniTV4 damn you Ceton!).

FWIW, I have had more Seagates die on me than WDs.  I had a WD die recently and they RMA'd it 2 months out of warranty.  Only a 500GB AAKS.  I am a WD fanboy.  (^_^)

Thanks!

For what your purpose is, these drives won't work for you, they might even hurt you. there is no error correction in these drives that you need for normal PC usage. The only purpose for these drives is to record video.

-Josh

Interesting thought, Josh.  I have 3 AV-GP drives in my WHS box, which are used for both recording TV and storing rips, but I've never had an issue with bad blocks or corrupted data.  I know that's only a single usage case and my setup is probably a little more high-end than most people's (except for Mikinho, of course), but it's at least encouraging that they work (so far) in this instance.

The short answer to your question is:  yes.

However, the truth is, for the purpose you outlined (storing MKVs), just pick up whatever drive is on sale and meets your level of noise requirement.  You won't see any significant improvement by storing them on a faster or more "specialized" drive.

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