Western Digital has begun shipping desktop hard drives supporting the Serial ATA II standard, the hard drive specialist said yesterday. It also launched a pair of external drives pitched at case-modders and consumers, respectively.

Western Digital NetCenter and Extreme Lighted externalThe 250GB Caviar SE16 drive provides a burst data transfer rate of 300MBps - three times faster than IDE drives, WD claimed. The unit also features 16MB of cache memory and spins at 7200rpm. WD's WhisperDrive technology ensures it doesn't drown out gameplay, the company claimed.

Separately, WD announced a redesigned version of its clear-cased Extreme Lighted Series II external hard drive, taking the capacity up to 320GB into the bargain courtesy of a WD Caviar SE drive. The unit incorporates Firewire and USB 2.0 interfaces.

Users can select which colour they want the unit to glow, or have the drive automatically cycle through all the available hues, quickly or slowly.

The WD NetCenter is a more sober product, providing low-cost network-attached storage to allow offices and homes to share data among multiple computers, and to back them all up. The unit will be offered in a range of capacities from 160GB to 320GB, delivered by a 7200rpm Caviar SE drive with an 8MB cache.

The SE16 SATA II unit is shipping now, WD said, for $200. The NetCenter and Extreme Lighted units go on sale in June in the US for $400 and $300, respectively. The external units come with a one-year warranty, the SE16 with three years' cover.