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VelociRaptor Redux: Now with final firmware


Can WD make its 10K-RPM monster even faster?
— 1:59 AM on June 20, 2008

Manufacturer Western Digital
Model VelociRaptor VR150
Price (Street)
Availability Now

Western Digital hatched its latest Raptor back in April, revealing a unique departure from more traditional designs. This leaner, meaner VelociRaptor VR150 is actually a 2.5" drive sitting inside a heatsink that slides nicely into standard 3.5" bays. But don't think you can take this most recent Raptor lightly just because it's gone on a diet. Despite a smaller form factor, the VelociRaptor still offers 300GB of capacity—twice that of its 3.5" forebear. The VR150 is also the first Raptor with a 300MB/s Serial ATA interface, and its trademark 10K-RPM spindle speed hasn't skipped a beat.

Like its predecessors in their prime, the VelociRaptor proved to be the all-around fastest SATA hard drive on the market—and a surprisingly quiet and power-efficient one, at that. However, the drive we used in our initial look at the VR150 was an engineering sample with pre-production firmware. Final, production drives have now made their way onto the market, and we've managed to score a retail sample that should be representative of the drives you can buy today.

Naturally, we've run this tuned-up VelociRaptor through the wringer to see if it can live up to the Editor's Choice distinction we awarded the VR150 after our first encounter. Read on to see whether finished firmware reels in the VelociRaptor's propensity to outrun the competition or if Western Digital has managed to wring even more performance from its radical Raptor redesign.


Test notes
We'll be comparing the performance of the VelociRaptor with that of a slew of competitors, including some of the latest and greatest Serial ATA drives from Hitachi, Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital. These drives differ when it comes to external transfer rates, spindle speeds, cache sizes, platter densities, and capacity, all of which can have an impact on performance. Keep in mind the following differences as we move through our benchmarks:

Max external transfer rate Spindle speed Cache size Platter size Capacity Native Command Queuing?
Barracuda 7200.11 300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 250GB 1TB Yes
Barracuda ES.2 300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 250GB 1TB Yes
Caviar GP 300MB/s 5,400-7,200-RPM 16MB 250GB 1TB Yes
Caviar SE16 (640GB) 300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 320GB 640GB Yes
Deskstar 7K1000 300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 200GB 1TB Yes
Raptor X 150MB/s 10,000-RPM 16MB 75GB 150GB Yes
Raptor WD1500ADFD 150MB/s 10,000-RPM 16MB 75GB 150GB Yes
RE2-GP 300MB/s 5,400-7,200-RPM 16MB 250GB 1TB Yes
SpinPoint F1 300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 334GB 1TB Yes
VelociRaptor VR150 300MB/s 10,000-RPM 16MB 150GB 300GB Yes

We should note that our WD1500ADFD has a slightly newer firmware revision than the Raptor X sample we've had since February 2006. The drives still share identical internals, but firmware optimizations could give our newer Raptor an edge over the X in some tests.

Performance data from such a daunting collection of drives can make our graphs a little hard to read, so we've color-coded our bar graphs based on each drive's manufacturer. We've also used some fancy fade effects to make the VelociRaptor stand out a little from the rest of the pack. You'll find color-coding in our line graphs, too, but pay close attention, because the colors don't match our bar charts.

Naturally, we've included VelociRaptor engineering sample results from our initial review of the drive. Pay special attention to how these VelociRaptor ES scores compare with those of our final VR150.

Our testing methods
All tests were run three times, and their results were averaged, using the following test system.

Processor Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4GHz
System bus 800MHz (200MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard Asus P5WD2 Premium
Bios revision 0422
North bridge Intel 955X MCH
South bridge Intel ICH7R
Chipset drivers Chipset 7.2.1.1003
AHCI/RAID 5.1.0.1022
Memory size 1GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Micron DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz
CAS latency (CL) 3
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 3
RAS precharge (tRP) 3
Cycle time (tRAS) 8
Audio codec ALC882D
Graphics Radeon X700 Pro 256MB with CATALYST 5.7 drivers
Hard drives Western Digital Raptor X 150GB SATA
Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB SATA
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000 1TB SATA
Western Digital RE2-GP 1TB SATA
Western Digital Caviar GP 1TB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB SATA
Seagate Barracuda ES.2 1TB SATA
Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB SATA
Western Digital Caviar SE16 640GB SATA
Western Digital VelociRaptor VR150 300GB SATA
OS Windows XP Professional
OS updates Service Pack 2

Thanks to the folks at Newegg for hooking us up with the DiamondMax 11 we used for testing. Also, thanks to NCIX for getting us the Deskstar 7K1000 and Spinpoint F1.

Our test system was powered by OCZ PowerStream power supply units. The PowerStream was one of our Editor's Choice winners in our last PSU round-up.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems' Windows desktop was set at 1280x1024 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.