The VelociRaptor 1TB is easily the fastest mechanical hard drive we've tested. In addition to offering the highest sequential transfer rates, it delivers best-in-class access times. The VelociRaptor's 10k-RPM spindle speed deserves much of the credit, and the move to higher-density platters allows the new model to improve upon the old one's performance while also offering an extra 400GB of storage capacity.
As we saw throughout our test suite, the VelociRaptor's performance falls between SSDs and slower-rotating mechanical drives. So does its cost per gigabyte. I'm just not sure how many desktop users are looking for storage in that middle ground. Most of them would probably be better served by the combination of a solid-state boot drive backed by secondary mechanical storage. Indeed, one could pair WD's own Caviar Black 1TB with a 128GB SSD for less than the new VelociRaptor's $320 asking price.
Capacity is the only advantage the VelociRaptor has over the growing field of solid-state drives. Modern SSDs are faster across the board. They're pricier, of course, but only per gigabyte. Our favorite SSD, the Samsung 830 Series 256GB, has been selling for around $300, or $20 less than the new VelociRaptor's suggested retail price. The VelociRaptor offers four times the storage capacity, though.
I've held off calling the VelociRaptor a dinosaur until now, but that's the inescapable reality. The fact is the VelociRaptor hails from an era when 10k-RPM drives were the only way to get substantially quicker access times in a desktop PC. SSDs have redefined the market for high-performance desktop storage, relegating the VelociRaptor to a much smaller niche. It seems unlikely that enthusiasts will plunk down $320 for a terabyte of mechanical storage unless they're building an ultra-high-end system already equipped with an SSD. The VelociRaptor seems more likely to appeal to workstation users and content-creation professionals working with data sets too large for affordable SSDs.
Let's not forget the fact that WD is surely grooming a version of the VelociRaptor targeted squarely at servers. That drive will also face challenges from solid-state storage, but its capacity could prove more valuable for enterprise applications that deal with loads of data. And no one will notice the VelociRaptor's seek chatter when it's running inside a crowded server room.
Server versions of the VelociRaptor have always seemed to be Western Digital's primary focus. The desktop flavors have felt like a sort of bonus for enthusiasts, an admittedly small niche in the larger PC market going back as far as the original Raptor. To remain relevant to that niche, the next generation will need to do something drastic—likely with solid-state storage. Whether the next 'Raptor sheds its mechanical platters completely or become some sort of robot-dinosaur hybrid remains to be seen. I guess we'll let you know in a couple of years.
161 comments — Last by axeman at 9:36 AM on 04/23/12
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