For those with no desire to spend countless hours staring at the Raptor X’s drive head dart back and forth across the platter, Western Digital makes the Raptor WD1500ADFD. This drive lacks a window, but otherwise, it’s mechanically identical to the Raptor X—same spindle, cache, platters, and theoretically, performance. The WD1500ADFD also sells for roughly $50 less than the Raptor X, making it even more tempting for enthusiasts looking for a speedy storage upgrade.
Thanks to identical internals, we can expect the WD1500ADFD’s performance to at least match that of the Raptor X. But how much faster are these Raptors than the best 7,200-RPM desktop drives on the market? Can they keep up with Seagate’s latest perpendicular Barracuda 7200.10? Read on to find out.
Although the Raptor X is clearly designed for PC enthusiasts, Western Digital has always pushed its other Raptors as enterprise drives for servers and workstations—not that enthusiasts have had a problem ignoring the arbitrary product segmentation. For enthusiasts, the Raptor WD1500ADFD really sells itself. Western Digital has made it clear that little more than a window separates the drive from the Raptor X, and both are much improved over the previous WD740GD.
|Raptor WD1500ADFD||Raptor WD740GD|
|Maximum external transfer rate||150MB/s|
|Maximum internal transfer rate||84MB/s||72MB/s|
|Read seek time||4.6ms||4.5ms|
|Write seek time||5.2ms||5.9ms|
|Average rotational latency||2.99ms|
|Idle power consumption||9.19W||8.40W|
|Read/write power consumption||10.02W||7.90W|
|Warranty length||Five years|
Since the original, the Raptor’s biggest handicap has been limited storage capacity. Even the WD740GD’s 74 GB capacity proved too limited for many, but Western Digital has managed to squeeze 150 GB into the WD1500ADFD. That size obviously isn’t all that impressive next to the half-terabyte and higher capacities offered by today’s beefiest drives, but it should be enough for most folks, if only as an OS and applications drive.
Denser platters allow the WD1500ADFD to offer a greater storage capacity than the previous generation Raptor. A higher areal density should also improve performance by allowing the drive head to access more data in the same physical area.
The new Raptor has other performance perks, as well. Western Digital has doubled the drive’s cache to 16 MB and ditched its obscure Tagged Command Queuing implementation in favor of the more widely supported Native Command Queuing.
Support for 300 MB/s Serial ATA transfer rates, however, is conspicuously missing from the WD1500ADFD. When it first released these new Raptors, Western Digital candidly admitted that its 300 MB/s Serial ATA implementation wasn’t yet ready to interoperate correctly with all if the various SATA disk controllers on the market. With an enterprise-class drive like the WD1500ADFD, reliability was a greater priority than support for this feature. We have yet to see real-world applications really benefit from 300 MB/s Serial ATA transfer rates, anyway. In fact, some drive manufacturers have started shipping 300 MB/s drives in 150 MB/s mode to avoid compatibility problems with certain chipsets.
Western Digital covers the Raptor WD1500ADFD with a five-year warranty. That nicely matches the warranty coverage typically offered with enterprise-class SCSI drives, although it’s somewhat less notable now that Seagate offers a five-year warranty on all its internal hard drives, including desktop models.
We’ll be comparing the Raptor WD1500ADFD’s performance with that of a slew of competitors, including some of the latest and greatest Serial ATA drives from Hitachi, Maxtor, Seagate, and Western Digital. These drivers differ when it comes to external transfer rates, spindle speeds, cache sizes, platter densities, NCQ support, 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 7200.7 NCQ||150 MB/s||7,200 RPM||8 MB||80 GB||160 GB||Yes|
|Barracuda 7200.8||150 MB/s||7,200 RPM||8 MB||133 GB||400 GB||Yes|
|Barracuda 7200.9 (160GB)||300 MB/s||7,200 RPM||8 MB||160 GB||160 GB||Yes|
|Barracuda 7200.9 (500GB)||300 MB/s||7,200 RPM||16 MB||125 GB||500 GB||Yes|
|Barracuda 7200.10||300 MB/s||7,200 RPM||16 MB||188 GB||750 GB||Yes|
|Caviar SE16||300 MB/s||7,200 RPM||16 MB||83 GB||250 GB||No|
|Caviar RE2||150 MB/s||7,200 RPM||16 MB||100 GB||400 GB||Yes|
|Deskstar 7K500||300 MB/s||7,200 RPM||16 MB||100 GB||500 GB||Yes|
|DiamondMax 10||150 MB/s||7,200 RPM||16 MB||100 GB||300 GB||Yes|
|Raptor WD740GD||150 MB/s||10,000 RPM||8 MB||37 GB||74 GB||No*|
|Raptor X||150 MB/s||10,000 RPM||16 MB||75 GB||150 GB||Yes|
|Raptor WD1500ADFD||150 MB/s||10,000 RPM||16 MB||75 GB||150 GB||Yes|
Note that the Caviar SE16 and Raptor WD740GD lack support for Native Command Queuing. The WD740GD does support a form of command queuing known as Tagged Command Queuing (TCQ), but host controller and chipset support for TCQ is pretty thin. Our Intel 955X-based test platform doesn’t support TCQ.
Since Seagate makes versions of the 7200.7 both with and without NCQ support, the 7200.7 in our tests appears as the “Barracuda 7200.7 NCQ” to clarify that it’s the NCQ version of the drive. The Caviar RE2, Deskstar T7K250, DiamondMax 10, 7200.8, 7200.9, 7200.10, Raptor X, and Raptor WD1500ADFD aren’t explicitly labeled as NCQ drives because they’re not available without NCQ support.
Finally, we should note that our WD1500ADFD has a slightly newer firmware revision than the Raptor X sample we’ve had since February. The drives still share identical internals, but firmware optimizations could give our newer Raptor an edge over the X in some tests.
Our testing methods
All tests were run three times, and their results were averaged, using the following test systems.
|Processor||Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4GHz|
|System bus||800MHz (200MHz quad-pumped)|
|Motherboard||Asus P5WD2 Premium|
|North bridge||Intel 955X MCH|
|South bridge||Intel ICH7R|
|Chipset drivers||Chipset 126.96.36.1993
|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|
|Graphics||Radeon X700 Pro 256MB with CATALYST 5.7 drivers|
|Hard drives|| Hitachi 7K500 500GB SATA
Maxtor DiamondMax 10 300GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 NCQ 160GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.8 400GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 160GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 500GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 750GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar SE16 250GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar RE2 400GB SATA
Western Digital Raptor WD740GD 74GB SATA
Western Digital Raptor X 150GB SATA
Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB SATA
|OS||Windows XP Professional|
|OS updates||Service Pack 2|
We used the following versions of our test applications:
- WorldBench 5.0
- Intel IOMeter v2004.07.30
- Xbit Labs File Copy Test v1.0 beta 13
- TCD Labs HD Tach v3.01
- Far Cry v1.3
- DOOM 3
- Intel iPEAK Storage Performance Toolkit 3.0
The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1280×1024 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.
WorldBench overall performance
WorldBench uses scripting to step through a series of tasks in common Windows applications. It then produces an overall score. WorldBench also spits out individual results for its component application tests, allowing us to compare performance in each. We’ll look at the overall score, and then we’ll show individual application results alongside the results from some of our own application tests.
As expected, the WD1500ADFD joins the Raptor X at the head of the class in WorldBench. Seagate’s Barracuda 7200.10 isn’t all that far off the pace, though.
Multimedia editing and encoding
Windows Media Encoder
VideoWave Movie Creator
Scores are generally close across WorldBench’s multimedia editing and encoding tests, but the Raptors manage to distance themselves from the competition a little in Adobe Premiere.
ACDSee shows a small advantage for the Raptors, with the WD1500ADFD completing the test just one second slower than the Raptor X.
Multitasking and office applications
Mozilla and Windows Media Encoder
Neither the Raptor X nor the WD1500ADFD manage to break free of the pack in WorldBench’s multitasking and office tests.
The new Raptors have a field day in Nero, beating most of the field by more than 30 seconds. Seagate’s Barracuda 7200.10 finishes a close third, though, and even manages to win by a hair in Winzip.
To test system boot and game level load times, we busted out our trusty stopwatch.
It may not lead the field, but the WD1500ADFD does rather well in our boot and level load time tests. Western Digital’s latest firmware revision may be responsible for the drive’s performance edge over the Raptor X in the system boot and Far Cry level load tests.
File Copy Test is a pseudo-real-world benchmark that times how long it takes to create, read, and copy files in various test patterns. File copying is tested twice: once with the source and target on the same partition, and once with the target on a separate partition. Scores are presented in MB/s.
Although it’s by a generally modest margin, the WD1500ADFD is consistently faster than the Raptor X in FC-Test’s file creation tests. The newer Raptors all but dominate this test, with the 7,200-RPM competition only drawing close with the Windows and Programs test patterns. Those test patterns use a greater number of smaller files than the MP3, ISO, and Install test patterns, which favor fewer, larger files.
The WD1500ADFD is less dominating in FC-Test’s read tests, in part thanks to the strong performance of Seagate’s perpendicular 7200.10. Still, the WD1500ADFD’s average write speed across all five test patterns is good enough for second place overall behind the Barracuda.
Western Digital and Seagate continue to duke it out in FC-Test’s file copy tests, with the Raptor WD1500ADFD favoring smaller files than the Barracuda 7200.10. The rest of the 7,200-RPM field, and even the Raptor WD740GD, are well off the pace.
We’ve developed a series of disk-intensive multitasking tests to highlight the impact of command queuing on hard drive performance. You can get the low-down on these iPEAK-based tests here. The mean service time of each drive is reported in milliseconds, with lower values representing better performance.
Although it can’t quite match the DiamondMax 10 in our iPEAK multitasking tests, the Raptor WD1500ADFD is easily the second most consistent drive in the field. It’s even a little faster than the Raptor X in our first wave of tests, and unlike the Barracuda 7200.10, its performance characteristics don’t favor one multitasking scenario at the expense of another.
The WD1500ADFD continues its consistent iPEAK multitasking performance through our second wave of tests. It never quite catches the DiamondMax 10, but proves just a little bit quicker than the Raptor X.
IOMeter presents a good test case for command queuing, so the NCQ-less Western Digital Caviar SE16 and Raptor WD740GD should have a slight disadvantage here under higher loads.
The Raptor shows its enterprise roots in our IOMeter tests and completely dominates the competition. Our WD1500ADFD’s newer firmware apparently improves performance over our older Raptor X with higher I/O loads, as well.
As one might expect, the WD1500ADFD’s IOMeter response rates are lower than every other drive we tested, including the Raptor X.
IOMeter CPU utilization is under 0.5% nearly across the board. Note that the WD1500ADFD uses fewer CPU cycles than our Raptor X, though.
We tested HD Tach with the benchmark’s full variable zone size setting.
It’s hard to compete with the Raptor’s 10K-RPM spindle speed, and the WD1500ADFD easily dominates HD Tach’s sustained transfer rate tests. The drive is a little faster than the Raptor X, and both have a clear advantage over the Barracuda 7200.10.
Unfortunately, the WD1500ADFD’s lack of support for 300 MB/s Serial ATA transfer rates caps its performance in HD Tach’s read burst speed test. The Raptor’s still one of the fastest 150 MB/s drives, but its burst speed is more than 100 MB/s slower than the Barracuda 7200.10.
Thanks to their 10K-RPM spindle speeds, the Raptors have always offered much quicker access times than typical desktop hard drives. The WD1500ADFD is no exception, although its predecessor, the WD740GD, is actually a little faster in this test.
CPU utilization scores are within HD Tach’s +/- 2% margin for error in this test.
Noise levels were measured with an Extech 407727 Digital Sound Level meter 1″ from the side of the drives at idle and under an HD Tach seek load. Drives were run with the PCB facing up.
The WD1500ADFD’s windowless design makes less noise than the Raptor X, and is reasonably quiet at idle. However, under a seek load, the WD1500ADFD is noticeably louder than most of the competition.
For our power consumption tests, we measured the voltage drop across a 0.1-ohm resistor placed in-line with the 5V and 12V lines connected to each drive. Through the magic of Ohm’s Law, we were able to calculate the power draw from each voltage rail and add them together for the total power draw of the drive.
Despite its faster spindle speed, the WD1500ADFD’s power consumption is pretty reasonable.
Western Digital’s Raptor X won our Editor’s Choice award for being the fastest Serial ATA hard drive on the market—and for pushing the envelope by incorporating a window on the drive’s internals. The WD1500ADFD trades the Raptor X’s window for a lower price tag, and with the latest firmware, actually improves performance in a number of tests. For enthusiasts, that’s a pretty sweet trade-off, especially if you don’t even have a case window. That’s why we’re giving the WD1500ADFD an Editor’s Choice award.
With a $250 street price and 150 GB capacity, the WD1500ADFD may not be the most attractive hard drive from a cost per gigabyte perspective. However, the Raptor’s performance is in a class all its own, particularly with multitasking and multi-user loads. It’s no slouch with the single-user tasks typical of desktop PCs, either, although its advantage there is less pronounced.
At the end of the day, the Raptor WD1500ADFD is simply the fastest Serial ATA drive we’ve ever tested. It’s perfect for enterprise-class workstations and servers, and easy to recommend for high-performance gaming rigs and enthusiast desktops. And you won’t have to worry about Windexing the window.