Western Digital’s VelociRaptor VR150 hard drive

Manufacturer Western Digital
Model VelociRaptor VR150
Price (Street) $300
Availability Now

If PC enthusiasts had a hall of fame for hardware, Western Digital’s Raptor hard drive would be a shoo-in. Storage-related products are usually a little short on sex appeal, but the Raptor has become an icon—a testament to what it means to be an enthusiast.

Like many enthusiast legends, the Raptor started with enterprise-class hardware designed for corporate server rooms. Western Digital, a plucky desktop drive maker with no answer to the SCSI hardware that dominated the enterprise scene at the time, came to bat with the world’s first 10K-RPM Serial ATA hard drive. The original Raptor didn’t usurp the enterprise crown from well-established SCSI players, but its performance blew away every other Serial ATA hard drive on the market. What’s more, the Raptor plugged into standard desktop motherboards, delivering near-SCSI performance without the need for expensive expansion cards.

Enthusiasts were so hungry for the performance delivered by the Raptor’s 10K-RPM spindle speeds that we were willing to live with the drive’s anemic 36GB capacity. That capacity slowly grew over time, with Western Digital upping the Raptor to 74GB in 2004 and 150GB two years later. The Raptor’s last refresh was a couple of years ago, though, and the drive has fallen behind a new wave of terabyte wonders whose crazy-high areal densities deliver phenomenal performance even at 7,200 RPM.

Western Digital wasn’t about to let a performance icon get beaten by run-of-the-mill desktop drives, and certainly not by ones manufactured by companies that also make washing machines, so they’ve rolled out an all-new Raptor. Specifically targeted at enthusiasts, the VelociRaptor VR150 breaks bold new ground by bringing 10K-RPM spindle speeds to a 2.5″ drive buried inside a heatsink that slides into a standard 3.5″ drive bay. Read on to see why this is a brilliantly ambitious idea and whether it allows the VelociRaptor to reclaim the crown of fastest Serial ATA hard drive on the market.

The rationale for a 2.5″ Raptor

Although it’s technically correct that the VelociRaptor is the world’s first 2.5″ Serial ATA drive with a 10K-RPM spindle speed, it’s not the first 2.5″ drive to spin its platters that fast. Seagate’s Savvio did it first, albeit with a SCSI interface. Savvios are aimed squarely at enterprise environments where the ability to pack more drives into rack-mounted servers can pay huge dividends.

The benefits of a 2.5″ form factor go beyond drive density, though. Smaller platters give the drive head a much smaller area to cover. The jump from the innermost track of a 2.5″ platter to the outermost track is much smaller than it is for a 3.5″ platter. As a result, 2.5″ drives have an inherent edge in seek times and random access patterns. That said, 2.5″ drives are at somewhat of a disadvantage in a straight-line drag race. Here, the fact that 2.5″ drives have a much smaller circumference on their outer tracks—the fastest area of the disk for sequential transfers—can be a hindrance.

Power consumption has become an increasingly important consideration, and 2.5″ drives have an advantage there, as well. Smaller platters are lighter, allowing the drive motor to draw less power. Making life easier on the drive motor can enable 2.5″ drives to run quieter than their 3.5″ counterparts, too.

So the prospect of a 2.5″ Raptor sounds promising. But the form factor is a bit of a liability for enthusiasts, because standard desktop enclosures don’t come with bays designed for 2.5″ hard drives. To get around this issue, Western Digital slips the 2.5″ VelociRaptor into an “IcePAK” drive sled that neatly slides into standard 3.5″ drive bays. The IcePAK is equipped with 13 cooling fins, providing additional surface area for its secondary task: acting as the VelociRaptor’s heatsink.

Western Digital says 2.5″ 10K-RPM drives don’t necessarily require heatsinks, but they do run warmer than standard desktop drives. The VelociRaptor needed an adapter to be compatible with 3.5″ drive bays anyway, so having one that serves as a heatsink is a simple but smart bit of engineering.

It sounds like Western Digital has worked out all the angles for the VelociRaptor, but the fact remains that bringing 10K-RPM spindle speeds down to a 2.5″ form factor is no easy task. 2.5″ drives are just really tiny—the actual drive that sits inside the VelociRaptor’s IcePAK sled is roughly 70% smaller by volume than a standard 3.5″ drive—and it’s difficult to pull off miniaturization while maintaining breakneck spindle speeds.

To be fair, though, the 2.5″ drive at the heart of the VelociRaptor isn’t quite as small as a common notebook drives. The 2.5″ form factor standard has provisions for different drive thicknesses, with most of today’s notebook drives conforming to the thinnest 9mm option. The VelociRaptor’s 2.5″ drive measures 15mm thick, which means you won’t be able to squeeze it into a standard notebook. The VelociRaptor’s thickness neatly matches that of Seagate’s Savvio drives, though.

Given its form factor, the VelociRaptor’s core seems like a logical and potentially very attractive Serial ATA alternative to Seagate’s Savvio drives in the enterprise world. However, Western Digital isn’t talking about an enterprise version of the VelociRaptor just yet. Enthusiasts get first dibs this time around.

Down to details

Although the VelociRaptor’s novel design is easily the drive’s defining feature, a 10,000 RPM spindle speed is what makes it a Raptor. Western Digital is still the only hard drive maker offering 10K-RPM drives with Serial ATA interfaces, which may be part of the reason why the Raptor is updated so infrequently. The other reason, WD tells us, is because once enterprise versions of the Raptor are qualified by server vendors for use in their systems, they’d rather keep using the same drive rather than have to re-qualify new versions on a regular basis.


Raptor EL150

Raptor VR150

Maximum external
transfer rate
150MB/s 300MB/s

Sustained data rate
88MB/s 120MB/s
Read IOPS 124 134
Average read seek
time
4.7ms 4.2ms
Average write seek
time
5.9ms 4.7ms

Spindle speed
10,000 RPM 10,000 RPM

Available
capacities
36GB, 74GB, 150GB 300GB

Cache size
16MB 16MB

Platter size
74GB 150GB

Idle acoustics
29 dBA 29 dBA

Seek acoustics
36 dBA 36 dBA
Mean Time Between
Failures (MTBF)
1.2 million hours 1.2 million hours

Warranty length
Five years Five years

High spindle speeds have always allowed Raptors to offer incredibly low seek times, and the VelociRaptor is the fastest example yet. The drive’s read seek time is half a millisecond quicker than WD’s existing 3.5″ Raptor, and its write seek time is a whopping 1.2 milliseconds faster. Milliseconds might not sound like much in the real world, but within the confines of a modern PC where bits are flipping at billions of times per second on multiple processor cores, there’s not a moment to spare.

So why does the VelociRaptor seek quicker than its predecessor if both share the same 10K-RPM spindle speed? Partially because the VelociRaptor’s smaller platters are easier for the drive head to traverse, as we discussed above. The VelociRaptor also packs a much higher areal density than its 3.5″ forebear, giving the drive head access to more data over shorter physical distances. While existing Raptors only squeeze 74GB onto their 3.5″ platters, the VelociRaptor’s much smaller 2.5″ platters pack 150GB each.

Another dynamic we discussed above comes into play here, as well. The VelociRaptor’s 2.5″ platters have a much smaller outer edge circumference, somewhat offsetting the impact of its increased areal density on sequential transfer rates. Mind you, the VelociRaptor’s sustained data rate is still 36% higher than the prior Raptor, with a faster 300MB/s Serial ATA interface to back it up.

The VelociRaptor needs only two platters to reach its 300GB capacity. Western Digital says it’s also working on a single-platter version of the drive, but that’s not ready yet.

The VelociRaptor is clearly Western Digital’s flagship performance drive, and at $300 for 300GB, it’s not a cheap proposition. You’d think for such a premium product, Western Digital would have made every attempt to keep up with the Joneses. But the VelociRaptor only has 16MB of cache and that’s, well, less than the 32MB cache on many terabyte drives. Western Digital says it did extensive performance profiling to evaluate larger cache sizes, but that it found little performance benefit in jumping up to 32MB. I can’t say that we’ve ever found evidence to the contrary in our own testing, but given the VelociRaptor’s competition and the drive’s premium status, it’s hard to understand why WD didn’t go with a 32MB cache to hedge its bets.

At least Western Digital has preserved the Raptor’s five-year warranty—an attribute that comes from its enterprise roots. Western Digital’s standard desktop drives are only covered by a three-year warranty, although it is worth noting that Seagate offers five years of warranty coverage on all its internal hard drive products, including standard desktop models.

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, Maxtor, Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital. These drives 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
150MB/s 7,200-RPM 8MB 80GB 160GB Yes

Barracuda 7200.8
150MB/s 7,200-RPM 8MB 133GB 400GB Yes

Barracuda 7200.9
(160GB)
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 8MB 160GB 160GB Yes

Barracuda 7200.9
(500GB)
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 125GB 500GB Yes

Barracuda 7200.10
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 188GB 750GB Yes

Barracuda 7200.11
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 250GB 1TB Yes

Barracuda ES
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 188GB 750GB 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
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 83GB 250GB No


Caviar SE16 (500GB)
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 125GB 500GB Yes


Caviar SE16 (640GB)
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 320GB 640GB Yes


Caviar SE16 (750GB)
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 188GB 750GB Yes

Caviar RE2
150MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 100GB 400GB Yes

Caviar RE2 (500GB)
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 125GB 500GB Yes

Deskstar 7K500
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 100GB 500GB Yes

Deskstar 7K1000
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 200GB 1TB Yes

DiamondMax 10
150MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 100GB 300GB Yes

DiamondMax 11
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 125GB 500GB Yes

Raptor WD740GD
150MB/s 10,000-RPM 8MB 37GB 74GB No*


Raptor X
150MB/s 10,000-RPM 16MB 75GB 150GB Yes


Raptor WD1500ADFD
150MB/s 10,000-RPM 16MB 75GB 150GB Yes

RE2

(750GB)

300MB/s

7,200-RPM

16MB

188GB

750GB

Yes

SpinPoint F1
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 32MB 334GB 1TB Yes

Spinpoint T
300MB/s 7,200-RPM 16MB 133GB 400GB Yes

VelociRaptor VR150
300MB/s 10,000-RPM 16MB 150GB 300GB Yes

Note that the 250GB Caviar SE16 and the 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.

We have test results from several versions of Western Digital’s Caviar SE16 and RE2. To avoid confusion, we’ll be listing their capacities in parentheses in each of our graphs.

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 other drives aren’t explicitly labeled as NCQ drives because they’re not available without NCQ support.

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 highlighted the VelociRaptor in bright orange. To frame the drive against its most recent competition, we’ve also highlighted the Barracuda 7200.11 and ES.2, the Deskstar 7K1000, the SpinPoint F1, the Caviar GP and RE2-GP, the Caviar SE16 640GB, and the VelociRaptor’s Raptor X and WD1500ADFD in yellow. We have two sets of IOMeter graphs, as well: one with all the drives and another with just the Caviar and its direct rivals. Most of our analysis will be limited to how the VelociRaptor compares with its direct rivals, so it should be easy to follow along.

Finally, we should note that the VelociRaptor VR150 we used for testing is an engineering sample that isn’t an exact representation of what you’ll be able to find on store shelves. Western Digital tells us the only differences between the drive we have and retail examples will be minor firmware changes. We’ll try to get our hands on a retail sample to test as soon as we can.

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 Hitachi 7K500 500GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar SE16 750GB 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
Western Digital Caviar RE2 500GB SATA
Western Digital Caviar SE16 500GB SATA
Seagate Barracuda ES 750GB SATA
Samsung SpinPoint T 400GB SATA
Maxtor DiamondMax 11 500GB SATA
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000 1TB SATA
Western Digital RE2 750GB 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
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 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.

The VelociRaptor gets off to a good start, tying the WorldBench overall score of Western Digital’s Caviar SE16 640GB. The VR150 is only a couple of points faster than its predecessor, though.

Multimedia editing and encoding

MusicMatch Jukebox

Windows Media Encoder

Adobe Premiere

VideoWave Movie Creator

Among WorldBench’s multimedia editing and encoding tests, only Premiere appears to benefit from faster hard drives. There, the VelociRaptor is among the leaders, just four seconds off the pace set by Samsung’s SpinPoint F1.

Image processing

Adobe Photoshop

ACDSee PowerPack

ACDSee spreads the field a little, and the VelociRaptor takes full advantage, edging out the 640GB Caviar SE16 for the lead.

Multitasking and office applications

Microsoft Office

Mozilla

Mozilla and Windows Media Encoder

Performance doesn’t vary much in WorldBench’s office and multitasking tests, although the SpinPoint does manage to best the VelociRaptor by ten seconds in the multitasking test.

Other applications

WinZip

Nero

Nero and WinZip both give the hard drives an opportunity to show off, and the VelociRaptor comes out on top in the latter by nine seconds. The VR150 has to settle for second place behind Western Digital’s latest Caviar SE16 in the Nero test, though.

Boot and load times
To test system boot and game level load times, we busted out our trusty stopwatch.

The VelociRaptor isn’t the quickest drive booting into Windows. However, it has little problem outgunning its competition when we switch to games. The VR150’s three-second margin of victory in Far Cry level load times is particularly impressive.

File Copy Test
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.

To make things easier to read, we’ve separated our FC-Test results into individual graphs for each test pattern. We’ll tackle file creation performance first.

The VelociRaptor doesn’t manage a clean sweep, but it comes out ahead in three FC-Test’s five file creation test patterns. Second-place finishes with the remaining two test patterns keep the VR150 near the top of the pile, well ahead of the previous generation Raptors.

FC-Test’s file read tests prove to be even more fruitful for the VelociRaptor, which dominates all five test patterns. The drive’s margins of victory with the Windows and Programs test patterns, which are made up of large numbers of smaller files, are especially impressive. Again, the older Raptors are simply in another class—a remedial one, by comparison.

FC-Test – continued
Next, File Copy Test combines read and write tasks in some, er, copy tests.

Copy tests certainly seem to suit the VelociRaptor. The VR150 turns in the fastest performance with each test pattern, by healthy margins across the board. Older Raptors really show their age here, trailing not only the VelociRaptor but just about every other 7,200-RPM hard drive released in the last year.

FC-Test’s second wave of copy tests involves copying files from one partition to another on the same drive.

The SpinPoint F1 steals one from the VelociRaptor in FC-Test’s partition copy tests, but the VR150 comes out on top with the four remaining test patterns.

iPEAK multitasking
We’ve developed a series of disk-intensive multitasking tests to highlight the impact of seek times and 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.

In our first wave of iPEAK multitasking tests, the VelociRaptor only manages the quickest mean service times for two workloads. The VR150 remains competitive with the other three, where it always lies within striking distance of the top spot, but there’s no domination here—well, not unless you compare the VelociRaptor’s performance with that of its predecessors, which are much slower with each workload.

iPEAK multitasking – continued

The VelociRaptor only manages one win in our second wave of iPEAK workloads, but it’s among the fastest drives with the rest. Only when we combine Outlook and VirtualDub import operations does the VR150 fall off the pace by a substantial margin, and even then, it’s still quicker than the vast majority of drives we’ve tested.

IOMeter – Transaction rate
IOMeter presents a good test case for both seek times and command queuing. To keep things easy to read, we’ve created two sets of graphs. The first includes the VelociRaptor and its closest competitors, while the second has results for all the drives we’ve tested. With over two dozen drives, those latter graphs are a little difficult to read, so we’ll focus our attention on the first set and the VR150’s more direct rivals.

The VelociRaptor’s IOMeter transaction rates are nothing short of a revelation. Not even the Raptor X and WD1500ADFD—which still are both much quicker than the fastest 7,200-RPM drives in this test—come close to matching the VR150’s performance. The gap only widens as we increase the number of outstanding I/O requests, although there’s a curious dip in transaction rate scaling with 64 outstanding I/Os.

Good luck with these, folks.

IOMeter – Response time

The carnage continues when we look at IOMeter response times, which show the VelociRaptor well out ahead of the fastest Serial ATA drives on the market.

IOMeter – CPU utilization

IOMeter CPU utilization is low for all our drives. Move along.

HD Tach
We tested HD Tach with the benchmark’s full variable zone size setting.

The VelociRaptor is the first SATA hard drive we’ve seen eclipse 100MB/s in HD Tach’s sustained read and write speed tests. The SpinPoint F1 and 640GB Caviar SE16 aren’t far behind, but they don’t quite reach that mark.

Western Digital’s previous Raptor drives use slower 150MB/s Serial ATA interfaces, and that holds them back in this test. With its 300MB/s Serial ATA link, the VelociRaptor’s burst performance is the fastest we’ve seen from any drive.

We expected the VelociRaptor’s random access time to be quick, and it is. Obviously, the VR150 has a huge advantage over 7,200-RPM drives here. What’s more impressive, however, is that it’s 1.5 milliseconds quicker than the Raptor X.

CPU utilization results are within HD Tach’s +/- 2% margin of error for this test.

Noise levels
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.

You might expect the VelociRaptor’s 10K-RPM spindle speed to generate a lot of noise, but it’s one of the quietest drives we’ve ever tested at idle. Noise levels do rise under load, however, where the VelociRaptor’s aggressive seeking puts it in the middle of the pack. Even then, the VelociRaptor is several decibels quieter than its Raptor predecessors, although that may give you little comfort under Vista, which seems to seek constantly in an attempt to fill its caches.

Power consumption
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.

The VelociRaptor’s 2.5″ core has a lot less weight to spin than traditional 3.5″ drives. That pays huge dividends in power consumption. We should note that unlike 2.5″ mobile drives, which only draw power from the 5V line, the VelociRaptor pulls from both 5V and 12V rails.

Conclusions

Western Digital’s new VelociRaptor VR150 is a leaner, meaner version of the Raptor that really owes little to its predecessor other than a 10K-RPM spindle speed. The VelociRaptor’s design is a radical departure from the original, but we’ve grown to expect Western Digital to inject a little flavor into a hard drive market that’s typically short on interesting designs. After all, this is the same company that released a windowed Raptor and tweak spindle speeds to lower power consumption for its GreenPower line.

While we commend the VelociRaptor’s novel design, performance is what really matters. Fortunately, the VR150 delivers on that front in spades. It wasn’t the fastest drive in every test and was even beaten by 7,200-RPM drives on a handful of occasions, but the VelociRaptor’s combination of blazing-fast transfer rates and lightning-quick access times is a tough matchup for any Serial ATA drive. The VelociRaptor’s only weakness may be its seek noise levels, which are higher than those of the fastest 7,200-RPM drives, but still much quieter than current 3.5″ Raptors.

The VelociRaptor offers excellent performance across a wide range of applications, but its most spectacular showing was easily with IOMeter’s multi-user workloads. These workloads don’t simulate typical desktop environments, of course, but they’re the most demanding tests we run. And they make a heck of a case for an enterprise derivative of the VelociRaptor. The 2.5″ form factor is perfect for rack-mount systems where the VelociRaptor’s low power consumption and strong multi-user performance will surely be appreciated. But I digress.

Western Digital VelociRaptor VR150
April 2008

The VelociRaptor reclaims the crown of fastest Serial ATA hard drive in spectacular fashion. Drives are shipping now, so you should be able to get your hands on one soon. However, like the original Raptor, there’s a price premium to be paid for this level of performance. The 300GB VR150 will sell for $300, giving it a cost per gigabyte five times that of terabyte drives currently on the market. Incidentally, though, the VelociRaptor’s cost per gigabyte closely matches that of current Raptor drives, which are slower, louder, and consume more power.

So the VelociRaptor isn’t a bang-for-your-buck wonder, then—at least not for typical desktop workloads. But it’s still an absolute beast and a worthy successor to existing Raptors. What’s more, the VelociRaptor embodies exactly the kind of imaginative innovation we like to see. When taken with its exceptional performance, we’d be remiss not to give the VelociRaptor VR150 an Editor’s Choice award.

Comments closed
    • moritzgedig
    • 11 years ago

    for that $$$ you could have *[

    • ssway
    • 11 years ago

    This would kick major butt in a Mac Mini compared to it’s current piddly 5,400rpm drive.

    • FranzVonPapen
    • 11 years ago

    This review shows availability as “Now.” That was April 21st. Two weeks later, where is it for sale?!

    • MadManOriginal
    • 11 years ago

    Certainly nice but I would be more likely to buy if there was a wider range of prices and capacities with similar-ish performance. I have Raptors in RAID0 for my main computer for OS, apps and file manipulation and don’t miss the space, that’s what a server is for. I’m just preparing for the day when SSDs are reasonable and I’ll have a few of those in my main along with one storage drive and the main storage on a server. The 150GB Raptor is a fine size for this and currently not all that bad in absolute price, the 74GB is even ok too if you’ve got enough of them but the price/capacity isn’t quite the same. If there was something like this with half the capacity and half to two-thirds the price I’d be itching to buy, as it is :shrug: I can only hope WD is working backwards with capacity this time, I know the 300GB model is meant to compete with similar capacity SAS drives.

    s[

    • Bensam123
    • 11 years ago

    Screw a new raptor, I just want a SCSI-68 to SATA 300 bridge. If WD sold those I’d be a lot happier. Surplus SCSI devices can be found on eBay for quite a bit cheaper then this and perform just as well.

    It cooks the competition. It’s a enterprise class drive beating down on all the other desktop class drives, but this is a enterprise class drive, it should compete with other enterprise class drives. Where are all the other enterprise class drives?

    • Philldoe
    • 11 years ago

    Well, I suppose it’s time to put my 2 150GB Raptors up for sale and buy 2 of these babies.

    • Hance
    • 11 years ago

    Now if somebody would just get Oprah to step on one and mash it down to 9mm so it would fit in my laptop I would be excited. I have a raptor 74 in my desktop now and when it dies I will probably grab the newest raptor at the time. The SATA connector is broke on mine thanks to my own stupidity so it might die sooner rather than later.

    • Hattig
    • 11 years ago

    Nice review, extremely comprehensive. There’s definitely a market for this drive, but I think I’ll give it a miss due to the value proposition for me, personally.

    • ludi
    • 11 years ago

    Just noticed this:

    “It sounds like Western Digital has worked out all the angles for the VelociRaptor, but the fact remains that bringing 10K-RPM spindle speeds down to a 2.5″ form factor is no easy task. 2.5″ drives are just really tiny—the actual drive that sits inside the VelociRaptor’s IcePAK sled is roughly 70% smaller by volume than a standard 3.5″ drive—and it’s difficult to pull off miniaturization while maintaining breakneck spindle speeds.”

    Actually, in some respects, it’s easier. Smaller platters should means less rotating mass (which affects the motor), along with reduced edge velocities and less tendency for the disk to attempt dynamic warping during operation (which affects the required material strength of the platters). Factor these together and they also mean less vibration (which affects the head precision).

    • Nictron
    • 11 years ago

    In the server environment I will definitely use these from now on, they are perfect for that role.

    I will however wait a bit before I put it in my home PC since I have a Raid 0 set-up with Raptors so I do not see the immediate benefit in these.

    Good article, very thorough!

    • moritzgedig
    • 11 years ago

    /[<"breaks bold new ground by bringing 10K-RPM spindle speeds to a 2.5" drive buried inside a heatsink that slides into a standard 3.5" drive bay. Read on to see why this is a brilliantly ambitious idea" "The benefits of a 2.5" form factor go beyond drive density, though. Smaller platters give the drive head a much smaller area to cover."<]/ aren't 10k and 15k platterns always smaller than the 7.5k? I don't think this is new, it is just the casing, they used to put the smaller platterns in 3.5" cases, likely being bigger than those now in 2.5" cases.

    • slot_one
    • 11 years ago

    This hard drive is faster than the EDO memory in my old Pentium Pro box, which according to memtest86 transfers at just 75 MB/sec. 😛

    Pretty impressive stuff.

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 11 years ago

      Haha. That’s a great comparison.

    • NegativeEntropy
    • 11 years ago

    Good article. Thanks. Though I no longer regularly participate in the upgrade race, I do have 2, 15k Cheetahs that are getting long in the tooth and could be replaced by one of these. Hmmm….

    A typo/clarification:

    From page 2:
    /[

    • Sargent Duck
    • 11 years ago

    Thank you WD, Thank you from the bottom of my techie heart for not using the “extreme” moniker.

    That being said, I was amazed at the idle power draw, and even the under heavy use draw. To me, this almost seems worth the price justification. Almost.

    • cegras
    • 11 years ago

    The heatsink is only attached to the bottom of the VRaptor, but from what I know the bottom of the hard drive is the most perforated?

      • eitje
      • 11 years ago

      well, they certainly couldn’t put it on the top, where that little hole that you’re not supposed to cover up is located!

        • cegras
        • 11 years ago

        Well, at least they should’ve made the sides of the VRaptor touch the heatsink : D

          • evermore
          • 11 years ago

          Difficult to do that consistently, without having thick layers of thermal pad between them. Particularly with that paint or annodizing, since the thickness might vary. They’d have to make the heatsink with a good bit of clearance to ensure that every drive would be able to fit without any effort (or have people hand-matching drives to the best-fit heatsink), and then squeeze in some thermal goop. Other heatsinks of course get by this by not having a single-piece heatsink, you screw the two halves onto the sides. Seems like WD could have done that about as easily, but it might not have looked as cool.

    • indeego
    • 11 years ago

    I bet the price for this drops pretty quickly. The premium is too muchg{<.<}g

    • Convert
    • 11 years ago

    Hmm, I was expecting the next line of raptors to be of the 15k variety.

    I am tempted to buy a “cheap” SAS card and pick up a 15k, though I imagine it wouldn’t be worth it.

      • MattMojo
      • 11 years ago

      A buddy of mine bought Seagate’s 15K SAS drives and they run incredibly fast but since they are of the enterprise variety the boot time for your system increases as his did while spinning up each drive (he has 4 in RAID0).

      Mojo

        • indeego
        • 11 years ago

        *[<4<]* in RAID0? Is he testing how fast his data will dieg{

      • ew
      • 11 years ago

      I have two Seagate 15k SAS drives and a Dell PCI-E controller. It’s definitely fast but I don’t think it was worth the money.

    • albundy
    • 11 years ago

    wd killed it as you cannot put the drive in notebooks. the only benefit is noise and temp. otherwise, performance is comparable to many drives out there.

      • Krogoth
      • 11 years ago

      Wanna bet? That drive is begging to be place in a desktop replacement.

      Hell, that drive would mostly likely work with a 360 or PS3.

        • albundy
        • 11 years ago

        I’d give it a few months before it is completely overthrown again. LOL!

    • Firestarter
    • 11 years ago

    Riddle me this: how does WD squeeze 150gb on platter inside a 10k RPM 2.5″ drive, while the biggest 7200 RPM 2.5″ notebook drive has 100gb platters?

      • evermore
      • 11 years ago

      New designs and capabilities, which they’re putting into their highest-priced consumer product line first in order to get maximum return on investment? Enterprise drives would need more time to get certification and reliability data but I’d assume they’re next for this design.

      Besides, this isn’t a notebook drive. It’s far thicker than notebook drives, which means the platters can be thicker and heavier, thus stiffer, allowing higher spindle speeds.

        • Firestarter
        • 11 years ago

        Stiffer platters at higher speeds would still not explain why there aren’t any 150gb platters for 7200 RPM drives, as these platters wouldn’t need to be as stiff/thick.

          • evermore
          • 11 years ago

          They’d still need to be stiffER than a 100GB platter, which simply may not be possible with a 9mm height drive; if they’ve already crammed the heaviest, thickest platters they can into 9mm, then having to thicken them even slightly would simply not work. So to increase the density at high speed without increasing the platter thickness/weight, they’d have to increase the performance of the read/write system, which of course they’re constantly doing. You know it is just possible WD has come up with a slight improvement to design that other manufacturers haven’t hit yet.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 11 years ago

    I just found my boot drive for my hackintosh.

    • lucas1985
    • 11 years ago

    I predicted not too long ago (http://www.techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=51784&p=729755) that until SSD vendors get their act together, 2.5inch drives are the future of enthusiast storage. I’d guess that WD thinks the same :p
    Congratulations to WD.

    • Krogoth
    • 11 years ago

    IMO, VelociRaptor is not that impressive at all. Raptor family had its time in the spotlight, however 7200RPM drives have caught up performance-wise with far superior capacity.

    VelociRaptor is just a 2.5 “SAS” drive market and engineered to go towards “enthusiast” crowd. It only has a significant performance edge over competition in server, workstation environments. It otherwise offers very little in general single-user usage over 7200RPM with a far higher GB/$ premium.

    I could see VelociRaptor finding themselves a home in entry-level and mid-range servers where cost of SAS solution would go over the budget.

      • MattMojo
      • 11 years ago

      On most of the test ran here it was roughly 11-25 MB /s faster than the original raptor which is nothing to laugh at! Funny thing is that what you really get out of the faster drives (rpm) is a much lower access times and that alone makes for a good purchase. You have no idea what that can do for a system — Like I said earlier (#4) I have 3 of the previous gen in RAID0 and it is absolutely crazy how fast they are — I have yet to see any drive match performance of those and these (VRs) have sata 300 interface which should allow some head room (it was also shown it these test) — the 150s I have saturate the interface bus like crazy. Not to mention I have yet to see a Raptor drive fail (mine or my friends who have had theirs much longer than me).

      Not to mention that it ranges from 3-15 MB/s faster than the Caviar — again the bar graphs don’t do it justice — these are not FPS it is megabytes per sec!!! A 3-15 MB/s faster drive can kill copy and read times like crazy!

      Mojo

        • Krogoth
        • 11 years ago

        Don’t get me wrong.VelociRaptors are fast. It shows the most at multi-user loads (the gap is impressive from previous generation of Raptors).

        The problem is that mainstream 7200RPM are almost as fast for general usage, while having a vastly better GB/$$$$ ratio. The value is not there for VelociRaptor if you do not intend to use the drive in server and workstation-related loads.

        • UberGerbil
        • 11 years ago

        Plenty of people here (including Krogoth, I believe) have every idea of “what that can do for a system.” There are lots of people here using Raptors, or who have used them in the past, not to mention the people who work with SAS and SCSI 15K drives all the time. They have their place, and I wouldn’t hesitate to spec them for a system that was going to be heavily disk-bound, but like a lot of other “extreme” parts they often represent a rather silly price/performance factor that is more about self-satisfaction than actual use.

        And there’s no way your Raptors “saturate the interface bus like crazy.” They have a 16MB cache If they empty all of that at 150MB/s, it takes about a tenth of a second. After that, you’re gated by the STR of the drive, which is much, much less than the interface speed.

          • MattMojo
          • 11 years ago

          First off it is not 150 MB/s it is 150 Mbps /s — so before you go and spit out slander, now what your are talking about — and yes they can saturate the small of a bus with those access times — I have seen it on numerous accusations and on numerous review sites in the past.

          Mojo

            • zqw
            • 11 years ago

            It is megabytes, or are you trolling?

            • MattMojo
            • 11 years ago

            awww I’m just trolling… you guys were getting too stiff here about a niche product. sorry if I offended anyone…. I will be getting these though if they hold up well in numerous reviews.

            In other news Zombie Panic! mod for HL2 is quite fun — just discovered it myself.

            Mojo

            • emorgoch
            • 11 years ago

            We do know what we’re talking about, and you obviously don’t.

            First gen SATA has a line speed of 1.5Gbps, and uses an 8b10b encoding. That gives it a final data throughput of 150MB/s. Then SATA got doubled, increasing the line speed to 3.0Gbps, or 300MB/s effective. No 7200 / 10K rpm hard drive is coming close to saturating that interface in sustained transfer speeds, just burst speeds from the cache.

            And no, pumping things up by putting the drives into a RAID set isn’t going to change that, since it’s a SERIAL ATA interface ==> Each port gets full bandwidth. The only case where you may hit a bottleneck is 1) The SATA controller is sitting off a PCI-e lane, and the bottleneck is actually between the controller and the chipset, or 2) You have a RAID card that is acting as a middle man, having one side head out to the hard drives, and the other side plugging into a single SATA port.

            • just brew it!
            • 11 years ago

            q[

            • evermore
            • 11 years ago

            l[

        • cloh2083
        • 11 years ago

        Well, I had two Raptors in RAID 0 and one failed within a year. Luckily I had a backup. Too many of my friends (and the technician that came to examine the drive) asked why I even use the Raptors. Hype I guess. Next build will be a 7200 drive.

          • Nictron
          • 11 years ago

          I find my Raptors an absolute pleasure, I enjoy always being the first guy on the server map in Call of Duty 4 and Battlefield, just gives you that I won the race feeling every time.

          I have three raptors and not one of them has failed yet, so maybe you where just unlucky and a technician that does not appreciate your Raptor is not a true techie! Its like a mechanic walking upto your Ferrari and telling you, you waisted your money on the Ferrari when you could of rather saved the money and bought an Opel OPC. Money spent is not the point in choosing a Raptor.

            • enzia35
            • 11 years ago

            Raptors have usually been out of my price range, and even though they’re fast, I’m still usually first on the cod4 server I play on…with my 7200rpm hard drive.

            The 1gb GP is about the same price, and has more than 3 times the capacity. I went with the GP instead.

    • Grigory
    • 11 years ago

    Those are some big lower back fins. I wonder why they didn’t make them thinner and more numerous.

      • eitje
      • 11 years ago

      my guess is that they don’t ACTUALLY do anything. 🙂

        • UberGerbil
        • 11 years ago

        C’mon! Next you’ll be telling me the window in the Raptor X doesn’t improve performance either!

        • evermore
        • 11 years ago

        That was the first thing I thought when I saw that monster. It looks really cool, but we can’t see the area that’s actually in contact with the drive. Is there a raised area that the inner surface of the drive’s underside sits on (presumably not since the PCB is there), or is it just the edges of the casing that touch the heatsink? Edges-only is a tiny contact area. Heck, the drive looks raised off the surface of the heatsink; is there ANY contact? They could have at least made the front end of it contact a flat surface (since making the sides contact anything would be difficult to make consistent), or the top.

        And of course there’s no thermal goop, and I can’t imagine that’s a particularly smooth contact area on either side.

        Thinner fins probably just wouldn’t have been any more efficient, and would be harder to make. The original Raptors don’t have thin fins.

          • UberGerbil
          • 11 years ago

          Yes. But the drive dissipates so little power that they’re completely unnecessary. It’s just bling, and all the flaws you point out just confirm that.

          • ludi
          • 11 years ago

          Unless the PCB covers the entire bottom side of the drive, they may have a thermal interface plate installed down there. The entire chassis is normally a block of cast aluminum and will conduct heat quite well, so add a modest thermal interface plate and the sink will function normally.

          However, as stated, this is mostly bling. Add a wing, a bright red ‘R’ sticker, and an under-hood hot-air induction filter for even better performance.

            • just brew it!
            • 11 years ago

            From the pic on page 2, it appears that the PCB is internal. The bottom of the drive is bare.

            Edit: Oh, never mind. I just realized that’s the bottom of the heatsink, not the bottom of the drive! Duh.

            • evermore
            • 11 years ago

            I did the same thing. Then I looked at Tom’s which has two pictures close together, of the top and bottom, at the same scale, and the drive-to-heatsink mounting holes were obviously different than the mounting for the 3.5 inch bay.

            • UberGerbil
            • 11 years ago

            Don’t forget the soda can exhaust.

        • Convert
        • 11 years ago

        The heatsink clearly allows for more overclocking.

    • h22chen
    • 11 years ago

    I wonder if they’ll take off one platter (making the drive into 150GB), reduce the height of it (possible with removing one platter?) so that it can fit into a laptop?

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      For some boat anchor DTRs, maybe. But it burns too much power for a “real” notebook — more than twice as much as the Travelstar 7K200 during seek, and four times as much at idle. I’m sure they could trim that somewhat for a mobile application (possibly with some loss in performance) but they’re still not going to get a lot of takers from the OEMs.

    • SPtheALIEN
    • 11 years ago

    Oh crap…since the serial ATA ports are seemingly located on the center of the back of the drive now, they won’t fit in the sleds on the HP Blackbird 002.

      • Anonymous Hamster
      • 11 years ago

      Yes, I noticed that too. I was very surprised that they didn’t put the SATA ports in the standard location for a 3.5″ drive.

      I guess you could toss the WD heatsink/adapter and substitute a regular 2.5″ -> 3.5″ adapter that puts the SATA ports in the right place, assuming such a thing exists (surely it must).

    • nerdrage
    • 11 years ago

    Great article, as usual. I’d like to nitpick one minor thing though:
    q[< *[http://www.westerndigital.com/en/library/legacy/scsi/index.asp<]§

      • srg86
      • 11 years ago

      Interstinly they were made for WD by IBM and designed by IBM, but badged WD.

    • mongoosesRawesome
    • 11 years ago

    Anandtech reported that they received a pre-production firmware that reduced performance, and that they’d hold off their review until they receive a production firmware. What about TR?

    §[< http://anandtech.com/weblog/showpost.aspx?i=432<]§

    • StashTheVampede
    • 11 years ago

    I *just* got my 74GB Raptor out of storage (aka my closet) to put into my Mac Pro for Vista. Sad to see its no where close to being at the top anymore. No matter — it’ll load COD4 maps just fine.

    • Flying Fox
    • 11 years ago

    Damnit Engadget only listed *site that should not be named*, MaximumPC, PCPer and HotHardware. Guess TR is not high on their list. 🙁

      • 5150
      • 11 years ago

      Tell them they’re wrong.

    • eitje
    • 11 years ago

    i would have liked to have seen a comparison of the drive temp under load with the heatsink and without it.

    i typically mount my 2.5″ drives into a 3.5″ bay using light bungie cord, to reduce noise & vibrations. i’d like to know if i could remove the heatsink & do that.

    • herothezero
    • 11 years ago

    OK, who actually has these things for sale?

    I’m not finding anything at my regular online vendors.

      • Prototyped
      • 11 years ago

      I’m guessing the “Engineering Sample” on the label indicates that they’ll only be released in volume into retail channels in the near future, as opposed to right now.

      • eitje
      • 11 years ago

      edit: i’d originally pointed out the pricegrabber link, but that’s not even the right drive!!

    • LoneWolf15
    • 11 years ago

    Based on cost/performance I actually find this review does a great job of showing what a value the Caviar SE16 640GB drive is.

    The Vraptor has less power consumption, better warrantyand beats it in most tests, but costs more for less space, and the SE16 isn’t that far behind in a number of the benches.

      • Bombadil
      • 11 years ago

      I have to think TechReport’s test bed is limiting the performance of the fastest drives. Check out StorageReviews preview of the Velociraptor, or just check the results in their database. The Velociraptor is matching 15k drives. It is much faster than the 1TB Samsung F1, which is itself faster than the WD6400AAKS.

      MaximumPC compares the Velociraptor to 64GB Mitron Pro SSDs as single drives and RAID0.

        • Prototyped
        • 11 years ago

        I think it might have more to do with the workload. Dissonance’s test suite is heavily biased towards a single-user desktop sort of usage pattern (and for very good reason, given the general focus of this site on desktop PC gamers), which these drives aren’t really optimized for. They’re meant to be used in RAID arrays for movie rendering and visualization type workloads or hosting databases or holding files for a fileserver, and those sorts of use cases place loads of a different nature on storage. For one thing, they tend to be a lot less linear, and tend to be seek-heavy.

        One thing is true, though. You don’t really /[

    • herothezero
    • 11 years ago

    I have to have two of these things…now.

    • Fighterpilot
    • 11 years ago

    That thing would make for a sweet O/S drive.
    Pretty pricey but very cool.

    • drfish
    • 11 years ago

    I had not idea this thing was even on the horizon… Holy cow…

    I want one – I’ve had Raptors since the first 36GB and I’ll never go back to anything less in my main rig…

    • no51
    • 11 years ago

    I know where my economic stimulus rebate is going.

      • Shining Arcanine
      • 11 years ago

      You do realize that the rebate you are getting is a chunk of your hard earned money that the US government confiscated from you last year and that it is being returned to you with no interest?

      It is not throwaway money as your post implies.

        • Joel H.
        • 11 years ago

        Shining Arcanine,

        Bitter, much? Go play some Bioshock, you’ll feel much better.

        • ludi
        • 11 years ago

        Did you know that if that $600 had been backed on the gold standard, we would have no national debt and would be having this conversation over telegraph while snacking on a fine stick of horsehound candy?

        • just brew it!
        • 11 years ago

        While what you say is factually correct, it is irrelevant in context. It’s still $600 he wasn’t expecting to have.

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 11 years ago

    Quite impressive. Makes my baby raptor look really old.

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      If you’re talking about the 36GB model — it isn’t even worthy of the Raptor name (it’s been getting pwned by pretty much every mainstream 7200 drive for a couple of years now).

    • MattMojo
    • 11 years ago

    I have (3) of the last gen Raptor 150s in a RAID0 and they are just blazing fast…. I can only imagine what lies ahead on this upgrade for me. I may even put a forth in there just because.

    Mojo

    • derFunkenstein
    • 11 years ago

    it’s also cheaper-per-GB of storage compared to the last Raptor upgrade, which I think is really nice. I have no use for such a drive, but lots of folks probably do (or think they do).

    • Jigar
    • 11 years ago

    VelociRaptor puts up some impressive numbers there, infact it puts my 7200.10 to shame 🙁

    • jobodaho
    • 11 years ago

    Wow, the last three hard drive articles have shown some really impressive drives. If I were building a computer today, this would be my primary drive for sure.

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