Western Digital’s Raptor WD740GD SATA hard drive

Manufacturer Western Digital
Model Raptor WD740GD
Price (120GB) US$230
Availability Now

THE PERFORMANCE OF Western Digital’s first Raptor Serial ATA hard drive was outstanding, but the drive’s limited 37GB capacity stood out like a sore thumb. Since the original WD360GD was targeted at enterprise applications where capacity is sometimes secondary to performance, the drive’s relatively small size was forgivable, but still impractical, especially for enthusiasts.

To give its 10K-RPM Serial ATA drives more widespread appeal, Western Digital upped the Raptor’s capacity to 74GB for the WD740GD model, but didn’t stop there. The new Raptor’s internals have also been tweaked to give the drive faster seek times and transfer rates, lower noise levels, and support for command queuing. How does this latest Raptor fare against its Serial ATA and SCSI-based competition? Let’s find out.

The drive
Before we look at the performance of this latest Raptor, let’s see how the WD740GD’s specs compares with those of its predecessor.

  WD740GD WD360GD
Maximum internal transfer rate 816Mbits/sec
Maximum external transfer rate 150MB/sec
Average sustained transfer rate 72MB/s 55MB/s
Average seek time (read) 4.5ms 5.2ms
Average seek time (write) 5.9ms
Average rotational latency 2.99ms
Spindle speed 10,000RPM
Cache size 8MB
Platter size 37GB
Available capacities 74GB 37GB
Serial ATA interface Marvell 88i8030C bridge Marvell 88i8030 bridge
Warranty length Five  years

In many ways, the WD740GD is identical to the WD360GD. Both drives feature 10,000RPM spindle speeds, 8MB of cache, 37GB platters, and five-year warranties. However, the WD740GD has a quicker read seek time and faster average sustained transfer rate than its little brother. The WD740GD also uses fluid dynamic bearings, which should make it quieter than the WD360GD.

Despite its somewhat menacing specs, the WD740GD’s appearance doesn’t exactly exude speed. Then again, hard drives tend to look alike.

The easiest way to distinguish the WD740GD from a “parallel” ATA hard drive is to look at its interface ports. Though the drive features a standard four-pin Molex connector, it’s also packing Serial ATA data and power plugs. You can use either of the drive’s power plugs, though I prefer the four-pin Molex plug since it fits a little more snugly than the Serial ATA power connector.

Although the Serial ATA spec does away with master/slave relationships, the WD740GD still has a jumper block. Rather than controlling the drive’s master or slave status, the jumper block is used to enable a special power-saving mode that boots the drive in a standby state. Western Digital recommends the drive’s standard power mode for most users, though.

Flipping over the WD740GD reveals its Serial ATA interface, Marvell’s 88i8030C bridge chip. Currently, Seagate Barracudas are the only drives to offer a native Serial ATA interface, but since the WD360GD easily outperforms even the fastest Barracuda, bridging isn’t anything to worry about.

Thus far, everything about the WD740GD suggests that it will offer better performance than its predecessor right out of the box. As if that weren’t enough, the WD740GD should also get a performance boost when Serial ATA controllers support the drive’s Tagged Command Queuing (TCQ) feature. The original Raptor lacks TCQ support, which allows the WD740GD to re-order outstanding requests with efficiency in mind. Unfortunately, Serial ATA controller cards with command queuing support have yet to hit the market.

The WD740GD’s TCQ support should help the drive compete with SCSI gear, which already supports command queuing. The performance benefits of TCQ should be especially apparent in multi-user benchmarks like IOMeter, where the original Raptor doesn’t scale as well under increasing loads as 10K-RPM SCSI drives. We’ll be sure to revisit the WD740GD when Serial ATA controllers that support command queuing become available.

 

A note on the testing
Product reps have a habit of freaking out whenever we throw an orange or banana into an apples-to-apples comparison, but that’s not going to stop us from testing the WD740GD against not only the WD360GD, but also a pair of 7,200RPM drives, a couple of 10K SCSI disks, and even a two-drive “parallel” ATA RAID 0 array.

With a 2,800RPM spindle speed advantage, the Raptors are easy favorites over the other Serial ATA disks. However, it’s important to note that the Raptors are only available in 37 and 74GB capacities, and both models are quite expensive compared to Serial ATA offerings from Maxtor and Seagate.

Since the Raptors are built for high-end workstations and servers, comparing their performance to 10K RPM SCSI drives is also appropriate. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when we throw SCSI into the mix. First, our Adaptec 29320-R SCSI controller supports command queuing, which should give our SCSI drives an edge over the WD740GD, at least until the Raptor’s TCQ gets host controller support. Also, it’s important to note that Serial ATA drives support a WRITE_THROUGH flag that demands that data is written directly to the disk rather than to the drive’s cache. For reasons I outline in this section of our 10K-RPM hard drive comparison, I haven’t disabled WRITE_THROUGH for our SCSI disks.

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

  System
Processor Intel Pentium 4 2.26GHz
Front-side bus 533MHz (4x133MHz)
Motherboard Tyan Trinity GC-SL
Chipset ServerWorks Grand Champion SL
North bridge ServerWorks CMIC-SL
South bridge ServerWorks CSB5
Memory size 512MB (1 DIMM)
Memory type CAS 2.5 PC2100 ECC DDR SDRAM
Graphics ATI Rage XL
Storage Controllers

SIIG Serial ATA PCI

Adaptec 29320-R

3ware Escalade 7500
Storage Driver

Silicon Image 1.0.0.47

Adaptec 1.1.0.0

3ware 1.12.0.17
Storage

Western Digital Raptor WD740GD 74GB
Western Digital Raptor WD360GD 37GB
Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 120GB
Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 120GB

Maxtor Atlas 10K IV 147GB
Seagate Cheetah 10K.6 147GB

Maxtor 740X-6L 40GB
2-drive RAID 0
Operating System Windows XP Professional SP1

The Serial ATA, SCSI, and RAID cards were each used in the motherboard’s PCI-X slot and had the entire PCI-X bus to themselves throughout testing.

A special thanks goes out to the Computer Repair Shop and KickAss Gear for kicking in the Western Digital Raptor WD360GD and WD 740GD we used for testing

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1024×768 in 32-bit color at a 75Hz 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.

 

Winbench

The WD740GD leads the way in Winbench 99’s Diskmark tests and offers a healthy performance boost over the WD360GD.

The WD740GD also leads the single-drive pack in Winbench’s transfer rate tests, though the Raptor falls to our two-drive RAID 0 array at the beginning of the disk. This time around, the WD740GD is much faster than the original Raptor.

It doesn’t quite manage a win in Winbench’s access time test, bit the WD740GD is only 0.1 milliseconds slower than Maxtor’s Atlas IV. More importantly, Western Digital has improved the new Raptor’s access times over its predecessor.

 

HD Tach

The WD740GD continues to put on an impressive show in HD Tach’s read speed tests, where the drive’s average and minimum transfer rates lead all competitors. Maxtor’s Atlas IV and Western Digital’s original Raptor do spike to higher maximum read speeds, though.

Our 7,200RPM drives get a little revenge in HD Tach’s write speed tests, but the WD740GD still turns in the best minimum write speed and the second fastest average write speed.

In HD Tach’s random access time test, the WD740GD leads even the 10K-RPM SCSI drives, though only by fractions of a millisecond. Again, note how Western Digital has improved the WD740GD’s access time, and also note how much faster both Raptors are than the 7,200-RPM Serial ATA drives.

None of our Serial ATA drives can keep up with Ultra 320 SCSI when it comes to burst speeds, but that’s to be expected. The Serial ATA spec tops out at 150MB/sec, which isn’t fast enough to catch our 10K RPM SCSI drives in this test. Still, the WD740GD leads all our Serial ATA drives and is quite a bit faster than the WD360GD.

The WD740GD’s CPU utilization is a little higher than the competition in HD Tach, but not by enough of a margin to cause concern.

 

HD Tach – continued
Because we can, let’s check out some nifty graphs of HD Tach’s transfer rate tests across the entire length of our disks.

I’d normally be a little worried about the fact that the WD740GD’s read transfer rate dips more frequently than the WD360GD, but since the former is much faster overall, I’m not complaining. For comparison, the transfer rate graphs for the other drives are below:

 

ATTO

Both Raptors are closely matched in ATTO’s 1MB read speed test. I suspect our 3ware RAID card’s on-board cache is responsible for the RAID 0 array’s exceptional performance here.

Although the WD740GD has been largely faster than its predecessor thus far, the latest Raptor is well off the pace in ATTO’s 1MB write speed tests. Don’t panic, though. Redemption is just around the corner.

In ATTO’s 32MB read speed test, the WD740GD bounces back with an exceptionally fast performance that’s good enough to best all but our RAID 0 array.

The Raptor WD740GD leads all competitors in ATTO’s 32MB write speed test, suggesting that the drive may be optimized for longer transfer lengths than the WD360GD.

 

Business and Content Creation Winstone

The WD740GD comes out on top in the Business Winstone and also fares well in the Content Creation test.

Media encoding

All the drives offer roughly the same performance in our encoding tests. I suspect that our test system’s Pentium 4 2.26GHz processor is the bottleneck here.

 

File Copy Test

The Western Digital WD740GD offers the quickest file creation times across all but one of File Copy Test’s patterns. When compared with its predecessor, the WD740GD is faster across the board—often by significant margins.

The results of File Copy Test’s read time tests are more mixed. In this test, the WD740GD’s performance is excellent with some test patterns, but only average with others.

The WD740GD fares a little better in File Copy Test’s copy time tests, but the Atlas IV owns this one.

 

IOMeter – Transaction rate

Although both Raptors offer far better performance than our other Serial ATA drives in IOMeter’s transaction rate tests, they can’t hold a candle to SCSI performance as loads ramp up. The WD740GD’s TCQ support could help here once the drive is paired with a controller card that supports command queuing.

 

IOMeter – MBps

IOMeter’s MBps scores are a function of our transaction rate results, so the WD740GD’s relative position is unchanged.

 

IOMeter – Response time

The WD740GD offers the fastest response time of any Serial ATA drive in IOMeter, but again, the SCSI drives scale much better as load increases.

 

IOMeter – CPU utilization

On average, the WD740GD’s CPU utilization is somewhere between the 7,200-RPM Serial ATA drives and the SCSI disks. Either way, total CPU utilization is low enough not to be a concern for any of the drives.

 

Boot times

The WD740GD has a much faster boot time than any of our other drives.

Noise levels
Noise levels were measured using an Extech 407727 Digital Sound Level Meter placed one inch from the drive. The test system’s CPU fan was disabled to isolate noise created by the drives.

The WD740GD’s fluid dynamic bearings make it one of the quietest drives at idle. However, the new Raptor gets quite a bit louder under during seeks.

Heat levels
Using my incredibly scientific “how much does it burn my hand” test, I found the WD740GD to be no hotter than the WD360GD or either of our 10K RPM SCSI drives. After a few hours looping IOMeter, you could probably cook an egg on any of the drives we tested.

 

Conclusions
The WD740GD is by far the fastest Serial ATA hard drive available, but performance doesn’t come cheap. With a street price of $230, the latest Raptor costs twice as much as its 37GB predecessor, and much more than Maxtor and Seagate’s Serial ATA offerings. Still, the Raptor WD740GD’s price tag is actually quite reasonable when compared with 10K-RPM SCSI gear, so it’s hard to call the this drive overpriced. Also, remember, the Raptor packs a five-year warranty.

If you’re looking for the fastest performance for single-user applications, it doesn’t get much better than the WD740GD. The original Raptor was already an impressive performer, and its successor’s improved performance and larger capacity take the goodness to the next level.

Unfortunately, as great as the WD740GD is in single-user applications, the drive doesn’t scale nearly as well as 10K RPM SCSI disks under multi-user loads. The WD740GD’s tagged command queuing support should help boost multi-user performance, but this capability won’t be tapped until controller cards arrive with TCQ support. 

Comments closed
    • fuzzzy
    • 13 years ago

    I been using standard drives on a Asus A7N8X-E Deluxe (Maxtor 7200 DMs)3200 athlon XP.6600GT nvidia AGP on my home comp which is just for general use, perhaps a bit dvd ripping, occasional gaming etc but nothing special as its just a work horse.
    Recently needed a new tower so on the rebuild I had the chance of a cheap 36G raptor on ebay which I got to use as a system drive and bought a 250 gig maxtor sata DM(diamondmax) to store files on.
    I also had the chance of 3gig of corsair XMS ddr400 which I also got.(previously had 2.5gig of hynix 3200 ram).
    Did a clean install with all the usual anti virus software etc loaded and immediately noticed a MASSIVE improvement of speed in general of the whole system(did have to change the ram memory timimgs as these are nearly always detected wrong on this board).
    I really am impressed with the whole “Aptitude” of the whole computer which I wanted to build and upgrade to use the parts I already got as opposed to upgrading to a 64 bit system. Lets say curiosity played a big part in this too as I heard about raptor and Corsair performance and wanted to try them on this board and processor-both of which I consider to be the best in the range( graphics card also considered to be decent).
    As stated above the 36gig raptor is a little small and I was considering getting another one of the same to make a raptor raid array BUT I noticed you have not tested the 36 or 74gig raptors in a raid config either against each other or against any of the above drives/arrays and my question is
    1 – would using a raid array of 36gig raptors significently out perform a standard 36 gig raptor
    2 – would using a raid array of the 74gig raptors significently out perform the 36gig raid array
    3 – have any improvements been made to the raptors in the 150gig size and if so how would a raid array of these stand up against the two lower ones

    • Yahoolian
    • 16 years ago

    Silicon Image 3112 SATA Controller has TCQ support…

    §[<http://www.pcextreme.net/si3112.php<]§

    • MorgZ
    • 16 years ago

    First up, great review.

    Only area of interest not covered, how much does the speed of a hd affect gaming. Wud b nice if u did a couple of gaming benchmarks (or as tleast one) as id b interested to see the results, if indeed there is any difference at all in FPS other than maybe loading times

      • emkubed
      • 16 years ago

      Loading times is about it.

      • wesley96
      • 16 years ago

      If your HDD goes scratching a lot during gaming in the first place, you need to increase your memory size, anyway.

    • AmishRakeFight
    • 16 years ago

    do you think these things run cool enough to stick in a Shuttle SFF cube?

    • sativa
    • 16 years ago

    maybe you should mention the controllers effect on the boot startup times?

    If you had that SCSI controller in there with a SCSI drive attached (but not the boot drive), it surely would slow the S/PATA drives time down quite a bit due to the scanning of the SCSI bus.

    • protomech
    • 16 years ago

    §[<http://www.tech-report.com/reviews/2004q1/raptor-wd740gd/index.x?pg=12<]§ The percent readings on the vertical scale should be 0.x or 1.x, not 0 or 1 ;-) Those are nice benchmark readings.. although O_o @ #15

      • Dissonance
      • 16 years ago

      Fixed.

    • donmc175
    • 16 years ago

    thanks for review
    I have pair of raid 0 36 raptors op xp and am still impressed after 4+ /12 with the boot times and access compared to single 10k ibm scsi as boot disk. Pair of raid 0 120 gig wd as data / video dump are very useful.. Asus p4c800dlx mb with o/c 2.4 to 3.077 at normal voltage and intel fan seems to be ideal combo for my workstatn at reasonable cost even in australia.5 yr warranty is bonus as everthing else apart from good scsi has 12/12 warranty.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 16 years ago

    Now we just need to see two of them in RAID-0 get into a bandwidth bottleneck on the PCI bus…better yet, put two in RAID-0 on a southbridge SATA solution, like VIA’s or Intel’s.

      • tfp
      • 16 years ago

      Oooo, I bet they would rock with a PCI Graphics card!

        • derFunkenstein
        • 16 years ago

        now you’re playing with power!

    • LicketySplit
    • 16 years ago

    Good read Diss…hope the competition comes up with something…a lower price would be welcomed 🙂

    • Joel H.
    • 16 years ago

    #5,

    I’ve got the same question #6 does. You complain, yet praise their performance. And frankly, hard drive performance numbers (from benchmarks) are tricky to interpret anyway.

    I’ve worked with dual Raptor 360s a dozen times or more in various platforms (on ICH5, Si 3112 / 3114, and HPT 376 for starters) and always been very pleased with their performance.

    I like the 740–but I wouldn’t buy one. Of course in order for them to make sense in my current rig, I’d need to buy two, to replace my WD800JB’s (in RAID 0). Frankly, I don’t think its worth $500 to make that upgrade.

    • Randy2
    • 16 years ago

    50+ seconds boot time ? I run a pair of 36GB craptors in RAID 0 off an SIIG 3112 and I am at desktop in less than 20 seconds with AV software and other utilites running. Maybe they should run Spybot S&D on that box before testing ?

    The other thing is that I have complained high and low about the performance of my craptors. I don’t feel so bad now, because my benchmarks smoke the ones they got, including the PATA RAID. I didn’t notice any mention of stripe size used for those tests.

    As far as noise, I compare the craptors to my 85 Nissan Sentra @ curb idle. It’s an automatic 3 speed though, so the craptors are quieter when compared to the Sentra @ 4Krpm / 70MPH. I think one of the CV joints is drying out though, so a replacement may put them on par with the craptors.

      • atryus28
      • 16 years ago

      If your stuff is “so fast” WTH are you complaining about?

        • Randy2
        • 16 years ago

        I guess the complaining came after I found out that the original reviews by a credible source, StorageReview, was later found to be tainted. It appears Western Digital submitted tweaked 36GB drives for thier review. The actual production drives are much slower than what were submitted, and in turn, made everyone’s eyes light up and purchase them, including me. Apparently, the firmware was tweaked on the submitted drives, and was re-tweaked for the production drives, to extend longevity. A dirty trick, in my opinion.
        I have a habit of spending a little cash on the best equipment, and always stretch it out, to make it perform. This case was the exception, they can’t possibly perform to what the reviews boasts (except for this review), because it’s not mechanically possible. This is actually my second pair of these drives, because one of the original pairs I bought, went out in about 4 months. Western Digital advised me to replace both drives. To my suprise, I went to RMA both through Western Digital, and they would not take back one of the drives, which was purchased through NewEgg. Western Digital said it was an “out-of-region” drive, so the warranty had to handled by NewEgg. Apparently, NewEgg purchases these direct from India, and even though you can’t tell the difference looking at them, and they are produced by WD, they still don’t want them back. I don’t know what NewEgg does with them when they get them back ? NewEgg did take the return, no problem, but they will not cross ship, so it takes a couple weeks to get back up and running. Not exactly “enterprise” workings. So, instead of waiting, I told the guy at WD, fine, send me over to ordering, and I will buy 2 new ones from you. I was sent over, and told, “sorry, but we are out of 36 and 74GB raptors, it will be about 2 to 3 weeks before they will be available again (maybe shipping is slow from India?). “As a matter of fact”, he added, it will take the same amount of time, for the RMA on the one drive they would accept, and they did make it clear, that the replacement drive would be refurbished. So, I ended up going through my normal supplier (not newegg !), who gave me the serial #’s before the purchase, and WD verified, they would handle the warranty on the pair. The one went back to NewEgg, the other I just sold. One thing I was concerned about, is what will happen in 2 years with the NewEgg OEM OOR drives, when they no longer stock them. Sure, they can replace with a similiar product, but what if you are using them in a RAID array and only one goes out.

        Oh well, to answer your question………………….

      • Dissonance
      • 16 years ago

      Yes, 50 seconds. Trust me, there are no AV programs or other nasties running on what was otherwise a fresh image; the ServerWorks platform I use for hard drive testing just isn’t all that speedy when it comes to booting.

    • Dposcorp
    • 16 years ago

    I have 3 of the 36GB Raptors myself, as Boot/OS drives.
    Awsome drives, and they perform great, not loud to me at all.

    I do not know if my work stations need the slight improvement that these 74GB drives offer, but If I was buying drives right now, i’d probably save up for these.

    Also, it is hard for me to stomach 3 year warranty’s, more or less one year ones.

    I’d gladly pay more for the 5 year warrantys that WD offers.

    Thanks for that, WD and keep it up.

    EDIT:
    Thanks for another great review, Geoff.
    Nice to see that sound and heat were also taken into consideration.

    • Prototyped
    • 16 years ago

    PATA has supported tagged command queueing for a while — at least, IBM and Hitachi Deskstars since the 22GXP have supported it. If there’s a PATA version of the WD740GD, perhaps it might be worthwhile to test that out.

      • just brew it!
      • 16 years ago

      Are there /[

      • Krogoth
      • 16 years ago

      A PATA Raptor would be no faster then any 7200RPM HD PATA out there. Since the Raptor would be bottlenecked by the sustained transfer rate of 40 MB/ish. Which I believe is one of reasons why HD maunfacturer’s never did any ATA drive faster then 7,200 RPM until SATA show-up.

        • muyuubyou
        • 16 years ago

        PATA bus specs claim transfers up to 100 and 133MB respectively. Don’t know if that’s optimistic or there are problems with peaks, but it’s still over the highest transfers we’re getting now even with the fastest SCSI HDs.

          • Krogoth
          • 16 years ago

          Those are peak burst transfer rates for ATA devices. More of makreting ploy then anything most HDs aren’t up to task to sustain it’s max transfer rate. Unless, you have set-up a RAID 0 array of several drives on the same bus. Not to mention that PATA drives consume far more system resources. Then ether SCSI or SATA w/command queuing which, farther reduces the maxmium sustain transfer rate.

            • Steel
            • 16 years ago

            Sorry, doesn’t wash. I have several WD PATA drives that can sustain well over 40MB/s even on an ATA/66 controller. Check out the transfer rate graph on SR’s review of the WD2500JB, it’s over 40MB/s for the majority of the disk.
            §[<http://storagereview.com/articles/200304/20030417WD2500JB_1.html<]§

            • Chryx
            • 16 years ago

            Except the fastest ATA100 disks top 50MB/s at their fastest points, the bottleneck is the disk mechanism itself, not the interface. a PATA Raptor would perform pretty much identically to the SATA raptor given the lack of TCQ on current SATA controllers.

        • An Ominous Gerbil
        • 16 years ago

        #10, spindle speed has less to do with transfer rates than with ACCESS TIME. The chief source of improvements in transfer rates is not spindle speed but DATA DENSITY. Raptors do have pretty good transfer rates thanks to their spindle speed but it’s hobbled by their low data density.

        Where 10,000 and 15,000 RPM drives shine is in seek time. Your 150/160/320/etc. megabyte-a-second bus does you absolutely no good if it sits idle most of the time because the drive is slowly thrashing about.

        This is particularly important for RAID. RAIDs made with high RPM drives go MUCH faster because RAIDing effectively increases data density and so improves transfer rate but does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for seek time. Your seek time is always the seek time of your slowest drive. Therefore a RAID array of 15,000 RPM drives blows the PANTS off a RAID array of 7,200 RPM drives even though the 7,200 RPM drive may perform reasonably well in a single-drive setting against a single 15,000 RPM drive.

    • emkubed
    • 16 years ago

    I’m running off of a WD740GD right now. Fast and cool and quiet.

    • mercid
    • 16 years ago

    Good review

    I saw that Computer Repair Shop gave you the WD360GD for this review. Who supplied the WD740GD? Perhaps I missed it.

      • Dissonance
      • 16 years ago

      KickAss Gear. The review has been updated to reflect that.

        • mercid
        • 16 years ago

        Thanks,

        This is something i often look for esp. in Western Digital reviews due to the fiaso with Anandtech and Storage review in the case of the last raptor. its ALWAYS good to know that what your reading is about an “off the shelf” product instead of an uber-fast hand picked version right from the manufacturer.

          • emkubed
          • 16 years ago

          The 1st gen Raptor we (CRS) provided was straight from TechData, one of the very first sold. We had 2 on pre-order for 4 months.

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