A much-needed refresh for WD's flagship speedy drive
For years, if you wanted the speediest consumer hard drive you could get your hands on, you went with a 10,000rpm Western Digital Raptor. Its first incarnation, released in 2003, was a 37GB single-platter drive using a PATA-to-SATA bridge. The next year brought a 74GB SATA 150 drive, and thereafter the drives roughly doubled in size (and went up a SATA spec) every couple of years. Last time WD refreshed the line, it bumped the capacity to 300GB, named the resulting 100MB/s-plus drive the VelociRaptor, and promptly won our Kick Ass award. But that was 2008—several hard drive generations ago. And though Western Digital’s latest VelociRaptor ups the ante with 600GB of space and a 6Gb/s SATA controller, the drive now has to compete with solid state drives and high-capacity, high-performance drives like WD’s own Caviar Black series.
The label reads Enterprise Storage, but we suspect that plenty of VelociRaptors will find homes in enthusiast rigs.
Make no mistake: The new VelociRaptor, with its 32MB of cache and 6Gb/s transfer rates, is the fastest mechanical SATA drive we’ve ever tested. With average sustained read and write speeds greater than 130MB/s, it’s fully a third faster than the last-gen VelociRaptor, which averaged around 100MB/s for both. Random-access times hit around 7.1ms—about the same as the last-gen VelociRaptor, and about twice the speed of a fast 7,200rpm drive.
But both solid state drives and 7,200rpm mechanical hard drives have come a long way since the last Raptor reigned supreme, and for sheer performance, the VelociRaptor isn’t top of the line any more. And it’s not even as far ahead of the rest of the mechanical pack as it once was—a 2TB WD Caviar Black costs $280 and offers nearly 115MB/s average sustained reads and writes, though random-access times are slower.
On the other end of the price/capacity/performance triangle, of course, are solid state drives. A 100GB SandForce-controlled solid state drive offers read and write speeds north of 200MB/s, random-access times measured in the tenths of milliseconds, and read and write IOPS in the 5,000s—for $400. With SSDs much more expensive but much faster, and 7,200rpm mechanical drives nearly as fast but with more capacity per dollar, where does the VelociRaptor fit in?
We still think there’s a niche for the VelociRaptor. It does deserve big props for being the fastest mechanical SATA drive on the market, and its sustained read and write speeds are faster than the fastest first-gen SSDs. It’s the best single-drive compromise between the capacity and price per gigabyte of a 7,200rpm drive and the raw speed of an SSD. The 6Gb/s SATA support helps bump up burst speeds, if not much else, and 600GB is enough for an operating system and every program and game you’re likely to install. Power users are likely to prefer a solid state drive for OS and games and a 7,200rpm drive for storage, but that adds complexity: worrying about OS TRIM support, default library locations, managing two drives, and so forth—things you don’t have to stress over with the new VelociRaptor.
The VelociRaptor isn’t the fastest drive you can get, nor the most capacious, but if you just want one drive that does it all, the newly refreshed VelociRaptor is still a compelling choice.
Western Digital VelociRaptor 600GB
Fastest hard drive; 6Gb/s SATA; welcome capacity bump.
Best scores are bolded. All tests performed on an Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard with a Core i7-X980 CPU @3.33GHz with 6GB DDR3/1600 running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. SATA 3Gb/s tests performed using the ICH10R south bridge; SATA 6Gb/s tests performed using onboard Marvell 9123 controller.