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.
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.
For the first time ever, hard disk drive (HDD) shipments from Western Digital have zipped past Seagate, according to a report by market research firm iSuppli.
Western Digital managed to ship 51.1 million HDDs for the first quarter of 2010, a 3.2 percent increase from the 49.5 million units it shipped in the fourth quarter of 2009. That was enough to finally edge out Seagate, which shipped 50.3 million, up 0.8 percent from 49.9 million over the prior quarter.
While Western Digital wins the quarterly shipment war, Seagate still has the edge in revenue. According to iSuppli, Seagate's revenue numbers sit at $3.1 billion, a good chunk higher than Western Digital's $2.64 billion.
Like two heavyweights dancing around the ring, Western Digital and Seagate have been fighting each other for the No. 1 spot in global hard drive shipments, a position Seagate has held onto (barely) until the first quarter of 2010. That's when WD finally moved ahead of Seagate with 51.1 million shipments compared to 50.3 million for Seagate, according to The Information Network.
"The mobile HDD market, which is WD's strength, will outperform the desktop market, which is Seagate's strength, in 2010," said Robert Castellano, president of The Information Network. "That's one of the factors in our forecast that WD will move ahead of Seagate in 2010."
Throughout 2009, WD managed to ship a total of 165.2 million hard drives, up from 146 million units in 2008. That was enough to narrow the gap with Seagate to only about 10 million units. In the mobile sector -- where The Information Network claims WD has an advantage -- WD led the way with a 28 percent share of the market, though it was a tight race with Toshiba/Fujitsu, HGST, and Seagate close behind with a 2 percent share difference among the three companies, The Information Network said.
Western Digital has finally dipped its toe into the SSD pond, a move we’ve been expecting since last year’s acquisition of SiliconSystems. The first consumer SSD to be born of this acquisition is the SiliconEdge Blue. Can one of the biggest names in mechanical hard drives compete in the solid state world?
Western Digital seems to be banking on two things with the SiliconEdge Blue: first, that seeing Western Digital’s name on an SSD will draw consumers, and second, that the strength of its custom firmware and rigorous performance testing will enable it to compete with drives running the high-performing SandForce and Barefoot Indilinx controllers. WD won’t say whose controller the SiliconEdge Blue uses, but it’s not developed in-house and it isn’t SandForce or Barefoot.
This morning, Western Digital officially announced (and started shipping) the next generation of its VelociRaptor hard drives, and we’ve got tasty benchmark numbers for you.
The new Velociraptors are SATA 6Gb/s-enabled and come in 450GB and 600GB flavors (a 300GB bump from the previous-gen’s 150GB and 300GB). Like their predecessors, the Velociraptors spin at 10,000rpm and desktop versions are mounted on IcePack heatsinks that let them fit in standard 3.5-inch SATA hard drive bays. IcePack-less 2.5-inch models are available for enterprise servers, but at 15mm high, they won’t fit in your laptop.
The new VelociRaptor with its top off.
The much-needed refresh bumps the Velociraptor line back into the enthusiast market, where solid-state drives and super-speedy terabyte drives have nibbled away at their market share. Enough yammering outta us, though; let’s go to the benchmarks!
You can already buy 1TB hard drives for your notebook, but there are a couple of caveats. First is the size - at 12.5mm high, these capacious drives aren't going to fit inside every notebook chassis. Secondly, these drives pack three platters instead of two, which typically means slower performance.
Enter Western Digital, who today announced it is now shipping 750GB of storage capacity in a standard-height (9.5mm) 2.5-inch notebook hard drive. The new WD Scorpio Blue 750GB also boasts a two-platter design for greater areal density, and sports WD's Advanced Format technology.
"WD continues to lead the market with capacity points that enable consumers and business professionals to store large quantities of data and rich media content," said Jim Morris, WD's senior vice president and general manager of Storage Products. "Our leading power efficiency, achieved without compromise to performance, is another example of the added features and value that our customers have come to expect from WD."
Like Toshiba's recently announced notebook drive of the same size and density, WD's version spins at 5400RPM and sports 8MB of cache, a 12ms seek time, and SATA 3Gb/s interface.
Despite a strong showing by Western Digital, Seagate can continue chanting "We're No. 1!," according to the latest figures from market research firm iSuppli.
Hard drive shipments were up 8 percent overall in the fourth quarter of 2009 with 49.9 million units destined for new homes. Seagate, still on top, controls 31 percent of the market, while Western Digital's strong performance has the HDD maker nipping at Seagate's heels with 30 percent of the market.
The results are somewhat of a surprise, says iSuppli analyst Fang Zhang, who said many expected Western Digital would leapfrog in front of its rival. But even though WD is right there, Zhang says Seagate will likely hold onto its top spot in the current quarter.
Don't go digging a grave for the hard drive market, even as SSDs start to come down in price and move towards the mainstream. According to a recently published report by The Information Network, hard drive makers managed to make it through the recession by showing growth in 2009.
The double digit growth nearly topped 11 percent on a unit basis, and if TIN's predictions come true, it will grow by another 11 percent in 2010.
"The market for 2009 was about product mix," noted Dr. Robert Castellano, president of The Information Network. "Seagate leads in the desktop and the enterprise markets, which are down for 2009, while Western Digital has focused on non-desktop applications, primarily 2.5-inch form factor for mobile and CE, which are up in 2009."
Once again, Seagate led the charge as the market leader with shipments of 174.8 million drives, edging out rival Western Digital, which shipped 165.2 million drives.
Western DIgital is no stranger to low capacity, high performance, pricey storage solutions, only up until this point they've always fallen under the company's VelociRaptor line. That all changes today, as WD announced its first-ever consumer-oriented solid state drive (SSD), the SiliconEdge 2.5-inch SSD family.
"The development of the WD SiliconEdge Blue product family leverages WD's extensive experience in designing and manufacturing highly reliable storage products and the company's worldwide sales and distribution network to accelerate SSD technology adoption by OEMs, technology enthusiasts, gamers and road warriors," said Michael Hajeck, senior vice president and general manager of WD's solid state storage business unit. "Customers who demand the ultimate in performance will find the WD SiliconEdge Blue SSDs exceed all their requirements."
The new drives ship in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB capacities and features a native SATA 3Gbps interface. Read speeds come rated at up to 250MB/s, while WD says you can expect writes in the neighborhood of 170MBs. TRIM support also comes standard, as does NCQ.
In addition to performance, WD is touting the SiliconEdge family's ruggedness, saying the product line has "passed WD's extensive functional integrity testing procedures" consisting of over 250,000 of testing.
The drives are available now for $279 (64GB), $529 ($128GB), and $999 (256GB).
Western Digital's been quite the busy body today in the SSD sector. In addition to the just-announced MLC-based SiliconEdge Blue line, the storage vendor also just unveiled its WD SiliconDrive N1x 2.5-inch SSD family. Built around a single-level cell architecture (SLC), Western Digital says these provide a cost effective alternative without giving up a ton of performance.
"The WD SiliconDrive N1x SSDs are the newest addition to our SiliconDrive product family, which has shipped several million units since the first products were introduced. SiliconDrive SSDs have consistently met critical OEM application requirements for high reliability, high performance and long product deployment cycles," said Michael Hajeck, senior vice president and general manager of WD's solid state storage business unit. "Satisfying the challenging storage demands for a wide variety of OEM applications, WD has designed the WD SiliconDrive N1x and WD SiliconEdge Blue product families to facilitate SSD technology adoption in a multitude of existing and expanding new markets that can benefit from advanced storage solutions."
Like the SiliconEdge Blue line, the SiliconDrive N1x family also features a native SATA 3Gbps interface. Read and write speeds are a little more modest at 240MB/s and 140MB/s, respectively, compared to 250MB/s and 170MB/s on the SiliconEdge.
TRIM and NCQ support also come as part of the package, as does a five year warranty.