The (new) Fastest Hard Drive Ever

TheMurph

Ok, so technically a Dilophosaurus hocked the venom loogie all over Nedry's face. But in marketplace of consumer hard drives, there is no question that Western Digital's Velociraptor is the beast to be feared. The new 300GB, 10,000-RPM device comes as a much-needed bolster to Western Digital's high-performance storage line. After all, it's been two years since the launch of the 150GB Raptor X, and other drive manufacturers have been quick to take note.

Prior to today, Samsung's HD103UJ was the reigning king of storage, offering an unbeatable combination of awesome speeds at a price-per-gigabyte ratio that made the Raptor line of drives look ancient by comparison. After all, why would anyone want to spring for a slower 150GB drive when a slightly bigger investment would net a super-fast terabyte drive? The Velociraptor might still not be the best option for frugal computer enthusiasts on a strictly price-to-size ratio, but it's still not going to break the bank. Western Digital is selling the drives for exactly the same amount as the Raptor X drives at their launch: $300

Western Digital engineers must have been watching Honey I Shrunk The Kids when they were brainstorming for new storage ideas. The Velociraptor achieves its new footholds of speed and storage as a result of its reduced, 2.5-inch size. You're undoubtedly thinking about the ramifications of this, given that every modern desktop system under the sun fits 3.5-inch drives. Well, Western Digital's one step ahead of the form factor. It's strapped each Velociraptor drive to a mounting mechanism that conveniently doubles as a giant heatsink for the drive itself. Dubbed the "Icepak," the all-black base allows helps ensure that the drive run at temperature and noise levels comparable to the Raptor X.

The two-platter Velociraptor runs with the same cache as its predecessors, 16MB. Although the Velociraptor's drive's interface takes a much-needed upgrade from SATA 1.5 Gb/s to 3 Gb/s. Modders will frown at the drive's attachment to the the desktop: removing the Velociraptor drive from its Icepak voids the warranty. It's also pointless. Western Digital told us that the Velociraptor's power requirements exclude it from being able to be used in laptops.

So then. Just how fast is the new Velociraptor? Requisite charts and graphs and such are below. Before we begin, we need to note that we're running benchmarks on a drive that's an engineering sample . Once Western Digital release final, as-shipped-to-consumers drives, you can bet your byte that you'll be seeing a full review in Maximum PC. That said, here's a spoiler: in our real-world testing, the drive we checked out was 59 percent faster than a Raptor X and 18 percent faster than Samsung's HD103UJ.

Single-drive test

BENCHMARKS
WD Velociraptor WD Raptor X Samsung HD103UJ
HDTach Burst (MB/s) 255.1 117.6 204.5
HDTach Random Access (ms) 7.1 8.1 13.7
HDTach Average Read (MB/s) 104.6 65 96.8
HDTach Average Write (MB/s) 96.7 63 84.4
PCMark05 Overall 9457 5956 8014

All HDTach scores use HDTach 3.0.1.0.

We've bolded the best scores in the above benchmark chart, although it would probably be easier to just note that the Velociraptor beats its peers in every single category we test. Five for five. Gold medal. Epic win. It's important to note that HDTach scores are a synthetic benchmark , more designed to make sure a drive is running up to snuff. We care about the PCMark05 score most of all--it's an accurate representation of real-world storage demands by an operating system and its software.

But wait, there's more! Since we were feeling a bit antsy, we decided to test the RAID performance of the Velociraptor against its predecessor. We're mainly concerned about RAID 0 performance, although we included a measurement of the Velociraptor's RAID 1 stats for those who are a bit more into data replication.

RAID test

BENCHMARKS
WD Velociraptor WD Velociraptor (RAID 1) WD Velociraptor (RAID 0) Raptor X (RAID 0)
HDTach Burst (MB/s) 255.1 229.9 346.6 204.9
HDTach Random Access (ms) 7.1 7.2 7.2 8.2
HDTach Average Read (MB/s) 104.6 100.8 168.2 104.9
HDTach Average Write (MB/s) 96.7 93.5 162.9 113.6
PCMark05 Overall 9457 8471 11609 8495


All RAID scores use onboard RAID as provided by our test bed's motherboard, an Evga 680i.

Save for the most minor of difference in random access times, it's obvious that two hunks of awesome working in tandem are better than anything else we've seen on the storage front. A RAID 0 Velociraptor setup clocks in PCMark05 scores approximately 37 percent faster than a RAID 0 array of two Raptor X drives. That's all well and good, but there's one more encounter the Velociraptor has yet to meet -- the Holy Grail of speedy storage, a solid-state drive.

How does the Velociraptor fare against an SSD? Come find out!

For this most epic of challenges, we're pitting Mtron's Pro-series 64-gigabyte SSD against a Velociraptor in both single and RAID 0 test environments. Just as a matter of principle, we should note that the former's $1,950 MSRP represents a cost-to-gigabyte ratio of around 30-to-1, whereas a $300 Velociraptor drive comes in at a crisp 1-to-1 ratio of dollars-spent per gigabytes-purchased. Yes, solid-state drives are just that expensive. But for the cost, you're getting a drive that runs at a dedicated read/write speed, given that there are no physical platters to manipulate. An SSD is also silent, uses little power, and is far more durable (again, due to the lack of mechanical movement) than a standard hard disk drive.

Velociraptor vs. SSD

BENCHMARKS
WD Velociraptor Mtron Pro SSD Velociraptor (RAID 0) Mitron Pro SSD (RAID 0)
HDTach Burst (MB/s) 255.1 109.6 346.6 183.5
HDTach Random Access (ms) 7.1 0.1 7.2 0.1
HDTach Average Read (MB/s) 104.6 102.8 168.2 100
HDTach Average Write (MB/s) 96.7 51.7 162.9 61.9
PCMark05 Overall 9457 17062 11609 21035

Best scores are bolded in each connection catagory (ie: single drive & RAID).

It puts up a valiant fight, but the Velociraptor is simply no match for a solid-state device. In the real-world PCMark05 suite of tests, a single solid-state drive is 80 percent faster than a single Velociraptor and 47 percent faster than a pair of Velociraptors in a RAID 0 configuration. If you can survive the burning hole in your bank account, a solid-state drive is still the Holy Grail of speedy storage. But when it comes to consumer-level drives that are both affordable and practical, you cannot beat a Velociraptor.

Western Digital hasn't announced any other iterations in the Velociraptor drive line, although they did give the tiniest of hints that they might consider exploring see-through treatment for the drives. While we think that they could also find a way to bundle the drives in their naked, 2.5-inch form with the help of an OEM vendor, we're not going to hold our breath on that one happening anytime soon.

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