Western Digital 740GD Raptor


The fastest ATA drive on the market just got faster (and bigger)

We can sum up the performance of Western Digital’s 74GB Raptor with two words: “holy” and “schnikes.” This drive goes beyond fast. Faster than any other ATA drive on the market, to be exact. That not only includes the Raptor’s 7200rpm brethren (the 740GD is after all a 10,000rpm drive), but also its 10,000rpm predecessor, the 36GB Raptor. When placed in a RAID array, the 740GDs deliver an Indy 500 caliber performance. To wit: A two-drive array delivered average transfer rates equal to the burst rates of most 7200rpm drives. That means the 740GDs were reading and writing to their platters at the same rate at which other drives in the class are able to read from their onboard cache. Not bad, eh?

When observed resting in its typical drive-cage habitat, the Raptor resembles its predecessor. Like the 36GB version, the drive’s sides are adorned with molded heatsinks, and its backside sports a Serial ATA data port, a 15-pin Serial ATA power connector (for hot swapping), and a legacy four-pin ATX connector. Western Digital ships the drive with its special SATA attachment. Dubbed SecureConnect, it’s an inch-long connector that plugs into both the data and power connectors for a more reliable connection than the standard SATA cable.

Delving inside the drive, we find anything but the Raptor of yore. In addition to its shiny new second platter, the 740GD has been upgraded with two features that target the enterprise crowd. The first is Command Queuing, which has been part of the ATA spec for a while now but never before implemented. Command Queuing allows the drive to create a queue while executing commands rather than having to wait until a command is completed before receiving the next one. The bad news is that while this feature is supported in the drive, it has to be supported in the host adapter as well. Because there are no host adapters on the market that support Command Queuing yet, it wasn’t implemented in our engineering sample drive, but will be in the retail product.

The drive also features—are you ready?—Rotary Accelerometer Feed Forward technology, which cooks rotisserie chicken and then feeds it to you. OK, maybe not. But this feature does allow the drive to sense vibration in a rack-mount environment and adjust its servo system in order to preserve accuracy.

As the benchmarks show, the 74GB Raptor is unbelievably fast. Its average sustained transfer rate of 61MB/s set a new Lab record, and its random access time of 7.8 seconds makes the drive almost twice as fast as most 7200rpm drives and just as fast as 10,000rpm SCSI drives. Thanks to the Raptor’s fluid-dynamic bearings, it’s also quiet. Rounding out the stellar package is a five-year warranty.

What else is there to say? The numbers do all the talking. In just about every benchmark we ran, the 74GB Raptor blew us away, not to mention the competition. All we can do now is wait until the other manufacturers release their own 10,000rpm SATA drives. Then it will surely be “go time!” --Josh Norem

+ Velociraptor: Stunning performance, decent capacity, quiet operation, and a five-year warranty.

- Velour: New features are only beneficial in a multi-user environment.

Month Reviewed: February 2004
Verdict: 10
URL: www.wdc.com

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