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David Murphy Jun 20, 2008

Western Digital Velociraptor

At A Glance

QWANTZ

This is the fastest consumer-grade hard drive you can buy. Period.

LAND BEFORE TIME

Doesn't fit into standard hot-swap bays of any variety. Can't rip the drive off its Icepak and use it in a notebook.

We've taken a look at engineering samples of Western Digital’s speedy new Velociraptor drive. Now that we have our hands on a final version of the drive, we’re ready to deliver a full review of the big beast itself. And not surprisingly, it’s every bit as fast as we anticipated.

This 300GB drive is made up of two 150GB platters that spin around at 10,000 RPM—the signature speed of the Raptor line. Western Digital is able to hit unprecedented speeds for a consumer-level drive this time around by shrinking the Velociraptor’s size to a 2.5-inch design. This reduces the size of the platters in turn, resulting in increased read and write speeds compared to a typical 3.5-inch storage device.

We saw excellent performance when running the Velociraptor through our synthetic and real-world storage benchmarks. The former had the Velociraptor pushing average read and write speeds of 108.4 MB/s and 100 MB/s, respectively. And the latter, represented by our PCMark05 benchmark, netted the Velociraptor a score 18 percent faster than our former speed demon, Samsung’s three-platter HD103UJ terabyte drive . Hands down, the Velociraptor is the quickest drive we’ve ever tested.

But it’s not perfect.

Western Digital has told us that the Velociraptor—at least, this version—is not a notebook drive. It’s designed strictly for desktop and enterprise environments, hence the large, black heatsink that supports the 2.5-inch drive. This is the Velociraptor’s thermal-padded "IcePak." It's a name given rather unnecessarily, as the drive portion of the Veloricaptor package actually feels cooler to the touch than most hard drives we’ve tested.

The IcePak doubles as a mounting mechanism to make the Velociraptor fit snugly within a case’s standard 3.5-inch drive bay. What doesn’t work with this drive, however, are hot-swapping mechanisms, like those found in a number of NAS boxes, external enclosures, and next-generation cases. And this isn’t a “wiggle it” version of not-working. The Velociraptor is incompatible with any configuration that requires you to slide the drive into fixed power and SATA connectors.

It’s a maddening issue that could have been easily fixed by, say, moving the 2.5-inch drive over a wee bit in the proper direction in the IcePak carriage. And although shifting the drive's positioning would invalidate the IcePak's supposed effectiveness, it's a trade-off we’re perfectly happy to make in order to be able to use the Velociraptor with a number of devices that it, being a hard drive, should fit. What good are killer speeds if you can’t even use them?

BENCHMARKS
  WD Velociraptor WD Raptor Samsung HD103UJ
HDTach Burst (MB/s) 249.7 117.6 204.5
HDTach Random Access (ms) 7.1 8.1 13.7
HDTach Average Read (MB/s) 108.4 65 96.8
HDTach Average Write (MB/s) 100 63 84.4
PCMark05 Overall 9450 5956 8014
All HDTach scores use HDTach 3.0.1.0. Best scores are bolded.
THE VERDICT

Western Digital Velociraptor

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