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Nathan Edwards Aug 12, 2008

Western Digital Velociraptor

At A Glance

Sharptooth

The fastest consumer-grade hard drive you can purchase, save for SSDs.

Littlefoot

Warranty voided if you separate the drive from the IcePack.

We’ve seen this day coming for a long time. There was no way that Western Digital was going to sit back and let other manufacturers usurp the Raptor’s place at the top of the storage speed charts. Consider the rule of the speedy terabyte drives a hiccup on the timeline. The Raptor is back: upgraded, renamed, and… physically smaller.

Don't try to pull the drive off its IcePack and install it in your notebook. The Velociraptor's power requirements will prevent it from running.

To maximize the Velociraptor’s speeds, Western Digital has shrunk the size of the hard drive to 2.5 inches. This seems counterintuitive, given that Samsung has been able to achieve a tremendous combination of speed and storage with its 3.5-inch drives. Western Digital’s smaller form allows the Velociraptor to consume less power than its 3.5-inch counterparts, and the drive heads don’t have to travel as far to reach the data. The downside is that these smaller platters will always trail in data/platter.

But consumers and OEM manufacturers buy Raptor drives for a single reason—and it isn’t storage capacity. Given the Velociraptor’s read and write speeds, its 300GB capacity is actually a bonus. The Velociraptor is twice as spacious as its Raptor predecessor and significantly faster.

We can safely crown the Velociraptor the fastest consumer-grade hard drive on the market. Its two 150GB platters spin at 10,000rpm, creating an 18 percent improvement in our PCMark test over Samsung’s HD103UJ terabyte drive. In our synthetic HD Tach benchmark, the Velociraptor beat out the HD103UJ’s read times by 11.6MB/s. The difference shot up to 15.6MB/s when comparing the drives’ write speeds.

This Velociraptor is Western Digital’s second iteration in the line, coming a scant few months after the initial launch of the product. Why the refresh? The first version of the hard drive centered the drive atop the device’s IcePack mounting frame, rendering the drive impossible to use in a hotswap interface. Reps at Western Digital have told us that this first line of Velociraptor drives is scheduled for extinction. The company will phase out these drives in favor of the revision B units unless consumers clamor for the original build—an unlikely scenario.

If you want the fastest consumer-grade hard drive on the market, the Velociraptor is it, with twice the capacity of its Raptor predecessor and a 59 percent speed advantage. If we could ding Western Digital for shafting early adopters with the hotswap issue, we would. But the company’s speedy fix has ensured our praise. You might be able to find a drive with a better price-per-gigabyte ratio, but certainly not one that’s faster.

Benchmarks

WD Velociraptor WD Raptor
Samsung HD103UJ
Size
300GB 150GB 1TB
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 65.0
96.8
HDTach Average Write (MB/s) 100.0 63.0 84.4
PCMark05 Overall 9,450      
5,956
8,014
Best scores are bolded. HD Tach version 3.0.1.0 used.
THE VERDICT

Western Digital Velociraptor

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