First Look: New WD VelociRaptor Hard Drive Cruises Through Speed Tests

Melissa J. Perenson, PC World
PC World
Monday, April 21, 2008; 4:19 PM

Western Digital picked an extremely appropriate name for its new 10,000 rpm (rotations per minute) hard drive. Dubbed the VelociRaptor, this new drive screamed through the PC World Test Center's performance tests. Velocity is clearly the raison d'etre for this drive: The VelociRaptor handily bested our tested field of hard drives to become our top overall performer.

Unlike many hard drives, which show strengths and weaknesses in our tests, the $300 VelociRaptor actually demonstrated its strength across the PC World Test Center's entire suite of hard drive tests. In one of its most impressive feats, the VelociRaptor required just 89 seconds to write 3.06GB of files and folders, besting the next-best drive in our chart, the Western Digital Caviar SE16 750GB, by 32 seconds--a 26 percent improvement.

The VelociRaptor is an interesting drive for more than just its performance, though: The latest in Western Digital's family of Raptor 10,000 rpm drives, the 300GB VelociRaptor doubles the capacity of WD's previous-generation 150GB Raptor drive.

WD plans to target the drive at gamers and PC enthusiasts first, even though the VelociRaptor has been designed for enterprise-class applications, too, and the company expects it to be adopted in enterprise settings as well. The drive carries a mean time between failure rating of 1.2 million hours, which puts it on a par with enterprise-grade drives.

Installing the drive was easy, though you'll notice, as soon as you take the drive out of the box that the VelociRaptor is no ordinary hard drive. With the VelociRaptor, WD came up with an innovative new design approach to achieving a high-performance desktop hard drive. WD squeezed its 10,000 rpm drive into a 2.5-inch chassis; traditionally, desktop hard drives--be they 7200 rpm or 10,000 rpm--are 3.5-inch hard drives. (Although the drive itself measures only 2.5-inches, the VelociRaptor is designed for a 3.5-inch drive bay.)

WD says it chose the 2.5-inch form for a couple of reasons. From a mechanical standpoint, you get as much flutter at the outer edges of the disk when you're spinning at the higher rotations per minute. Advances in areal density, even in smaller 2.5-inch disk platter designs, meant that WD could reduce half the area, and still let the VelociRaptor double its areal density as compared with the two-year-old 150GB Raptor drive.

Heat generation remains a constant concern with hard drives, particularly when the drive is spinning as rapidly as it does on a 10,000 rpm model. WD tackles the issue head on by mounting the 2.5-inch VelociRaptor drive into a heat sink sled. The IcePack heat sink helps the VelociRaptor run cooler than the previous-generation Raptor; WD says the Ice Pack reduces the temperature by about 5 degrees. The sled also doubles as the VelociRaptor's mounting adapter, so the 2.5-inch drive fits smoothly into a 3.5-inch drive bay.

The VelociRaptor (also referred to as the WD3000GLFS) will initially be available at the end of April, shipping in RAID 0 configuration on Alienware's high-performance ALX gaming desktop by the end of April. The $300 drive will enter mass distribution when it goes on-sale in mid-May at Western Digital's Web site   and selected reselellers.

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