Western Digital Raptor 150GB: New Revision, New Noise?

Storage
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June 24, 2006 by Devon Cooke

Product
Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD
150GB, 10,000 RPM Hard Drive
Manufacturer
Market Price
US$250~350

Western Digital's 10,000 RPM "enterprise class" Raptor has long been a favorite of the high-end crowd who appreciate the unique combination of a 10,000 RPM drive with a SATA interface that can be plugged into consumer motherboards without requiring an additional expansion card.

Of course, the Raptor suffers from the usual drawback associated with high-RPM drives: Limited capacity. For a long period of time, the largest Raptor held just 74 GB of data — large enough for general use, but tiny in comparison to the 750 GB drive recently released by Seagate. An update was in order. The most recent generation of the Raptor, released in the baby days of 2006, doubled the maximum capacity to 150 GB. At the same time, Western Digital released a flashy gaming edition called the Raptor X that finally acknowledged the product's popularity among the gaming crowd. According to Storage Review, the two versions "are mechanically and electronically identical", with the only notable differences being the appearance (the Raptor X has a window) and the MTBF specifications. Of course, even if the two drives perform identically, they are not necessarily equal in terms of heat or noise.

The higher areal density required to reach 150 GB has a side benefit: Increased performance. This is fortunate for Western Digital, since several prominent web sites have reported that Seagate's 7200.10 nips at the Raptor's heels for the performance crown.

The previous generation of Raptors was been surprisingly quiet — at least at idle. Hopefully this hasn't changed in the newest version. An improvement in seek noise, which consisted of sharp, sudden clicks, would also be welcome.

Western Digital WD1500ADFD (quoted from Western Digital's datasheet)
FEATURE & BRIEF COMMENT
Reliable — designed and manufactured to enterprise-class standards to provide enterprise reliability in high duty cycle environments. With 1.2 million hours MTBF, these drives have the highest available reliability rating on a high-capacity drive. Reliability is always a bit of a question mark, since judging it accurately requires long term evaluation of failure rates. High MTBF is far from the only — or the best — way to judge reliability.
Fast — with a next-generation SATA interface, 1.5 Gb/s data transfer rate, native command queuing (NCQ), and 16 MB cache, these drives deliver optimum performance. Fast it had better be if it is to be worth the high price per gigabyte.
RAID-specific, time-limited error recovery (TLER) — a feature unique to WD, prevents drive fallout caused by the extended hard drive error-recovery processes common to desktop drives. Limiting the amount of time spent on error correction helps things run smoothly when a drive is in trouble.
Rotary Acceleration Feed Forward (RAFF™) — optimizes operation and performance when the drives are used in vibration-prone, multidrive systems such as rack-mounted servers or network storage. Most drive manufacturers have similar technology.
FlexPower™ — connector technology that accepts power from either industry-standard or new SATA power supplies. Compatibility with older power supplies is a plus.
5-year warranty As befits an enterprise-class drive.

SPECIFICATIONS

The specifications below are specific to model that we examined. Capacity, cache size, platter number, interface, and even performance vary from model to model even within a single product line. Acoustics and power dissipation also vary depending on the number of platters in the drive; smaller capacity drives tend to have fewer platters, and tend to produce less noise and use less power.

Specifications: Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD-00NLR1
(from Western Digital's web site)
Formatted Capacity
150,039 MB
Cache
16 MB
Platters
2
Spindle Rotation Speed
10,000 RPM
Latency
2.99 ms
Average Seek: Read / Write
4.6 ms / 5.2 ms
Buffer to Disc Transfer Rate
84 MB/s (Sustained)
Weight
0.822 ± 0.082 kg
Operating Temperature
5 - 55¬įC
Power Dissipation: Idle / Seek
9.19 / 10.02 W
+12V Current: Idle / Seek
375 / 470 mA
+5V Current: Idle / Seek
875 / 938 ma
Acoustics: Idle / Seek Mode 0
29 / 36 dBA

The current revision of the Raptor has several identifying marks. The most visible one is the color of the top panel, which is now painted black like the rest of Western Digital's lineup. The label has been shrunk slightly and has changed shape. The photo below shows the old and the new revisions side by side. The most certain way of identifying the new revision is by reading the revision number that is appended to the model number. Our new sample was labeled with the code 00NLR1, while the older model showed 00FLA2.


Old vs. new: The new Raptor (right) gets an all-black paint job and a smaller label.

Cosmetic details aside, the mechanical design does not appear to have changed. The two drives share identical casings, right down to the ribbed edges that, presumably, are meant to improve the drive's heat dissipation. The ribbing can be seen in the photo below along the top edge of the drive. It is also present along the left edge.


The drive can be powered by either a SATA or an IDE connector. Using both will probably fry the drive.

Electronically, however, there do seem to have been changes. The logic board is different, and a number of new features are supported. These include a larger 16 MB cache, support for Native Command Queuing (NCQ), plus two features designed to increase the Raptor's appeal in the server market: Time-Limited Error Recovery (TLER) and Rotary Acceleration Feed Forward (RAFF).

Neither of these latter two have much to offer to single users. Time-Limited Error Recovery ships disabled by default, as it is useful only in RAID configurations where in-drive error correction can be supplemented by correction routines in the drive controller. Rotary Acceleration Feed Forward improves the drive's resistance to vibration-induced errors by detecting external motion and compensating by changing the position of the read/write head.


Not much change is visible from this angle. The logic boards are different, but that's about it.



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