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

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TEST RESULTS


Our sample was tested according to our standard hard drive testing methodology. Our methodology focuses specifically on noise, and great effort is taken to ensure it is comprehensively measured and described. Performance is not tested, for reasons discussed in detail in the methodology article. For comprehensive HDD performance testing results, we recommend Storage Review, who have established a long reputation as the specialist in this field. Their review of the 150 GB Raptor pitted it against every other drive in their database — in both enterprise and desktop categories.

Our test drives were compared against our reference drives, the Seagate Barracuda IV and Samsung Spinpoint P80, which are profiled in our methodology article. To get a good idea of where the drives in this review stand, it is important to read the methodology article thoroughly. It was also compared against the previous version of the Raptor, which we reviewed a little over a year ago.

Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:

  1. Airborne acoustics
  2. Vibration-induced noise

These types of noise impact the subjective perception of hard drive noise differently depending on how and where the drive is mounted.

Both forms of noise are evaluated objectively and subjectively. Both the subjective and objective analyses are essential to understanding the acoustics of the drives. Airborne acoustics are measured using a professional caliber SLM. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter above the top of the drive using an A-weighted filter. Vibration noise is rated on a scale of 1-10 by comparing against our standard reference drives.

A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments are relevant to the sample we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without telling everyone.

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 16 dBA. For the record, room temperature was 23¬įC.

DRIVE NOISE EVALUATION
Drive
Mfg date
firmware version
Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State
Airborne Acoustics
Measured Power
Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD
March 2006
firmware 20.07P20
5
Idle
20 dBA@1m
8.2 W
Seek (AAM)
27 dBA@1m
12.2 W
Seek (Normal)
27 dBA@1m
12.2 W
REFERENCE DRIVES
Western Digital Raptor WD740GD
February 2005
firmware 31.08F31
6
Idle
21 dBA@1m
7.4 W
Seek (AAM)
24-26 dBA@1m
11.5 W
Seek (Normal)
25-26 dBA@1m
11.9 W
Seagate Barracuda IV
ST340016A
firmware 3.10
6
Idle
20 dBA@1m
6.7 W
Seek (AAM)
23 dBA@1m
11.3 W
Seek (Normal)
25-26 dBA@1m
11.6 W
Samsung Spinpoint P80 (Nidec motor)
June 2004
firmware TK100-24
4
Idle
21 dBA@1m
6.3 W
Seek (AAM)
23-24 dBA@1m
8.3 W
Seek (Normal)
25-26 dBA@1m
9.1 W
Samsung Spinpoint P80 (JVC motor)
Feb 2005
firmware TK200-04
6
Idle
21 dBA@1m
6.2 W
Seek (AAM)
25 dBA@1m
n / a
Seek (Normal)
27 dBA@1m
9.3 W

At idle, the new Raptor was quieter than every other 3.5" drive in the lab except for our old standby, the Barracuda IV. That includes the older Raptor (only slightly quieter), Samsung's 80 GB Spinpoint models, and Western Digital's own 500 GB Caviar SE16. Deciding between the Raptor and the Barracuda IV was very difficult and it took a several A/B comparisons and a number of second opinions before we finally settled on the Barracuda as the quieter drive. Much of this difference had to do with the subjective quality of the noise; the Barracuda had a more broadband sound that was more muted than the Raptor. That said, the difference was very difficult to pick out from a distance of one meter, even when we knew what to listen for.

Unfortunately, poor seek noise disqualified the Raptor from consideration for the title of quietest full size drive (this title was recently captured by another Western Digital drive, the newest Caviar SE16). While the 74 GB Raptor did not have great seeks, they were light enough that they could be ignored most of the time. This was no longer true of the 150 GB Raptor. The measured difference may only have been 1~2 dBA@1m, but the seeks were no longer easy to tune out. Of course, this difference is subjective; some people may prefer the new sound. We disliked it because the seeks sounded fuller and heavier, but were still quite sudden and sharp.

Although several levels of AAM (Automatic Acoustic Management) could be enabled using Hitachi's Feature Tool, the changes never produced any audible difference in seek noise, nor did the power consumption change. For practical purposes, the Raptor does not support AAM.

The vibration level was about average for a 3.5" drive, although the resulting noise was a little more audible thanks to the higher frequency of the vibration. Unlike 7,200 RPM drives, which cause resonance at ~120 Hz, the Raptor's 10,000 RPM spindle speed produced a hum at ~167 Hz. Thanks to the quirks of the human ear, a 167 Hz tone is more easily heard than a 120 Hz tone, so the Raptor was effectively louder than a slower drive with a similar level of vibration.

Power consumption was surprisingly low considering the high spindle speed, although it did increase a bit compared to the older Raptor. This allowed the Raptor to stay in the middle of the pack — it still consumed more power than any of the other two platter drives in our collection, but it was competitive with many of the bigger drives that have three or more platters.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

Audio recordings were made of the drives and are presented here in MP3 format. The recordings below contains ten seconds of idle noise followed by ten seconds of seek noise with AAM enabled and ten seconds more with AAM disabled.

Keep in mind that the recordings paint only part of the acoustic picture; vibration noise is not recorded, and drives often sound different depending on the angle from which they are heard.

Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD (Idle: 20 / AAM: 27 / Seek: 27 dBA@1m)

Reference Comparatives:

Western Digital Raptor WD740GD (Idle: 21 / AAM: 24-26 / Seek: 25-26 dBA@1m)

Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000KS (Idle: 21 / AAM: 21-22 / Seek: 23 dBA@1m)

Samsung Spinpoint P80 SP0802N (Nidec) (Idle: 21 / AAM: 23-24 / Seek: 25-26 dBA@1m)

Seagate Barracuda IV ST340016A (Idle: 21 / AAM: 23 / Seek: 25-26 dBA@1m)

Nexus 92mm case fan @ 5V (17 dBA@1m) Reference

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution studio quality digital recording system. The hard drive was placed on soft foam to isolate the airborne noise that it produces; recordings do not take into account the vibration noise that hard drives produce. The microphone was centered 3" above the top face of the hard drive. The ambient noise during most recordings is 18 dBA or lower.

To set the volume to a realistic level (similar to the original), try playing the Nexus 92 fan reference recording and setting the volume so that it is barely audible. Then don't reset the volume and play the other sound files. Of course, tone controls or other effects should all be turned off or set to neutral. For full details on how to calibrate your sound system to get the most valid listening comparison, please see the yellow text box entitled Listen to the Fans on page four of the article SPCR's Test / Sound Lab: A Short Tour.

CONCLUSIONS

Our feelings towards Western Digital's Raptor line have not changed significantly with this new revision. It is still a very quiet drive at idle (perhaps even a little quieter than before), but it is marred by noisy seeks that go with the drive's high-performance status (which are certainly not quieter).

But, chances are, if you're in the market for the best performing drive available, the seek noise may well be something you have to live with. Western Digital doesn't really have competition in the sector. Seagate's 750 GB Barracuda 7200.10 reportedly comes close when it comes to performance, but that drive is one of the loudest we've ever tested.

Bottom line is, if seek noise isn't something that bothers you and you feel the need to have the highest performing drive on the market, you may have a Raptor coming your way in the future. If performance isn't a requirement, a much quieter drive can be had for about the same price in the form of a notebook drive. Or, if shelling out US$250 for a hard drive is too much for you (or your significant other) to swallow, one of Western Digital's mainstream drives may be much cheaper and quieter.

Many thanks to Western Digital for the 150 GB Raptor sample.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR's Hard Drive Testing Methodology
SPCR's Recommended Hard Drives
Western Digital Drives: Raptor 74GB and Caviar SE 250GB
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10, 750 GB: Desktop Drives Go Perpendicular
Western Digital Caviar SE16 500 GB: Big Low Noise Champ?

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