WD VelociRaptor: A Triple Crown

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June 12, 2008 by Mike Chin

WD VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS
300GB, 10K RPM, SATA Hard Drive
Sample Supplier
Market Price

The Velociraptor is probably the most exciting product Western Digital has introduced since the Green Power drive. It's not because the name conjurs up CGI movie images of a swarm of vicious dinosaurs. It's an unusual, high performance drive: A 10K RPM drive like its predecessors, the Raptors, the only SATA drives at this spindle speed. The other salient feature is size: It has a 2.5" form factor like the SAS-interface 10K RPM enterprise Savvio drives from Seagate and Fujitsu's similar MBB2 series. Unlike those corporate-intended offerings, the Velociraptor has a conventional SATA. Like them, it is not compatible with notebooks, because it's about 14.5mm thick, compared to the ~9mm thickness of a standard notebook drive.

Despite its small form factor, WD's specs tell us that the drive measures 26.1 x 147 x 101.6 mm — standard "3.5 inch" desktop HDD size. What gives? Welll, it's mated to what is essentially an aluminum casting of standard desktop HDD dimensions. This aluminum frame serves two main functions:

1) It makes the Velociraptor's native small size a non-factor for the potential retail buyer. There's no worry about how to install it in a standard desktop case because the aluminum frame has exactly the same form factor as any standard drive.

2) It also helps to cool the drive. This is not really a serious need; you'll see that the power dissipated by the Velociraptor is very low.

The Velociraptor is a small drive housed in an aluminum frame the size of a standard desktop drive.

(from WD's product overview)
Killer Speed - 10,000 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s interface, and 16 MB cache deliver 35% faster than the previous generation Raptor drives, and beat out all other competitors in the field. In random access, yes, but for sustained throughput of high areal density drives like WD's own 320gb/disk 7200RPM models, and Samsung's 333gb/disk F1 series may be competitive.
Rock-solid Reliability - With 1.4 million hours MTBF, these drives have the highest available reliability rating on a high capacity SATA drive. OK.
Double the Capacity - Twice the capacity per disk compared to its older brother WD Raptor resulting in 300 GB. The Raptors were looking tiny by today's capacity standards, so it was time for a boost anyway.
IcePack™ Mounting Frame - A 3.5" mounting frame with a built-in heat sink keeps this little drive extra cool when installed in high-performance desktop chassis. Right, that's what they're calling it.
Rotary Acceleration Feed Forward (RAFF™) - Optimizes operation and performance when the drives are used in vibration-prone, multi-drive chassis. Hmmmm?
SecurePark™ - Parks the recording heads off the disk surface during spin up, spin down and when the drive is off. This ensures the recording head never touches the disk surface resulting in improved long-term reliability and increased drive protection when the chassis is moved. Not uncommon.
5-year Limited Warranty Excellent, like the other Raptors.

Comparing the specs of the Velociraptor and the Raptor, the data transfer speed is nearly 50% faster, and the power consumption is substantially lower. But not all parameters have improved. The latency for random access seeks has slowed to 5.5 ms from the Raptor's 2.99 ms. [Correction - 13 Aug 2008: WD admitted this was an error; they now cite 3.0 ms latency for the VR as well. Corrected page link] The acoustics specs remain exactly the same. At 29 / 36 dBA for Idle / Seek, if we can assume a 1m measurement distance for the mic, it is not particularly quiet. Most of WD's other drives spec about 5 dBA lower.

Specifications: VelociRaptor vs Raptor (150GB)
(from WD's web site)
Disks / Heads
2 / 4
2 / 4
Interface SATA 3Gb/s SATA 1.5Gb/s
Spindle RPM
Data Transfer: Buffer To Disk 120 MB/s (Sustained) 84 MB/s (Sustained)
Data Transfer: Buffer To Host (SATA) 3 GB/sec 1.5 GB/sec
Average Seek - Read / Write
4.2 / 4.7 ms
4.6 / 5.2 ms
Average Latency
3.0 ms
2.99 ms
489 g
822 g
Power Requirements: Idle / Seek (avg.)
6.08 / 4.53 W
10.02 / 9.19 W
Acoustics: Idle / Seek
29 / 36 dBA
29 / 36 dBA

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