WD VelociRaptor: A Triple Crown

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TEST RESULTS

Our sample was tested according to our standard hard drive testing methodology. The test drive sample was compared against many other drives. Our methodology focuses specifically on HDD noise, and great effort is taken to ensure it is comprehensively measured and described. Performance is usually 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.

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 di fferently 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.


The 15 May 2008 date indicates that this sample is indeed part of the second production run, as our WD rep informed us.

Velociraptor Testing Quirk

We discovered that the Velociraptor's acoustics change dramatically when it is removed from the IcePack mounting frame. Two sets of acoustic measurements were run — on its own, and mounted in the IcePack frame as delivered. If there was any significant acoustic advantage to be gained from running the drive on its own, SPCR readers would want to know. A small Torx head screwdriver is needed to remove the drive from the IcePack frame.

Ambient conditions at time of testing were 17 dBA and 20°C.

DRIVE NOISE EVALUATION
Drive
Mfg date
firmware version
Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State
Airborne Acoustics
Measured Power
WD VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS
300GB, 10K RPM
15 May 2008
firmware 03.03V01
9
[in frame]
Idle
22 dBA@1m
3.9 W
Seek (AAM)
25 dBA@1m
5.7 W
Seek (Normal)
28 dBA@1m
6.2 W
8
[on its own]
Idle
19 dBA@1m
3.9 W
Seek (AAM)
20 dBA@1m
5.7 W
Seek (Normal)
23 dBA@1m
6.2 W

ACOUSTICS

The VelociRaptor has a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality disorder. As delivered in the IcePack frame, its acoustics can only be described as poor. The measured SPL is about the same as the previous gen Raptor WD1500ADFD but it actually sounds a bit worse. The 22 dBA idle SPL does not tell about the clearly audible, annoying 2kHz tone which rises at least 5 dB above the fundamental tone at 166Hz. Most regular readers know that 25 dBA with AAM is not quiet by today's standards. This is accompanied by an exacerbation of that 2kHz tone mentioned above, and audible harmonic overtones around 4kHz, 5kHz, 7kHz and 10kHz. It comes with AAM disabled, as would be the case for an performance drive, with SPL measured at 28 dBA, a level hardly any SPCR enthusiast would accept.

Remove the VelociRaptor from the IcePack frame, and everything changes completely, at least acoustically. Idle noise drops down to the lowest SPL ever measured for any desktop drive and challenges the best notebook drives as well. All of the tonal peaks disappear, and a smooth mostly broadband sound prevails. In seek with AAM, the peaks barely crest 20 dBA, and although a trace of that 2kHz tonal peak reemerges, it never reaches the level of the fundamental at 166Hz. Without AAM, the seek noise is sharper and louder, but it still does not peak higher than 23 dBA.

The following image captures of the frequency spectrum plot of the drive idle — in the frame and bare — speak for themselves.


Velociraptor idle in frame: Note multiple tonal peaks centered at 700Hz, 1.5~2.2kHz, and 7kHz.
These are all plainly audible from a few feet away.

Velociraptor idle bare: There's still a trace of the 1.5~2kHz peak, but much reduced. The entire range from 1.5~8kHz has dropped many decibels, on average.

In case these graphic images don't tell the story clearly enough, here's a high resolution recording made with a super sensitive, low noise $2000 microphone from one meter away. The first 10 seconds are with the drive at idle in the frame. There is a 1-2 second pause, then you hear another 10 seconds of the drive bare, without the frame. If your hearing and speakers or headphones are any good, you'll hear this difference plain as day.

MP3: WD Velociraptor at idle from 1m distance: 10 seconds in frame, pause, then 10 seconds bare, outside frame

If only the in-frame acoustics is considered, the Velociraptor is not a quiet drive. In fact, it's a bit worse than the last generation Raptor because of the clearly audible tonal peaks. We would not recommended it to any silent PC user. But on its own without the IcePack frame, the Velociraptor miraculously becomes the quietest "desktop" drive. It is at least on par with WD Green Power drives, although it may be slightly more audible in seek, especially without AAM enabled.

The question of whether cooling would be an issue comes up when considering operation without the IcePack frame. Our sample was an OEM, so it did not come with the Quick Installation Guide included with the retail kit, which might have some notes on use. Another reviewer mentioned the warranty may be void if it's used without the IcePack. So... be very careful not to damage the Torx screws if you remove them. ;) Judging by the power consumption of some 4W at idle, it runs hotter than typical notebook drives. The closest comparable is the WD Green Power 750GB, which is similar at idle and peaks at 6.7W in seek, slightly higher than the Velociraptor. That drive runs cool enough to be perfectly OK with hardly any airflow, but it has substantially more area to disspate the heat. If the Velociraptor was positioned close to the front intake vent of a standard PC or suspended there with elastic cord in a SPCR-esque silent rig, it would run perfectly cool. Shove it in some corner without any airflow or conduction to the chassis, and you might have some heat issues.



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