WD VelociRaptor: A Triple Crown

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Audio recordings were made of the drives and are presented here in MP3 format. The recordings below contains 5 seconds of ambient noise, and 10 seconds of idle noise followed by 10 seconds of seek noise with AAM enabled and 10 seconds without.

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.

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Most recordings are made from a distance of one meter. The recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

Occasionally, we may include an extra recording from a distance of one foot. This recording is designed to bring out the fine details of the noise — typically when the source is so quiet that it is very close to ambient when heard from one meter. Use this recording with caution! Although more detailed, it does not represent how the subject sounds in actual use. It is best to listen to this recording after you have listened to the one meter recording.

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.



Western Digital is aggressively seeking greater market share by producing innovative drives that fill niches never tackled before or creating new niches. With the Green Power, they managed to reach green-conscious PC users feeling guilty about buying extra storage capacity for movies, music and the rest. They also managed to reach those who seek lower noise. With the Velociraptor, they can actually reach both of those groups (since the drive is both quiet and low power) as well as the traditional power user to whom the Raptor series has always been marketed. That a drive can be the fastest, quietest, and lowest power desktop model available is quite a feat. We've never had a triple crown winner before. It's a major achievement.

That's only if the VelociRaptor is used bare out of the IcePack.

At the start of this review, we conjectured that the IcePack had two functions: To make the Velociraptor's native small size a non-factor for the potential DIY/enthusiast buyer and to help cool it. In restrospect, the second item is not one of its functions. This drive does not need special cooling, given the low power dissipation. No, the more important function is to help market the drive. We revise our earlier statement:

The IcePack has two functions, both directly related to sales and marketing:

  1. It make the Velociraptor's native small size a non-factor for the potential DIY/enthusiast buyer.
  2. It gives the Velociraptor a unique look and style that most PC enthusiasts, with their previous exposure to and experience with aftermarket heatsinks, will perceive as cool, powerful,and even sexy. It's for marketing appeal.

If the IcePack was engineered to be functional rather than to increase saleability, it would incorporate vibration damping. The absence of conduction for cooling is a non issue for a 4~6W drive that fits into the standard 3.5" tray in a modern PC case, because those trays are invariably just on the inside of the front vents where there is always at least some airflow. The tiniest bit of airflow across this drive (without the IcePack) is enough to keep it under a perfectly safe 40°C in a typical case. (We tried it.) As it stands, the IcePack is a joke, acoustically, adding all kinds of tonal, resonant harmonics excited by the vibrations of the drive.

The NoVibes III HDD Decoupling Rack reviewed here years ago is still being sold by Noise Magic of Germany, and they offer a version for 2.5" drives. That would fit into any 3.5" bay, and it would be far better to buy the Velociraptor without the IcePack and use the money left over for the 2.5" Novibes.

< Photo courtesy of "Wainwra" >
NoVibes for 2.5" drive would be much better than IcePack.

That's the only real criticism we can muster up against the Velociraptor, and to be honest, given the nature of the geek-dominated performance market, we don't really blame WD. (Maybe they should have consulted us before making the IcePack!) It's also possible that when the Velociraptor with the IcePack is tightly installed in a sturdy drive bay of a sturdy PC case, the extraneous vibration-induced noise will disappear. Somehow, we doubt it. (Otherwise, WD's noise specs wouldn't be what they are.)

Still, performance-oriented, green-conscious, silent PC lovers have reason to celebrate. The bare Velociraptor is truly a landmark drive. It's one that will probably dissuade most DIYers from moving to solid state drives for some time. If the price came down a bit from the current $300, it would truly be irresistible.

Many thanks Western Digital for the review sample.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR's Hard Drive Testing Methodology
SPCR's Recommended Hard Drives
Samsung F1 750GB & 1TB Drives: Fast... and Silent?
Western Digital Raptor 150GB

WD Green Power: A New Benchmark in HDD Acoustics & Power
The Terabyte Landmark: Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 Terabyte drive

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