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

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°C
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.

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°C.

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 [email protected]

8.2 W
Seek (AAM)
12.2 W
Seek (Normal)

27 [email protected]

12.2 W
REFERENCE DRIVES
Western Digital Raptor WD740GD

February 2005

firmware 31.08F31
6
Idle

21 [email protected]

7.4 W
Seek (AAM)

24-26 [email protected]

11.5 W
Seek (Normal)

25-26 [email protected]

11.9 W
Seagate Barracuda IV

ST340016A

firmware 3.10
6
Idle

20 [email protected]

6.7 W
Seek (AAM)

23 [email protected]



11.3 W
Seek (Normal)

25-26 [email protected]



11.6 W
Samsung Spinpoint P80 (Nidec motor)

June 2004

firmware TK100-24
4
Idle

21 [email protected]

6.3 W
Seek (AAM)

23-24 [email protected]

8.3 W
Seek (Normal)

25-26 [email protected]

9.1 W
Samsung Spinpoint P80 (JVC motor)

Feb 2005

firmware TK200-04
6
Idle

21 [email protected]

6.2 W
Seek (AAM)

25 [email protected]

n / a
Seek (Normal)

27 [email protected]

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 [email protected],
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 [email protected])

Reference Comparatives:

Western
Digital Raptor WD740GD (Idle: 21 / AAM: 24-26 / Seek: 25-26 [email protected])

Western
Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000KS (Idle: 21 / AAM: 21-22 / Seek: 23 [email protected])

Samsung
Spinpoint P80 SP0802N (Nidec) (Idle: 21 / AAM: 23-24 / Seek: 25-26 [email protected])

Seagate
Barracuda IV ST340016A (Idle: 21 / AAM: 23 / Seek: 25-26 [email protected])

Nexus 92mm
case fan @ 5V (17 [email protected]) 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.

*

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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