Check out DesktopReview's updated 2010 600GB VelociRaptor review here!
Western Digital recently announced their latest and greatest hard disk drive (HDD) aimed at consumers and businesses that need blazing fast speed and exceptional reliability: the VelociRaptor. As impressive as this fearsome name sounds, we were curious if the VelociRaptor had serious bite … or whether it would be extinct on arrival. As more and more consumers and businesses begin turning to solid state drive (SSD) technology for both speed and reliability, can the VelociRaptor compete? Get ready for Western Digital to unleash the beast.
The VelociRaptor (model WD3000GLFS) is currently only available with a 300GB capacity. The full technical specifications are as follows:
The customized HP Pavilion A6230N desktop used in this review features the following specifications:
Build and Design
As an ever increasing number of consumers (and even some businesses) begin using desktop cases that expose the internal contents of the system, it seems like an increasing number of OEMs are producing desktop components that look as good as they perform. The Western Digital VelociRaptor is one such drive.
The 2.5-inch WD VelociRaptor is enclosed in a black, 3.5-inch enterprise-class "IcePack" mounting frame: a built-in heat sink that keeps the little drive cool when installed inside the desktop chassis. The IcePack heat sink gives the VelociRaptor an impressive weight and density ... making it feel solid and substantial in your hands.
Setup is as simple as installing the drive inside your desktop, formatting the drive, and either installing your operating system or using it as a secondary drive. No additional drivers are needed; just follow the prompts during the installation. One unexpected benefit I ran into while formatting the VelociRaptor was that the formatting process only seemed to take about half as long as the formatting process on a 320GB 7200rpm hard drive that I purchased a few months ago. Was this a preview of the performance that the VelociRaptor would deliver? Let's see.
The press release for the VelociRaptor claims that the drive offers "Killer Speed" and is "the fastest drive in the known universe." Well, those are bold claims. You better believe I was going to put those words to the test.
In short, the performance of the VelociRaptor is nothing short of exceptional in virtually every category. The overall speed of the VelociRaptor is roughly twice as fast as a standard 7200rpm HDD. The average read and write speeds are the best we've seen from any HDD and seek times were surprisingly low. In fact, the VelociRaptor is so impressively fast that it even rivals (or surpases) the performance of the latest solid state drives (SSDs) on the market. SSDs are becoming popular because of their blazing fast speeds, but the VelociRaptor gives SSDs a run for their money ... at a fraction of the cost.
So what does all this speed mean in real-world applications? Business professionals can sort through file folders loaded with massive documents at blazingly fast speeds as documents and icons are instantly populated inside Windows Explorer. Digital photographers and graphic artists don't have to wait for giant, high-resolution image files to load, and using the VelociRaptor as a "scratch disk" makes Photoshop CS3 fly at warp speed. You can watch 1080p HD movie files stored on the VelociRaptor without waiting for the video to load or losing frames (assuming you have a good video card).
Of course, let's not forget about the benefits for gamers. If you enjoy playing the latest 3D first-person shooter, RPG or MMORPG, the VelociRaptor is a must have. For example, when playing the newly released PC version of the game Mass Effect on a standard 7200rpm drive, the game pauses at level transitions while the drive loads new maps or cutscenes for the next level. The WD VelociRaptor freezes for only a fraction of a second and then the game continues. This is something you simply cannot appreciate until you experience it. You no longer have to wait for the action to begin in your game; just keep playing until you get tired or run out of caffeine.
HDTune comparison results:
VelociRaptor 300GB HDD
Seagate 400GB HDD
Samsung 64GB SSD
Atto comparison results:
VelociRaptor 300GB HDD
Seagate 400GB HDD
Samsung 64GB SSD
Heat and Noise
Even before I got my hands on the VelociRaptor I was a little concerned about the heat build up. Most 2.5-inch hard disks produce more heat (given the size) than their 3.5-inch desktop counterparts. The fact that Western Digital had to encase the VelociRaptor inside the massive heat sink lead me to believe this drive would put out as much heat as a toaster oven. Luckily, I was wrong.
The actual operational temperatures of the VelociRaptor remained well below dangerous levels. The average external temperature readings for the VelociRaptor were between 32 and 34 degrees Celsius. Considering that many other 7200rpm drives we've tested reach temperatures of roughly 50 degrees Celsius, it's clear that the "IcePack" mounting frame heat sink is doing its job by keeping the VelociRaptor nice and cool.
Noise levels were something of a mixed bag. The VelociRaptor produces slightly louder audible "clicks" when accessing data, but the drive doesn't sound unhealthy in any way. The simple reality is that this is a HDD with moveable parts that are moving fast enough to rival speeds seen on SSDs: there is no way you can make components move that fast without making some noise. If your desktop is positioned on the floor then the noise is hardly noticeable. If your desktop is placed on the desk next to you and you have sensitive hearing then the noise levels might get on your nerves after extended use.
That said, when I was testing the VelociRaptor for gaming and video playback the drive noises always remained below the volume level of my desktop speakers. In other words, I couldn't hear the drive while playing or watching movies unless it was a quiet moment in the game or the movie.
If you’re looking for a fast hard drive then you can stop reading this review and go buy the VelociRaptor. Heck, while you’re at it you might as well buy several of them because these drives are so fast that you won’t want to use standard 7200rpm desktop drives ever again.
The Western Digital 300GB VelociRaptor offers consumers exceptional speed at a reasonable cost. Granted, the price isn’t right for everyone. You can purchase a 320GB 7200rpm HDD for less than $80 at most retail stores, so paying $300 for a fast 300GB HDD doesn’t make sense for everyone. That said, the VelociRaptor wasn’t designed for “everyone,” it was designed for people who need the fastest storage drives available.
Considering that the WD VelociRaptor is also the fastest HDD we have tested to date, the price is quite fair and makes for a “no brainer” purchase if you need a fast drive. You can get a 32GB SSD for $600 or a 300GB VelociRaptor for $300 … both of which have close to the same level of performance. What sounds better to you?
Pricing and Availability
The Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB ($299.99) is available inside Alienware’s customizable gaming desktops and is also available separately at many retail stores or direct from Western Digital. More information is available on the Western Digital website.
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