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Western Digital VelociRaptor 1TB Hard Drive Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Since the flooding in Thailand devastated hard drive production capacity, Western Digital's product releases have fallen behind as they’ve focused upon rebuilding and getting back to pre-flood production and development levels. An unfortunate side effect of this situation – besides the price of skyrocketing costs in the storage market– is models which usually have a fairly short lifecycle have been left to stagnate. Models such as the VelociRaptor line that were once considered cutting edge and worthy of their price premium with capacity have lost a lot of ground to both SSDs and the platter-based competition. The end result is the VelociRaptor line is no longer seen as an optimal solution for all but the most diehard of fans.



With such massive infrastructure damage this model stagnation and loss of competitive edge came as no surprise as the entire storage enthusiast community has waited for a return to true competition in a marketplace which has slowly been pushed aside in favor of solid state technology. If the recently released VelociRaptor 1TB is any indication, the wait is over as Western Digital is looking to retake lost ground.


The all new VelociRaptor not only has 1TB of storage capacity, eclipsing all but the most expensive SSDs, but also boasts performance specifications which are well beyond what has been available to consumers this side of the SAS and SCSI market. With an MSRP of $319, this certainly isn’t the least expensive HDD on the market but at about 32 cents per Gigabyte, the cost benefits may be there. This is fairly high for a hard drive, but is still in keeping with VelociRaptor’s tradition of being on the upper end of the price spectrum. It is also eons better than previous generation’s price per gigabyte and much better than the one dollar plus ratio entry level solid state drives demand.


Much like the previous VelociRaptor, the new 1TB model is a 2.5” based drive which ships in a large metal “IcePak” 2.5” to 3.5” adapter frame. The IcePak’s serves two purposes: it allows consumers to mount their new VelociRaptor inside the typical case and also act as a rather large heatsink to cool down the hot running drive. By removing the 2.5” hard drive from its IcePak we can see that the VelociRaptor uses heat pads to further increase the thermal transfer.


While the controller and cache is slightly different than what shipped with the latest generation Western Digital Black 6Gb/s model we reviewed, the underlying technology is similar. The VelociRaptor 1GB uses a dual core ARM controller and in order to boost the cache amount from 32MB found on the previous model to 64MB an external 32MB RAM chip had to be used.

The dual controller and larger cache are not the only things that have been carried over from the Black line. This new 1TB VelociRaptor is also the first to come with a dual stage actuator. What this means is the primary electromagnetic actuator moves the head and arm roughly into position and then a secondary piezoelectric based actuator located on the arm itself fine tunes the head positioning. This provides more precise head positioning and a performance boost as well.

The last upgrade this new model has been bestowed with is platters with increased aerial density. It uses three 333GB 2.5” platters and while they may not be the densest Western Digital makes, they still represent an upgrade from the previous 200GB platters found in earlier VelociRaptors.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing a drive is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto folder on the drive in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account. There is also the SATA controller on your motherboard and how well it works with SSDs & HDDs to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for drives to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our testbed will be a more standard motherboard with no mods or high end gear added to it. This is to help replicate what you the end user’s experience will be like.

Even when the hardware issues are taken care of the software itself will have a negative or positive impact on the results. As with the hardware end of things, to obtain the absolute best results you do need to tweak your OS setup; however, just like with the hardware solution most people are not going to do this. For this reason our standard OS setup is used. However, except for the Vista load test times we have done our best to eliminate this issue by having the drive tested as a secondary drive. With the main drive being a Kingston HyperX 240GB Solid State Drive.

For synthetic tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HD Tune, Crystal Disk Benchmark, IOMeter, AS-SSD and PCMark 7.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long a single 10GB rar file took to copy to and then from the devices. We also used 10gb of small files (from 100kb to 200MB) with a total 12,000 files in 400 subfolders.


All tests were run 4 times and average results are represented.

In between each test suite runs (with the exception being IOMeter which was done after every run) the drives are cleaned with either HDDerase, SaniErase or OCZ SSDToolbox and then quick formated to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

Processor: Core i5 2500
Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Memory:
8GB Corsair Vengeance "Blue" DDR3 1600
Graphics card: Asus 5550 passive
Hard Drive: Intel 520 240GB, OCZ 480GB RevoDrive3 x2
Power Supply: XFX 850
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
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Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed which you are likely to experience with these hard drives. The long test was run to give a slightly more accurate picture. We don’t put much stock in Burst speed readings and thus we no longer included it. The most important number is the Average Speed number. This number will tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations. The higher the average the faster your entire system will seem.


Thanks to the increased aerial density and 10,000 rotational speed the new VelociRaptor 1TB posts an average sequential speed that is greatly improved over the previous generation. Even the fastest 7200rpm drives – such as the Seagate Barracuda 3TB – are no match for it as the VelociRaptor’s read speed starts out well above 200MB/s and at its slowest is still at 120MB/s.


Write Performance


For this benchmark HD Tune Pro was used. To run the write benchmark on a drive, you must first remove all partitions from that drive and then and only then will it allow you to run this test. Unlike some other benchmarking utilities the HD Tune Pro writes across the full area of the drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.


As with the sequential read performance results, the sequential write performance numbers are once again impressive. This drive really is in a different league than any conventional hard drive.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
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ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second.



Interestingly enough, while the VelociRaptor 1TB is extremely fast, the ultra dense platters of the Seagate Barracuda 3TB do somewhat negate its rotational advantage.. Hopefully, these results are simply an anomaly, but this is something we will be paying close attention to.
 

SKYMTL

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Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7

Crystal DiskMark


Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB.



Now these results are what we have come to expect from a new VelociRaptor. Simply put, the small file performance of this drive is simply insane with a large increase over its nearest competitor.


PCMark 7


While there are numerous suites of tests that make up PCMark 7, only one is pertinent: the HDD Suite. The HDD Suite consists of numerous tests that try and replicate real world drive usage. Everything from how long a simulated virus scan takes to complete, to MS Vista start up time to game load time is tested in these core tests; however we do not consider this anything other than just another suite of synthetic tests. For this reason, while each test is scored individually we have opted to include only the overall score.


While it is unable to compete against a Hybrid storage solution such as the Seagate Momentous, the VelociRaptor’s performance is nonetheless impressive. It does however underscore how far along solid state drive technology has progressed when a 2.5” laptop orientated hybrid drive with a mere 8GB of NAND can outclass the best hard drive we have seen to date.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
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AS-SSD

AS-SSD


AS-SSD is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and small 4K read/write speeds as well as 4K file speed at a queue depth of 6. While its primary goal is to accurately test Solid State Drives, it does equally well on all storage mediums it just takes longer to run each test as each test reads or writes 1GB of data.



As with the Crystal DiskMark results, the VelociRaptor 1TB’s AS-SSD results are simply in a different league than any other hard drive we have reviewed to date. Thanks to its dual core controller, dual actuator and high rotational spindle speed this new VelociRaptor is able to post performance improvements well above what’s usually seen from one generation to the next. By the same token, even an entry level SSD will produce performance results far greater than these.
 

SKYMTL

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Vista Start Up / Adobe CS5 Load Times

Vista Start Up


When it comes to hard drive performance there is one area that even the most oblivious user notices: how long it takes to load the Operating System. While all the other tests were run with a Windows 7 operating system, this particular test uses another older test bed's “day to day” OS (copied over to our new testbed) which has accumulated a lot of crud over the months from installs and removals. We chose the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line as it is the last program to be loaded on start up.


Considering this drive does not rely on NAND ICs to boost its performance, being within one second of an extremely fast Hybrid storage solution such as the Momentus XT 750GB is indeed impressive.


Adobe CS5 Load Times


Photoshop is a notoriously slow loading program under the best of circumstances, and while the latest version is actually pretty decent, when you add in a bunch of extra brushes and the such you get a really great torture test which can bring even the best of the best to their knees. Let’s see how our review unit faired in the Adobe crucible!


Dense platters spinning at 10,000RPMs makes for the fastest hard drive we have ever seen, but once again even the fastest hard drive is unable to match the power and performance of even an entry level hybrid device like the Momentus XT 750GB.
 

SKYMTL

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Firefox Portable / Real World Data Transfers

Firefox Portable Offline Performance


Firefox is notorious for being slow on loading tabs in offline mode once the number of pages to be opened grows larger than a dozen or so. We can think of fewer worse case scenarios than having 100 tabs set to reload in offline mode upon Firefox startup, but this is exactly what we have done here.

By having 100 pages open in Firefox portable, setting Firefox to reload the last session upon next session start and then setting it to offline mode, we are able to easily recreate a worse case scenario. Since we are using Firefox portable all files are easily positioned in one location, making it simple to repeat the test as necessary. In order to ensure repetition, before touching the Firefox portable files, we have backed them up into a .rar file and only extracted a copy of it to the test device.



Western Digital really did take the time to upgrade and improve this model and it shows.
As with all the other real world test results, the VelociRaptor 1TB is simply the fastest SATA hard drive you can buy today.


Real World Data Transfers


No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it can not really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, using MS RichCopy (set to 1 file depth) and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found.




Results such as these just underscore exactly how powerful and potent a drive Western Digital has created.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


Over the last decade or so, Western Digital has made a name for their VelociRaptor line as the premier solution for customers who want to stick with a spindle-based storage solution but want a high level of performance as well. However, the limitation of these once bleeding edge drives was one that SSD users should be all too familiar with: capacity. This new 1TB version goes a long way towards rectifying that situation without sacrificing the very things which made the VelociRaptor series a marquee brand.

From an HDD perspective the VelociRaptor provides excellent and in some cases genre-defining benchmark numbers, sometimes even beating Seagate’s line of SSD/HDD hybrids. But this brings us to the main reason why lower-end SSDs haven’t been included in our charts: they’re so far ahead of the VelociRaptor, our charts would have been thrown out of perspective. However, in that same vein, not one of the SSDs can remotely approach this drive’s price versus capacity ratio, not to mention that 1TB SSDs aren’t yet widely available in the mass market environment. The only alternative is a pair of 512GB SSDs, the least expensive of which currently go for a budget busting $420 each. We should also mention that Western Digital has paired this drive up with a 5 year warranty, something which is something of a rarity in the SSD market.

When taken at face value, the VelociRaptor’s price is actually quite palatable but we’re also faced with the inescapable reality of today’s inflated hard drive prices. This coupled with a somewhat limited 1TB capacity means products like the Seagate Barracuda 3TB which provide similar performance curves and higher capacity will be more appealing due to their lower retail price.

To some observers, we’re seeing the beginning of the end of spindle-based media but we wouldn’t go so far as to agree with this. There will always be a market for the capacity and time tested longevity which hard drives bring to the table but that isn’t to say a plateau won’t be reached. While there may be some room for additional performance through higher density platters alongside a rotational speed of 10K RPMs, Western Digital is very much pushing the limit of what’s possible on consumer-grade spindle drives.

The VelociRaptor 1TB is one hell of a drive. Western Digital has successfully combined high performance and large capacity into a product that may be geared towards enthusiasts but also provides a surprising amount of value. There may be larger HDDs and quicker SSDs but currently, there is no other storage solution that so effectively bridges the gap between these two extremes.


 
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