Truth be told I haven't had a mechanical hard drive on my test bench since shortly after the X25-M review back in 2008. Once the major hiccups that faced SSDs were dealt with, I switched all of my testbeds over. I got more consistent benchmarks, better performance and since I was using the X25-Ms, better reliability.

A week ago Western Digital wrote me and asked if I had any interest in covering hard drives. I'd been planning on building out a HDD addition to our live benchmark comparison engine, so I was definitely interested. It's not that I had forgotten about mechanical storage, it's that nothing exciting had happened there in a while.

It was 2003 when WD introduced its first 10,000 RPM desktop ATA hard drive - the Raptor. After 5 years of incremental updates, we saw the first major change in 2008 with the VelociRaptor. Western Digital moved to a 2.5" form factor mounted to a 3.5" heatsink. The smaller platters meant read/write heads had less distance to travel, which reduced access times. It also meant lower power consumption, something that would matter in the enterprise world. Before I made the switch to SSDs, the VelociRaptor was our testbed hard drive of choice. It was the fastest thing money could buy. But that was 2008. Since then even regular 7200RPM drives have been able to catch up to WD's dinosaur.

Despite releasing its first mainstream SSD, Western Digital is still committed to hard drive manufacturing. The cost per GB of even the cheapest SSDs are still far higher than the fastest hard drives, and thus there's room for newer, faster hard drives. The past couple of years have seen capacities go way up. Western Digital and Seagate both ship 2TB drives, and both of these drives are arguably just as fast as the original VelociRaptor still stuck at its 300GB capacity. That all changes today. This is the new VelociRaptor VR200M:

Available in 450GB and 600GB capacties ($299 and $329), the new VelociRaptor picks up where the old one left off. It's still a 2.5" drive with an optional 3.5" heatsink (called the IcePAK, standard on all drives sold in the channel) that'll keep it cool and let it mount easily in a 3.5" bay. The 2.5" drive measures 15mm in height, so you can't use it in most notebooks in case you were wondering.

WD increased platter density from 150GB to 200GB, which results in higher sequential transfer rates and lower track to track seek times (0.75ms down to 0.4 ms). Average seek time remains unchanged at 3.6ms thanks to the drive's 10,000 RPM spindle speed. The buffer moves up to 32MB from 16MB. Just like the old VelociRaptor, WD has chosen not to outfit this new drive with its largest buffer (64MB currently shipping on the Caviar Black drives).

Specifications
  WD VelociRaptor
VR200M
WD VelociRaptor
VR150M
Capacity 600GB/450GB 300GB/150GB
Interface SATA 6 Gb/s SATA 3 Gb/s
Rotational Speed 10,000 RPM 10,000 RPM
Buffer Size 32MB 16 MB
Track to Track Seek 0.4 ms 0.75 ms
Average Seek Time 3.6 ms 3.6 ms
Full Stroke Seek 8.5 ms (typical) 8.5 ms (typical)
Transfer Rate
Buffer to Disk
145 MB/s 128 MB/s
Platter Density 200GB per platter 150GB per platter
Warranty 5 - Years 5 - Years
.

 

The on-board controller is WD's latest dual-core design. I don't have much information about it but I'm guessing that because drive management is getting more complex, the controllers must scale up in complexity as well. The drive supports 6Gbps SATA, however you see no performance benefit from it (in fact, in many cases it's actually slower than 3Gbps SATA if you've got a good integrated SATA controller).

Western Digital claims to have increased the number of head load/unload cycles the new VelociRaptor can withstand. The drive heads must be positioned over the rotating platters in order to read/write data. When they aren't in use, the heads are retracted (or unloaded) to prevent any accidental damage to the platters and thus your data. The old 300GB VelociRaptor was rated for 50,000 load/unload operations. The new VR200M? 600,000.

The Contenders & The Test
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  • jasperjones - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    I have the same question. How do you get 450GB capacity with a platter size of 200GB?

    By using three platters and rending some space on each platter unusuable??????
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    Correct, you use 200GB platters and don't use all of the space. It's like microprocessor binning, but with platters instead :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • SunLord - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    Hey Anand in theory wouldn't the 450GB drive be faster then a 600GB drive if they configured the firmware to not use the inner 50GB on each of the 3 platters? Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    Which would explain why there isn't much price difference between the 450 and 600GB models, but as you pointed out the price difference is so little as to be rather meaningless.

    Plus, with the combo of the 80GB X25-M and 1TB WD Black available for $10 more than the 600GB VR, the only consumer use for these I can see is if you are limited to a single drive with a tiny case or something.
    Reply
  • Spivonious - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    A 400% price increase for 10-15% performance increase? No thanks, I'll stick with my regular old 7200RPM drive. Reply
  • Chloiber - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    These days, I don't see a reason why I should buy a Raptor. I get all my programs on an SSD, even some games. The rest of my data consinsts of music, movies and some archives. So basically I don't care about random read/write performance on these drives. Plus I need BIG drives. 1-2TB HDDs reach nearly the same sequential transfer rates as the raptors. Plus I dont wan't such noisy components in my system.

    If you only want 1 drive, then maybe the velociraptor is the way to go. But getting 1 drive is the worst decision one can make. I would rather get 2 crappy HDDs than 1 fast HDD.

    As you wrote in the conclusion...performance wise, the raptors are really great, but these days, SSD + (cheap) HDD is the way to go imho.
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    Agreed. SSDs replaced the need for Raptors, which makes me sad. Other than that, cheap, flexible storage is needed - as attributed by Moore's Law. Reply
  • rpsgc - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    This review is useless without an SSD to compare to. Reply
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    You're right, but as stated, go to the workbench and compare for those figures. You'll see that the SSDs would have drastically skewed the graphs. Reply
  • Voo - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    Yeah but they could've been added to some of latter graphs without a problem (the AT bench for example), that would be inconsistent, but would give some nice overviews without clobbering the graphs too much. Reply

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