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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  • Makaveli - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    I really think they should have gone with 300GB's platters dropped the 450GB model and release just a single platter 300GB's model and 2 platter 600GB model. Sell the 300GB model for $199 and the 600GB model for $299.

    I'm already using Intel SSD + 1TB Black for storage so I won't be buying one, raptors are dead to me!
    Reply
  • efeman - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    I have two VR150's in RAID-0. Is there any chance you could compare performance of the new VR's to that (or two VR300's, of course). Reply
  • Hacp - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    Dear Anand,
    It would be helpful if you had some random latency tests, because that is what makes mechanical drives so horrible. Also, would be helpful if you did some short stroked benchmarks with this drive. Finally, I would like to compare it to an SSD drive. I know you are short on time but it would really make the review more interesting. Keep up the good work.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    The random tests actually give you latency, just represented in MB/s instead of ms.

    For example:

    4KB random write test, 3 outstanding IOs:

    VR200M got 1.9MB/s average write speed

    That's 1945.6 KB/s (1.9MB/s * 1024KB/MB), which is 486.4 IOPS (1945.6KB/s / 4KB/IOP). That gives us IOs per second, or if we take the inverse we get seconds per IO: 2.05ms. Now since we've got 3 outstanding IOs that's 3 x 2.05ms or 6.16ms.

    Latency is represented, just in the form of MB/s :)

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

    Anand, please if you feel like telling us; you mentioned you have 1 x SSD and 2 x 1Tb drives in you personal computer in RAID1. What kind of 1Tb drives did you put there?
    Just a curiosity. I would like to know what your choice was...

    Cheers
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    I've got a pair of old Hitachi 1TB HDT721010SLA360 drives in my machine. I just used them because I had them laying around with no other purpose :)

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

    Are you actually using them? :) I could use a couple of those - 'wouldn't mind if they're slow as hell, lol. Reply
  • AstroGuardian - Wednesday, April 07, 2010 - link

    Naaah dude, those drives are just great. We have plenty of those here in Europe. I have seen many defective Seagates, Spinpoints, few WDs but i have never seen a dead Hitachi (except for one of mine which i sent to death myself one angry morning...).

    Great choice Anand, but i still kind a think you chose those drives for a reason (what could that be lol) and not just because they were laying around. Haha....
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    We have had one Hitachi, a Maxtor, a few Seagates, and a bunch of Samsung Drives die here at work. Reply
  • AstroGuardian - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    Haha, there you go. The Samsungs die every day. I have no idea what their issues are, especially those F3 - RAID Class drives. About the Maxtor i think it's time has come to pass away don't you think? Hehe Reply

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