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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  • pjconoso - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    Maxtor's with Seagate, so there. Reply
  • ClagMaster - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    These are good drives carrying on the Raptor tradition, but at the asking price at ~$0.60/Gb, way too pricy.

    I am going to wait next year for third generation SSD's at $0.50/Gb and 2-4x the current bandwidth before switching over.
    Reply
  • leonsk - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    Agree with Anand that SSD bor boot drive and 2 large HDs in RAID-1 is the most effective rig. What controller do you use? Or are you with software RAID? Reply
  • AstroGuardian - Wednesday, April 07, 2010 - link

    Of course not mate. Software RAID is dead. I am sure he is using ICH10R's RAID controller.... Right Anand? Reply
  • bobbyto34 - Wednesday, April 07, 2010 - link

    Hello,
    I have to change my primary hard drive (Samsung Spinpoint F1) because of some read failures...
    I'm hesitating between a good ol' 1TB 7200 drive, an x-25M 160Gb or a new Velociraptor.

    The computer will be used as music station with Sonar and sound banks. The current problem is that it's quite slow when loading those enormous sound banks with a 7200 drive.

    I would like good performance in loading these sound banks, with silence because it's dedicated to music (and some gaming :p), and with reasonable disk space... For the moment, I can't see a good compromise with those 3 parameters. Am I wrong ?
    Reply
  • slickr - Wednesday, April 07, 2010 - link

    What the heck were you talking there buddy?
    You just buy 2 1TB HD and an SDD drive, to be faster. Do you know how much such configuration would put you back?

    If not, go for the new raptor. Oh really, you just found out hot water. How about you mention its twice as cheap and even more to go for it, ten times more reliable than SSD's, and you can actually store 600gb, instead of 80gb of the intel ssd's or whatever for 250 dollars.
    Reply
  • Compddd - Wednesday, April 07, 2010 - link

    When will these start shipping? Reply
  • GullLars - Wednesday, April 07, 2010 - link

    Another great test from Anand.
    I have a comment though, and i see i'm a day late, so i may be ignored here :(

    The IOmeter sequential tests, while spanning the entire drive, only run for 3 minutes, and therefore only uses a small % of the drive area, so the speeds you see are near max.
    For the 600GB velociraptor, you have 140MB/s for 3 minutes = 25GB. By looking at the HDtach curve, the drop-off has barely started by that point.

    I also have something i want to get out there. Off-topic to this test, but relevant for high-performance HDDs.
    Why hasn't any HDD maker yet added a flash read-cache?
    By adding a single 4-8GB MLC NAND chip, costing roughly $2-3/GB = $8-24 added cost, and using it for read-caching hot-files, you can get around 4-5000 4KB random read IOPS = 16-20MB/s (@QD 1) and roughly 40-60MB/s sequential read for the cached data.
    Tracking hot-files should be easy to implement simply by logging read-access to LBAs, and with a slight bit more effort, filtering LBAs being read in a small block random pattern. Possibly also caching file-table and folder/file structure and metadata, as well as the data typically read the first seconds after power-up or spin-up.
    Using this type of caching would have a noticable effect on typical usage patterns, and especially multi-tasking, but would likely not make an impact on benchmarking since it would take time for new data to reach cache.

    Larger hot-files could benefit from the cache as they could be read from both flash and disk at the same time with the speed of both combined (80-140 + 40-60).

    Any thoughts about using flash read-cache people?
    Reply
  • ETR - Wednesday, April 07, 2010 - link

    Thats all i want to know,

    Does this drive have it or not???

    not one reviewer anywhere has that info... nor did WD's website.

    gezzzz how can anandtech skip that info................?
    Reply
  • BoFox - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    Dear Anand,

    I'm looking to upgrade to 15000rpm SAS drives since my Foxconn Bloodrage motherboard has 2 SAS ports (it's an X58 motherboard and there are couple other from Asus and Gigabyte that include SAS ports, IIRC..).

    How would this 600GB Velociraptor fare against a Seagate 15k.7 600GB Cheetah in terms of speed/performance?

    Sure, a 15k drive might be a bit more noisy and power-hungry, but I'm ok with this since I have other noisy stuff (including a noisy blu-ray player). I'm thinking that having a couple 15000rpm 600GB SAS drives is still a better investment than those tiny SSD's. Over at techreport.com, it's shown that SSD's (including Intel's) have some serious performance issues with certain real-world applications and that they "degenerate" in performance whether TRIM is being used or not. Stability is another question, right?
    Reply

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