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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  • Per Hansson - Saturday, April 10, 2010 - link

    I agree and would also like to see how a drive like the Cheetah 15k.7 would perform vs this VelociRaptor Reply
  • Den - Monday, April 12, 2010 - link

    I have the (old) 150 GB raptor. What happened to make the 2.5" ones (300 and 600 both) so much noisier than the old 150? 8.5 - 9 dB(A) louder is about three times as loud! Reply
  • bakedalaskan - Friday, April 16, 2010 - link

    Though not a price/performance issue along the lines of this article, I notice the position of the SATA connectors appear to be relocated through some kind of adapter compared to the original design 300GB VelociRaptor/ICEPAK combination. My complaint with the original 300GB drive/ICEPAK is that they don't fit in the drive tray system that I like to use on all my PC's. It appears that the new design would address standard SATA drive tray and hot swap backplane standards. Reply
  • dude117 - Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - link

    would this make sense as a datastore for a ESX4.1 home lab to run around 20 VMs , mostly Win2003/2008, off?

    I would prefer a SSD drive but i am not sure how fast the drive will be dead if the VMs are constantly utilized.
    Reply
  • Romulous - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    I have configured several vsphere 4 servers running 8 * 300G raptors in raid 10 on a 3ware (now LSI) 9650SE controller. This configuration is very fast. (8 drives in raid 5 takes a fair performance hit though). A single drive would only work if only one operation happened at a time. This configuration would not make a serious server. It all depends on the work load you anticipate. The production servers we run for one type of VM service have 48GB ram and dual quad xeons, plus the 8 raptors in raid 10. They run over 30 VMs. File system space is the real limiting factor without a SAN. Reply
  • GTXRaptor - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    What would really be a mind = blown moment would be a VelociRaptor SSD.
    Fastest SSD on the planet :).

    One can dream.
    Reply
  • crackedcoms - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    Learn about the latest Xrumer news today its cool and has stuff and ewrwe yeahhh Reply

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