Western Digital Raptor Preview: 10,000RPM & Serial ATAby Anand Lal Shimpi on March 7, 2003 2:48 AM EST
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At AnandTech, we tend to focus on the quickest changing industries - the markets that are most difficult for everyone to keep up with. Take the GPU industry for example; every six months we have a new set of graphics cards to take a look at and after less than two years we have to explain to you all a new set of GPU architectures. The CPU industry thankfully doesn't change quite as rapidly, but compared to the world of storage it's progressing at a very rapid pace.
By far the weakest link in today's desktops, workstations and servers is disk I/O performance. We often complain about how slow main memory is in respect to CPU speed, but main memory looks like high speed cache compared to how slow today's hard disks are. The demand for higher performance disk drives has led to some innovations in the storage industry, although they are definitely not marketed much.
Today's desktop hard drives still spin at the same rotational speed as those from a few years ago, although the prevalence of 7200RPM drives is much greater than it was back then. Decreasing memory prices and an increase in platter densities has lead to the use of larger buffers on desktop hard drives, and overall performance has improved considerably. Explaining the benefits of higher platter densities to the mass market has been deemed impossible, as marketing continues to focus on disk size and rotational speed to sell hard drives; only recently did buffer size become a marketable feature with the introduction of the 8MB drives.
Western Digital was the first to test the feasibility of bringing 8MB buffers to desktop drives with their special edition series of drives; after much success, IBM, Maxtor and Seagate followed suit with their own 8MB IDE drives. The time-to-market advantage Western Digital enjoyed combined with reliability problems of IBM drives made the Caviar Special Edition (8MB buffer) a hit in our community, but with that advantage gone, Western Digital was looking to extend their leadership once more.
The race to bring Serial ATA drives to the market has not been made nearly as quickly as users would like, and the drive manufacturers saw no need in accelerating the process thanks to the lack of Serial ATA controllers in the majority of systems. So instead of focusing on being first to market with a line of Serial ATA Special Edition drives, Western Digital went one step further and announced the world's first 10,000RPM Serial ATA hard drive - the Raptor WD360.
We managed to get our hands on a pre-release Raptor drive for testing and put it through a brand new set of hard drive benchmarks designed to find out if this drive is really worth the attention it's getting.