Quick Take

Our experiences to date with the Western Digital WD740ADFD have been terrific. The recent updates to the drive have brought it into the same performance sector as the larger WD1500ADFD drive. We found the overall write performance and sustained transfer rates to be excellent and class leading in our test results. The drive even has improved thermal and acoustic characteristics over the other Raptors, although it's certainly not competitive with other drives. Of course those drives do not have to contend with 10,000 RPM spindle speeds and firmware that is generally designed to extract the greatest amount of performance.

The WD740ADFD is not without faults. The obvious issue for most users is the capacity of the drive. Considering the rampant increase in storage requirements for games, operating systems, and video/audio needs, 74GB can start feeling cramped in a hurry. The other issue is price. The drive is currently selling for around $140 with rebate where the WD1500ADFD with twice the capacity can be had for $190 with rebate. In these terms, the 150GB Raptor is a much better buy. Even then, you are paying a large premium for performance, though the performance improvement is noticeable in both objective and subjective terms.

While the platter sizes have changed on the new 74GB Raptors, for the most part the story remains the same. The Western Digital Raptor drives still offer some of the best performance available (outside of SCSI and SAS). The high level of performance is somewhat offset by increased noise levels and operating temperatures, as well as the already noted higher prices and reduced capacities. In an ideal world, we would like to see some of the new 160GB platters used with a 10,000 RPM spindle speed, but there are technological hurdles involved with getting the drive heads to read and write data that fast. We expect to start seeing SCSI and SAS drives in the future that have platter sizes above 74GB, so hopefully Western Digital will be able to follow suit with newer Raptor models sporting higher areal densities and the accompanying increased capacities. Looking at the performance improvement Western Digital garnered by moving from a 37GB to a 74GB platter size in our benchmarks here, we can only dream about what we might see with 150GB platters.

We still have difficulty with recommending these drives to most people when excellent performing 500GB drives can be had for around $150 now, not to mention the well balanced smaller capacity models like the Seagate 320GB 7200.10 drive for $90. Many users will be hard-pressed to even notice the difference between most of the modern hard drives currently on the market. However, we are enthusiasts at heart, so in situations where money isn't a concern we would have a WD1500ADFD as the boot/OS drive with our favorite games installed on it, and we'd pair that with a top performing secondary 320GB~750GB drive for storage and other applications. Of course, if you are into benchmarking or have a specific application that benefits from it, then a pair of Raptors in RAID 0 will be even better. In the end, if you want one of the best performing drives in the market then you cannot go wrong with the 74GB or 150GB Raptor drives.

Actual Application Performance
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  • AnnonymousCoward - Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - link

    Good review. I don't think I'll ever buy one of these. For as expensive as they are, the storage size is small and the performance diff is minuscule. Sims2 loading: 30s vs 31s! MP4 conversion: 3:04 vs 3:14! Amazing!

    Then the thermals and acoustics are really bad.
    Reply
  • Lakeshow - Friday, February 09, 2007 - link

    I think 74GB is plenty for an OS drive (hell even 36GB should suffice). Sure a 500 gig is cheaper, but I would never use that as my OS drive: simply too much stuff to back up when doing a reformat. Yeah I can do partitions, but then file transfer between partitions is much slower than between two drives, which is why I have my 74GB Raptor as OS drive, 500 giger as D:/storage drive, and then a 36GB Raptor as E: drive for torrent downloads.
    Reply
  • JonathanYoung - Thursday, February 08, 2007 - link

    I think the graphs look great, but in the ones with minutes and seconds, I would suggest using a colon (e.g. 3:05) to denote minutes:seconds instead of a decimal, which makes me think 3.05 minutes (3 minutes 3 seconds). Thanks. Reply
  • Gary Key - Thursday, February 08, 2007 - link

    We have an updated graphing engine coming on-line in the next few weeks that hopefully will fix that issue. It bugs me to no end to use the decimal point in that way. ;) Reply
  • TheBeagle - Wednesday, February 07, 2007 - link

    Gary, as usual, you did a helluva job on a first-class review on these new generation Raptor drives. However, you especially captured my attention when you wrote "Although TLER is disabled by default, a utility is available from Western Digital to enable TLER." The existence of such a "utility" was a revelation to me. I have a couple of these same 74 GB and 150GB drives, each running in pairs in a RAID 1 environment, and I didn't have any knowledge of such an enabling/disabling "utility." Can you share the source for such a little delight and how we mere mortals get our hands in such a thing? Thanks again for a stellar report, and now we can just hope that WD adopts perpendicular recording (ala 7200.10) and SATA II specs for a world-beater drive. TheBeagle Reply
  • TheBeagle - Saturday, February 17, 2007 - link

    I got WD to send me a copy of the TLER "utility." To my surprise, when you run it on new generation Raptor or "YS" series drives, it shows you some very interesting information. First of all there are two (2) separate TLER setting for these drives, namely a read setting and a write setting. On Raptor drives, BOTH ARE DISABLED from the factory! That's right, even though WD advertises this feature as being built into the Raptor drives, it's NOT OPERATIONAL unless you get your hands on the "secret" utility and activate it. On the YS drives, ONLY THE READ feature is activated, and the write feature is disabled. BTW, although WD says that the TLER feature on YS series drives cannot be disabled, the utility has a command that will do just that, disable both the read and write (if you have activated it) feature on those drives. I think WD has some serious explaining to do about all of this, since they (WD) have been creating a false impression to the buying public about these TLER features in these drives! Reply
  • Makaveli - Wednesday, February 07, 2007 - link

    he is right it all comes down to your usages pattern, in general home users don't need Raid O. However, if u happen to say be running a webserver from home, or doing alot of Disk intensive stuff its a good investment, but the original Comment still stands.

    I would never go raid 0 in a gaming rig, a 75/150 Raptor + Storage drive is a far more optimal solution.
    Reply
  • Makaveli - Wednesday, February 07, 2007 - link

    hey is right it all comes down to your usages pattern, in general home users don't need Raid O. However, if u happen to say be running a webserver from home, or doing alot of Disk intensive stuff its a good investment, but the original Comment still stands.

    I would never go raid 0 in a gaming rig, a 75/150 Raptor + Storage drive is a far more optimal solution.
    Reply
  • Brassbullet - Wednesday, February 07, 2007 - link

    So does the fact that I have a WD740ADFD-00NLR as my Windows XP boot drive and a Seagate 7200.10 750 GB as my "My Documents" location mean I'm living the I/O dream? I've had this setup for months and didn't really think much of it, man was this article a PC ego booster!! Reply
  • littlebitstrouds - Wednesday, February 07, 2007 - link

    This makes me feel good about the $109 I just paid for my new 150gig at BB because I Vista too. Reply

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