Western Digital is finally launching a successor to the Raptor EL150 family of drives that has been around since 2003.  This enterprise designed drive series is one that quickly made its home on just about every enthusiast desktop.  Capacities started at 36GB, soon grew to 76GB, and then topped out at 150GB for what seemed like an eternity.  The new drive appropriately goes by the name, VelociRaptor, and is part of the upcoming VR150 product family. Western Digital is launching this drive at a 300GB capacity point with other capacity points potentially available in the near future.

 

One of the most interesting aspects of the new drive is its 2.5" form factor.  This little wonder packs two 150GB platters featuring 10K-RPM spindle speeds into a 2.5" drive placed in a new 3.5" carrier design dubbed the "IcePAK".  This sled features 13 cooling fins that dissipates heat quickly and still allows it to fit in a standard 3.5" drive bay.

We have looked forward to putting this drive through its paces for the past several months since WD first hinted at a Raptor replacement.  Our interest grew to a fever pitch last month after being briefed by Western Digital on the VelociRaptor's specifications and knowing a release date had been set for April.  We anxiously awaited for test-drives to arrive a couple of weeks ago. As it turns out we received the drive just a few days ago, but were excited at the prospect of a sleepless weekend to see just how well this drive would stack up to the latest competition.


A sleepless weekend is what we got all right, just for all the wrong reasons.  We kept noticing the performance of the drive was just not "right".  It was certainly faster than its predecessor, but not by the margin, we expected.  At times, the benchmark numbers were actually slower than several current 7200RPM drives and this brought out the yellow flag.

Our HDTune and HDTach results kept indicating a massive drop in transfer rates on the outer diameter of the platters, an area where the drive should be the fastest and not the slowest.  This pattern continued with our IPEAK and file transfer tests.  Eventually, we noticed this speed bump also occurred in several of our application tests where the drive just never seemed to get out of the gates quickly but would eventually catch up with and at times surpass our other drives.

Western Digital informed us the press review samples were engineering drives with early firmware.  In fact, Western Digital felt so strongly about this that they included errata in the press kit stating the firmware was about 90% completed.  We agree with them.  WD confirmed our performance problems and erratic results late yesterday.  It turns out the performance drops at the outer diameter are related to the tuning of the servo algorithm.  WD had not finalized this tuning when the press sample drives shipped with firmware 03.03VOX.

Western Digital will have this performance drop out fixed before releasing the drives to Alienware next week or retail channels in late May.  That said, our “preview” of the drive will be published shortly.  We did not want to post a review that offered inconclusive or inconsistent results until we verified problems encountered during testing.  As such, we do not plan to “review” the drive until final firmware is available.

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  • otherwise - Monday, April 28, 2008 - link

    Call me paranoid, but I have a feeling another reason for the ice pack might be to be to clearly separate the OEM and Retail channels for this drive. I am willing to bet the OEM version will not come with it, and thus pretty much forcing enthusiasts to shell out for full retail. Reply
  • Clauzii - Wednesday, April 23, 2008 - link

    SSD-drives are the future :)) Reply
  • gochichi - Tuesday, April 22, 2008 - link

    The ice-pack serves several functions, one of which is cooling the drive. Another function is marketing and appearence.

    However, I think its largest function is to make it clear that this is not a laptop harddrive, do NOT put this in your laptop kind of message.

    I wonder how much faster this thing actually is. I can't bring myself to even consider a 300GB HDD for $300.00 at this point. I have recently started bargain shopping as opposed to getting things "just so" and I'll never go back. $379.00 for a whole computer with Q6600... slap a 9600GT and you have a gaming system.
    Reply
  • retrospooty - Monday, April 21, 2008 - link

    "We did not want to post a review that offered inconclusive or inconsistent results"

    There are plenty of other reviews out there, linked at dailytech even... They all show the new Raptor totally smoking all of the competition.
    Reply
  • FXi - Monday, April 21, 2008 - link

    You know, with that much heatsink, they could bump this thing up to 15k and the heat issue would be covered.

    Might make a nice refresh :)
    Reply
  • Ajwhipple - Monday, April 21, 2008 - link

    I have a 74 GB Raptor for my OS and apps that is still only 65% full after several years of use. Any chance that they will make a smaller capacity drive? 100 GB is plenty for me. 300 GB is just wasted money. Reply
  • Jedi2155 - Wednesday, April 23, 2008 - link

    Not for me!!! I'm on a 160 GB raptor, but I'm always getting to a near full situation...need this extra space... Reply
  • Zefram0911 - Monday, April 21, 2008 - link

    I wonder if you could take off the Icepak heatsink and make it fit into my drive bays. I know there would be an inch of space, but would the SATA and power hookups match? Reply
  • just4U - Monday, April 21, 2008 - link

    I'll wait for the full review but still .. this is a nice heads up!
    Reply
  • Discord - Monday, April 21, 2008 - link

    Wow, half the capacity of a 3.5" platter and the resulting equivalent loss in performance yet it takes up a full 3.5' drive bay.
    How retarded is that?
    This thing would have been awesome if they made it a full 3.5" platter. Imagine 600GB with at least a 30% increase in transfer speeds over what it can do now.
    Or it would have been awesome if they made this a 2.5" drive. Imagine 4 of these raided in less space than two 3.5" drives. Oh well, nothings perfect I guess.
    Reply

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