Conclusions and Final Thoughts
Performance

The first order of business is make sure that the new retail firmware update for the VelociRaptor hard drives did not negatively affect performance compared to our initial pre-release hard drive.  In our testing the new drives lived up to the performance claims on the earlier model though with a VERY slight performance drop.  We are talking 1% or less in all cases, so this I would not jump to any conclusions of Western Digital trying to cheat us at the outset or anything like that; more than likely the saw an area where a bit slower would make the drives slightly more stable or reliable and chose to go that route.  Considering there is no other platter-based hard drive that can compete with the VelociRaptor in terms of performance WD had plenty of room for such adjustments while maintaining the lead.

When we look at the benefits to pairing up two VelociRaptors in a RAID-0 array, the performance scores were a mixed bag.  While our synthetic tests like HDTach and HDTune showed BIG gains in sustained transfer rates and burst rates (as high as 420 MB/s!), the more real-world performance tests in PCMark05 and PCMark Vantage saw little to no gains over a single VelociRaptor drive.  In our IOMeter tests the RAID-0 array did have very noticeable benefits in all of our testing scenarios including web server, file server, database and workstation workloads.  In all though, I would not push RAID-0 with these drives but would instead recommend going with just a single drive and saving the $300 for another component upgrade.    

Of course, we can’t write a storage review without talking about solid state drives – our most recent review of the Intel X25-M 80GB SSD proved that if done write, SSDs can be competitive in all aspects of performance including reads and writes.  In fact, if it weren’t for the small capacity and high cost, that particular SSD would be the best drive on the market.  Luckily for WD and other drive vendors, most users will be using standard spindle-based hard drives for some time to come.

Capacity Limits – still behind?

I was also really glad to see the VelociRaptor move the Raptor line from 150GB to 300GB capacity – the 150GB drives (that I use in my own systems) can get full much quicker than you think.  In fact, in the last few months I have personally been greeted with “low disk space on primary partition” messages from the friendly Vista manager.  A migration to a 300GB drive is probably in order now and I could even see how some users could get away with JUST the 300GB VelociRaptor drive in their system. 

Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB Retail and RAID Testing - Storage 33

But that won’t be the case for most I fear.  A 300GB capacity drive is good but in a world of 1TB (1024GB) disks and HD content downloads (not to mention 12GB game installs) I can easily see users still needing a second drive for storage of those large, less frequently accessed files.  Would I have loved to see a 500GB VelociRaptor drive?  Absolutely, but from a technical stand point that just won’t exist for some time.

Warranty

When I reviewed the WD Caviar SE16 750GB drive I complained that their 3-year warranty was looking pretty slim when compared to Seagate and Maxtor’s 5-year offerings.  WD has stepped up and the new 300GB VelociRaptor comes with a 5-year warranty and a 1.4 million hours MTBF (mean time between failure) rating. 

Pricing and Availability

One of the best things that have occurred to the VelociRaptor since its release – prices have dropped from $299 at retail to about $265 for the version we tested here today.  Keep this in mind: the VelociRaptor with model number WD3000GLFS is the one tested here today with the offset SATA power and data connections; if you are looking for the model that has the connections in the standard location (good for back planes) then the model number is WD3000HLFS.  Those are starting to show up online already, but are still priced above the $300 mark.  

For those of you that don’t need that much storage, you can find the 150GB version of the VelociRaptor for as little as $179.

Final Thoughts

After having played with the final, retail versions of the VelociRaptor hard drive, I have no less excitement about the drives than I did before.  While the raw performance of the hard drives might have been muted slightly with the release of the Intel X25-M solid state drive, there are many issues that keep that from getting the typical enthusiast users attention including capacity and cost.  Western Digital’s 300GB VelociRaptor remains the best storage solution for users looking for top performance and reasonable capacity.

Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB Retail and RAID Testing - Storage 34

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