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Western Digital VelociRaptor
by Marc Prieur
Published on August 7, 2008

With the VelociRaptor, Western Digital incontestably offers the best current SATA hard drive. The gain compared to the previous generation is significant. This is notably thanks to a reduction in size of platters which enables decreasing access time and increased surface density that allows much higher speeds. Of course, Western makes us pay a lot for its exclusivity on the 10.000 rpm SATA segment and you will have to plan on spending roughly 250€ for a VelociRaptor 300 GB, or the price for example of two Samsung 1 TB SpinPoint F1s!

However, there is one hitch concerning noise levels. Indeed while the IcePack offers very good results in terms of cooling the drive, on the other hand, it also serves as a veritable soundboard rendering the drive unpleasant in simple rotation. This is true even if the defect varies in degree from one drive to another. Separating the VelociRaptor from the IcePack resolves the problem but we then have a drive that heats up a little too much for our taste. This may also compromise the product life as well as the fact that dismounting the IcePack also cancels the manufacturer’s warranty!

Seagate Cheetah

With this in mind, we may ask if Western Digital didn’t make a poor choice by making a real 2"1/2 drive equipped with the IcePack. In the past, manufacturers such as Seagate used 2"1/2 platters all the while keeping the 3"1/2 casing on high end models. Perhaps, this solution might have been more efficient in terms of noise levels as well as providing proper cooling. Or more simply, according to our tests it would have sufficed that Western slightly modify the design of its IcePack so that it is entirely in contact with the PCB and not just at two points. In the meantime, we noticed that they have now announced a version without the IcePack and therefore without the noise and warranty problems. However, you yourself will have to ensure proper cooling of the drive.

At a time when SSD type memory solutions (a subject we will come back to this summer) are starting to become more affordable and are actually completely silent, this isn’t the best timing for Western’s mistake. For this reason, it is difficult for us to recommend the VelociRaptor with IcePack, unless if you don’t care about the noise level. As for the two best 640 GB drives, the Western Caviar SE16 and Samsung SpinPoint F1, it’s hard to choose a clear winner. The Western is faster in applications and as a file server while the Samsung is better in file management and is a bit more discreet.

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