Back when Solid State Drives were in their infancy there was one clear choice if you wanted to have the absolute highest performing hard-drive available, the Western Digital VelociRaptor.
It was so much faster than the average hard-drive that it seemed to come from the future. The main problem with it was that the capacity was significantly lower than other hard-drives, and yet it cost quite a lot more.
Time moves on and the Solid State Drives have become larger in capacity than their early models, significantly cheaper when it comes to price-per-gigabyte, and pretty much become the default performance choice. Similarly to the old VelociRaptor though the main bone of contention levelled against it is that the capacity is low whilst the price is high, when compared to standard drives.
Of course when we're at the performance end of the spectrum price becomes much less of a consideration. If you were more interested in saving pennies than performance you'd still be running a P200MMX.
We recently wondered if it was possible to solve the performance/capacity problem by returning from the world of the solid state back to the place it all began, the WD VelociRaptor. To make sure we give it the best chance of really nailing the performance per pound bracket, we're going to be running 2 600GB ones in RAID 0.
No doubting that the VelociRaptor is deserving of its vicious namesake.
|Data Transfer Rate (maximum)|
Buffer to Host
Host to/from drive
|6.0 Gb/s max|
145 MB/s sustained
|Average Read Seek||3.6 ms|
|Average Write Seek||4.2 ms|
|Track-to-track Seek||0.4 ms maximum|
|Average Latency||3 ms|
|Rotational Speed||10,000 RPM|
|Error Rate (non-recoverable)||<1 in 1015 bits read|
|Load/Unload Cycles||600,000 minimum|
Let's have a look at what we have today.
VelociRaptor Up Close
Visually the 600GB is nearly identical to the smaller version we're all used to. The heat-sink dominating proceedings.
Of course if one VelociRaptor is lovely, then two are divine. Side by side they certainly look the part.
The benefit from the deep sides in the heat-sink is that when stacked closely together they still remain cool with plenty of room for the heat to escape.
ASUS Rampage III Extreme
Intel i7 950 @ 4GHz
6GB Mushkin Redline RAM
Corsair AX1200 PSU
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
2x Western Digital VelociRaptors in RAID 0
We will also be comparing against the nearest large capacity SSD to hand, the Kingston SSD Now V+ 256GB.
First off we're firing up HD Tune Pro.
Obviously being non-mechanical the Kingston is rock solid across the whole range of tests. The single VelociRaptor actually puts up a much better showing than we expected, giving an average of 120MB/s. In RAID, which is our real test, you can see the benefits with both the maximum and average transfer rates comfortably ahead of the SSD.
It's a similar story in the write testing with the minimum and burst going to the SSD and maximum to our VelociRaptor RAID setup, which leads to the surprising result of as-near-as-dammit identical average results. Again we need to point out how respectable the single VelociRaptor is. Not at all shabby.
Naturally the main difference between a mechanical drive and a Solid State is the speed drop off as you start to reach the edge of the platter on a mechanical drive that doesn't occur with a SSD.The blue line is the transfer rate whilst the yellow indicates response time.
Kingston SSD Now V+
Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 x64
Once we step away from the pure linear nature of HD Tune Pro, we can see where the SSD regains all of the ground it lost and then some. In the Sequential test the VelociRaptor RAID setup still pumps out incredible numbers, but once we move on to random reading of smaller file-sizes the RAID setup drops markedly, to such a level the single drive keeps up.
Moving on to the write testing the results are fairly similar. A lot of SSDs suffer from comparatively poor write performance and here when dealing with 512K chunks the VelociRaptor RAID just manages to keep its lead.
The access time difference is really what allows the SSD to annihilate it when dealing with the tiny 4K tests.
AIDA64 gives us very similar results to those we started at with HD Tune. The Kingston SSD Now V+ is very consistent across every single test.
The Western Digital VelociRaptor naturally suffers because of the slower speeds you obtain as you reach the edges of the physical disk. The start and middle of the disk are very close but there is a sharp drop-off when the head makes it to the outside. Definitely demonstrating that keeping your hard-drive under about 60% full and well defragged can have big performance benefits.
PC Mark Vantage
Away from the hypothetical performance, does the real-world actually give us the same results? We all know that what can be achieved in a homogenised world is far different from the speeds we can obtain out there at the front-lines.
Sadly this proves to be the case here with the VelociRaptor RAID setup proving pretty much the equal of the single drive, whilst the SSD is miles away in the distance, over the horizon, with its feet up sipping coffee.
The "which drive" conflict has raged for a long time. The self-same people who thought the original VelociRaptor was too expensive for the tiny capacity then moved on to complaining how Solid State Drives are too expensive for their tiny capacity.
As someone who was brought up in the days when you had to rewind the tape and turn it over half-way through loading, I still find a plain hard-drive to be surprisingly rapid, but like everything in life the technology moves on and you have to adjust your concepts of "big" or "fast" with them.
Just like the 1GHz processor was once a dream and is now a dinosaur, Solid State Drives have shown that your average 5400RPM hard-drive just doesn't cut it anymore.
But Solid State Drives are, and let's not kid ourselves, eye-wateringly expensive. Sure they are cheaper than they used to be but you're still talking £2 per GB, or about £500 for the example we used for comparison today. Enter our Western Digital VelociRaptor RAID 0 setup. The thick end of 1TB of capacity for about £360 with promises of SSD like speeds is something that just couldn't be ignored. Is the future of cost-effective high-performance storage really the same as it's always been?
The VelociRaptor absolutely creams some hardcore testing giving us close to 290MB/s transfer speeds in the linear tests.The write speeds were equally impressive and some way ahead of the SSD.
As always though the synthetic benchmarks and headline grabbing numbers don't really tell the whole story. Sure it's blazingly fast, be in absolutely no doubt about that, but it's also a lot slower as you reach the edge of the platter. Smaller file transfers suffer because of the inherently slower seek speeds available to a mechanical drive.
Finally, in our PC Mark Vantage testing, which is as close to a real-world test as we can get without loading and unloading hundreds of applications for a week, showed that the SSD is, by a hugely comfortable margin, still the weapon of choice if sheer performance is your goal.
Sheer performance in SSD terms though comes at a massive cost of even a remotely affordable one being limited to an OS drive and ones like the 256GB we have today being useful as an OS and application drive, but not really for storage. That's where the waters get muddied as the VelociRaptor is obviously slower, but also 4 times the size.
So it's horses for courses. At the very bottom end of the market you have cheap, slow, big capicity storage. Here we have medium priced, quick, big capacity storage. Of course at the top end we have expensive, mega-fast, tiny capacity storage.
At the risk of ending up with some "5 computers" quote, this is probably the pinnacle of mechanical drives. With careful use, making sure that you don't fill the drive right up and keep defragging to leave the data near the centre, it's as fast and reliable as you could ever hope for without moving to the non-moving drives.
For the sheer capacity and performance at this price, we have to give it the Silver award. Just a shame the real-world testing doesn't quite bear out the linear speeds.
Thanks to Western Digital for providing the VelociRaptors for todays review. Discuss in our forums.