Western Digital VelociRaptor: How Fast Is Too Fast?

After several years of minimal upgrades, the highly acclaimed Western Digital Raptor has gotten a serious upgrade: Enter the WD VelociRaptor, which wasn't supposed to be released to the masses until mid June but is available now over at Newegg. I've been a subscriber to Jeff Atwood's line of thinking for a long time now...that hard drive speed is the single most important factor in the overall speed of a machine and therefore should not be skimped on. Buy the fastest drive you can afford as your main boot drive, and then just buy a larger/slower/cheaper drive to stuff all of your data in.

Regardless of what line of reasoning you subscribe to, there is simply no reason not to buy one of the new VelociRaptor drives if you can afford it. I got mine in the mail earlier this week and decided to run a simple benchmark using HD Tune on it versus my older SATA I 150 gigabyte Raptor. Most of the hardware sites are claiming about 35% better performance, however that's not what I'm seeing:

Old School Raptor (SATA I 150 gigs):


New School VelociRaptor (SATA II 300 gigs):


As should be pretty apparent, these numbers show a much better gain than 35%. I ran the tests several times to make sure I was hallucinating Of course real world usage is a completely different story, but the cold hard numbers don't lie...the new VelociRaptors are beating my older Raptor by more than 50% in each category. And yes, my machine definitely feels a lot faster now as well. Boot time is down by 15-20 seconds (well under a minute to desktop now), applications fly to life when double clicked, games load in about half the time. The most amazing thing about this drive is that they got all of this extra performance using 2.5" platters. The drive may look pretty beefy, but 70% of that surface area is actually just a heatsink with the drive itself situated in the middle. Of course it being so small means it's completely silent as well. I use sound dampening in my case (rubber grommets), but the older Raptor could reach aircraft carrier levels during I/O intensive operations.

Expensive? Yes. Bleeding edge? Certainly. The best upgrade for your machine for the money? Absolutely. If you've got 300 bucks laying around and want to see noticeable performance improvements in your machine, this is a no-brainer.