The new generation of Western Digital Velociraptor drives promise class leading performance with higher density platters than the previous generation, but is the performance worth the price?
I really felt a twinge of excitement when I heard I was going to be given the new WD1000DHTZ Velociraptor for review. Being a server admin, I know full well what an I/O bottleneck can do to a carefully designed setup, and high performance mechanical drives are a must have in our storage heavy culture.
While I can resort to buying 15,000RPM SAS drives and controllers at a premium, this option is not available to the regular gamer, and this is where the Western Digital range of high performance drives come in – available in 250GB, 500GB and 1TB capacity.
Are high performance mechanical drives still relevant with the advent of Solid State Drives? The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, because while SSDs offer unparalleled random read/write performance that will never be matched by mechanical drives, they fall behind when you take storage space and price into account. A 256GB SSD will cost you upwards of R2,500.00, while the Velociraptor can get four times the storage for a similar price.
What about the darling of desktop storage – the venerable 7200RPM drive? A good 1TB drive can be bought for around R600.00 to R800.00, and for peace of mind and acceptable performance, the Seagate Barracuda range of drives has reigned supreme for quite some time.
This brings me to my original question, is the Velociraptor worth the money at R2,500.00? To answer that question, I took a Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 1TB drive and subjected it to a range of tests alongside the WD1000DHTZ, and some of the results were surprising.
Let’s look at the specifications:
The WD1000DHTZ is a 2.5” drive built onto it’s own heatsink that allows it to slot into a 3.5” enclosure. Don’t get ideas about putting one in your laptop though, since the drive is permanently affixed to the heatsink, and is too thick to fit, being roughly twice as thick as a normal laptop drive.
It boasts a 6GB/s SATA interface, three platters of 333GB storage density, and 64MB cache.
The Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 has a more traditional 3.5” enclosure. It too has a 6GB/s SATA interface, one high density platter of 1000GB and 64MB cache.
Looking at the specs it would seem that the WD1000DHTZ had the edge except for data density, but it turned out to be less one-sided than at first thought.
I used several applications to test the drives. I used Bonnie and Seeker to measure random Read/Write speeds, and HDPARM (which gives a nice graphical output) to measure sustained Read/Write speeds as well as disk latency.
Where the WD1000DHTZ shone was with Random Write. It clocked out at an average of 2.6 to 2.7MB per second, more than twice the Seagate drive which averaged 0.9 to 1.2MB per second.
Access latency was excellent as well, easily outpacing the Seagate drive.
The surprise came when I tested sustained Read/Write with HDPARM, which provided a really pretty graph.
The Seagate boasted a higher maximum read rate than the WD1000DHTZ, at 222.9MB/s versus 208.0MB/s. The higher density platter really making the difference.
The WD1000DHTZ made up for it with a much lower average access time of 6.9ms versus the Seagate’s 13.9ms.
Is the WD1000DHTZ really better? Random Read/Write speeds are what is really noticeable to most computer users. For gaming purposes they are what govern how quickly a game loads all it’s files into RAM, and how fast levels load from the hard drive. Want a fast booting gaming rig? Random Read/Write speed is where you eek out that last smidge of performance, and here the VelociRaptor really blew the Barracuda out of the water.
I did not test against an SSD because there really is no comparison on raw speed. No mechanical drive will ever come close to besting an SSD on raw seek times and lately even sustained throughput. Their only reason for existence is higher capacities at drastically better prices.
Is it worth paying three times as much for the VelociRaptor? My heart says yes, but common sense dictates that I give the much better priced slower drives a second look. Yes there are performance advantages, but for pure storage there really is no question. Mechanical drives for the desktop have reached the zenith of their evolution with the VelociRaptor, and the money is rather spent elsewhere on more traditional performance enhancers.
I really love the VelociRaptor, having it was a blast. Yes it is the fastest mechanical drive available for the desktop. Yes it has unparalleled seek times and random access performance that will allow you to boot your gaming rig fifteen seconds faster or load your game a little quicker. Most users will balk at paying three times more than what you could pay for a slower drive. Cut the price and let me pay R1,400,00 to R1,600.00 and you have a winner. R2,500.00 is just too much. Wait maybe two years and you should be able to get a 1TB SSD at that price, maybe even earlier.