by Rob Williams on June 20, 2012 in Hard Drives
Need big storage, but can’t compromise on performance? At a time when 1TB SSDs cost as much as an excellent gaming PC, the obvious choice becomes WD’s VelociRaptor – which not only recently received a refresh, but also a 1TB model. Let’s take a look at it, and see how it compares to WD’s other current desktop hard drives.
For most of our “Final Thoughts” pages, coming up with a conclusion of sorts isn’t difficult. But it is with the VR 1TB. The reason is that while the drive is in a class of its own, and it is the fastest mechanical drive ever produced, it’s not for everyone. It’s for those who demand the fastest mechanical storage possible, and need ample space. It’s quite that simple.
In our tests, WD’s latest VR cleaned up. It’s the fastest hard drive ever released, and far surpasses the performance of the Caviar Black in some cases. Whether it be transfer tests, OS booting or random access, nothing could touch the VR.
That said, our testing also proved that the drive excels most for workstation-esque workloads, which isn’t much of a surprise given that is WD’s target audience. For heavier workloads, high IOPS performance is important, and we saw the VR set itself apart there. Its 80~100 IOPS might not match the 5,000~12,500 IOPS seen on current SSDs, but for the purposes the drive’s designed for, that probably isn’t much of a disadvantage. Compared to other traditional hard drives, however, the VR is fantastic.
For the consumer who just wants a hard drive for modest needs, a more attractive deal is something like a Caviar Black 2TB for ~$225. Realistically, for a drive that’s going to be used mostly for storage or gaming, the performance advantages of the VR, as great as they can be at times, isn’t going to be that noticeable in the real-world. It makes much more sense to opt for bigger storage for less money, while still retaining that important 5-year warranty.
If you’re looking for a drive to install your OS to, our wholehearted recommendation remains “SSD”. I give major kudos to WD for the improvements made with the latest generation VR drives, but unfortunately, physics just don’t allow mechanical drives to deliver the overall throughput, random access and IOPS performance of even a modest SSD. Of course you’re going to be sacrificing storage space, but chances are if you are the sort of person that can’t see the benefits of an SSD, then a regular Caviar Black is going to be suitable.
Who I recommend the VR 1TB drive to the most are those running workstation apps; image editing, code management, video editing, simulation and more. While SSDs would no doubt offer an advantage in most workstation scenarios, there comes a point when the amount of space gained at a certain price-point favors the VR. Currently, OCZ’s Vertex 4 256GB SSD retails for about $230 – it’s much faster, but offers /4th of the space.
On the first page, I said, “But with the boon of the solid-state drive, the future for drives like the VelociRaptor became questionable.“, and as unfortunate as it is, that future isn’t just questionable – it’s certain. As covered above, VR drives do have their use, but at this point in time it’s more of a niche product, or something that people purchase for a specific reason. For consumers, the best option is to purchase an SSD as a main drive, and then supplement that with mass storage.
By now, hopefully you know whether or not this drive is for you. If you’re still not sure, or have other questions, feel free to post them in our thread, linked to below.
It might seem odd after all that’s been said above to award this drive an Editor’s Choice, but despite it not being for everyone, the drive earns it. Its architectural improvements are impressive, as is the performance compared to other mechanical drives. WD did well here. It might not be the drive for you, but it’s great that an option exists for those who it is built for.
As a side note, I’ve never run a VR drive in a personal rig before, and that’s something I’m going to soon change. I’ll be installing this sample to replace the hard drive I use for gaming, so this will allow me to experience the drive long-term. You can be sure that if this results in further thoughts on the drive, I’ll be bringing them up.
Western Digital VelociRaptor 1TB
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