Western Digital Raptor X 150GB HDD
A hard drive with a view
Review The Western Digital Raptor, possibly the most talked about hard drive among the PC performance community, but why would you even consider buying a 36 or 74GB hard drive? Well, most people wouldn't, but with the introduction of the latest Raptor products Western Digital has remedied this problem to a certain degree by upping the drive size to 150GB...
This might still seem tiny in comparison to the latest generation of desktop drives that topple the scale at 500GB, but a Raptor drive is so much more than your average HDD - it's a freak of nature in its own right as it sits between the SATA and SCSI market. With a spin speed of 10,000rpm and 16MB of cache, it is in direct competition with many SCSI drives, at a lower cost.
But what we have here today is not the standard Raptor drive. Enter the Raptor X, the first retail hard drive to feature a crystalline polycarbonate window. Um, yes, that's it, that is the main selling point of the Raptor X over the standard model. A transparent bit.
I have to say that I'm not big on case modding, but having windows in your case - or even a clear case - has become something that many people aspire to so that they can show off their hardware to their chums. The Raptor X fits in to this mentality and to be honest, it's actually quite cool to see all the bits inside your hard drive move around. Still, I wouldn't go through the hassle of placing the Raptor X in a suitable location in my PC so I could see the bits moving. Still, if you've got a fully modded PC with lights, windows and the lot, then this is definitely the hard drive for you.
As a performer, the Raptor X doesn't differ from its window-less siblings except for on one point: Meant Time Between Failure (MTBF). The 150GB Raptor drive has an MTBF rating of 1.2m hours, whereas the Raptor X has an MTBF half of that (600,000 hours). However, this shouldn't be too great a concern as both drives are covered by a five-year warranty, so it's only once this has run out that you might want to be concerned if you're still using the drive some 60 years on. The only reason I could see for the lower MTBF time is that the plastic window doesn't dissipate heat as well as a metal lid would do. WD has compensated by making one of the sides of the hard drive into a heatsink, much like a high-end SCSI drive has.
You might be disappointed to find out that the new breed of Raptor drives are only 1.5Gbps SATA 150, not 3Gbps. This is because WD is mainly targeting the drives at the SME server market and the SATA II platform seems to have been deemed not mature enough for this segment. This is unlikely to be an issue anyhow as there are no performance limitations here for a single drive as there is plenty of bandwidth available. At least the 150GB Raptor drives are native SATA rather than utilising a bridge solution as the previous models did.
It's quite impressive that the Raptor X didn't make any more noise than a standard SATA drive, especially if you consider how much noise most 10,000rpm SCSI drives generate.
There's nothing on the desktop hard drive market that can beat the Raptor series of drives when it comes to performance as the extra spin speed puts it clearly ahead of any 7,200rpm drive. The Raptor X was tested using an Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe motherboard with an AMD FX-60 processor and 1GB of Crucial Ballistix memory.
To see if there was any performance difference using various SATA controllers I tested the Raptor X on both the mobo's ULi South Bridge and its standalone Silicon Image PCI Express-connected SATA controller. Interestingly enough - as you can see from the charts on the previous two pages - the Silicon Image controller performed better in the real world copy tests and the ULi controller performed better in the theoretical tests.
All the test results are very impressive and you'd have to run a RAID 0 setup to beat these results using 7,200rpm drives. The Raptor X even beats the LaCie Two Big drive  in several tests, which is very impressive. If you want something faster in your desktop PC you would have to go down the SCSI route, which most people wouldn't even consider any more.
Cost-wise the Raptor X isn't a great investment, costing around £225 or more. The standard Raptor WD1500 would set you back closer to £200, so there's a price premium to pay for the Raptor X's fancy window. Still, if you want a fast single drive for your PC then you can't go wrong with the new Raptor drives, as long as you can live with the trade-offs, as you could get a slower-but-larger 500GB drive for the same money.
Western Digital has by far the fastest desktop hard drive on offer, although you have to do a trade-off in storage capacity to gain the performance. The Raptor X is for the enthusiast, but the Raptor WD1500 is likely to be an attractive option for anyone looking for top-notch hard drive performance at a realistic price. ®