With prices of SSDs coming down gradually but surely, one might be tempted to think that there’s no place left for traditional mechanical hard disk drives (HDDs). From a performance standpoint, traditional hard disk drives with their platters, actuators and heads can only dream of competing with today’s SSDs. However, what HDDs have going for them are decades of tested and proven reliability. As we noted in our review of Intel’s SSD 520 Series SSD, early drives with SandForce's SF-2281 controller were plagued by a BSOD bug. Though the bug has since been rectified with firmware updates, it seems that a handful of drives are still suffering from random occurrences of BSODs. Such issues are rare with mechanical HDDs.
Apart from reliability, other aspects in which HDDs trump SSDs is capacity and price. Even though SSDs have made significant headway in terms of increasing capacity, the largest readily available consumer SSDs top out at 512GB, whereas the largest capacity HDDs come in at 3TB. Price-wise, a decent 512GB SSD would cost in excess of S$600, while an equivalent sized HDD would cost no more than S$90 On the other hand, the largest HDD capacity of 3TB comes in at only around S$250.
With these considerations in mind, mechanical HDDs certainly still have a place in today’s systems, which is why Western Digital is introducing their latest iteration of VelociRaptor HDD. The VelociRaptor is Western Digital’s flagship line of mechanical HDDs and was first introduced in 2003 as the ‘Raptor’ which was then also the first 10,000RPM SATA drive in the world. As such, the VelociRaptor comes with a bit of heritage and were in fact very popular amongst enthusiasts. The new VelociRaptor that was made available early last month comes in three capacities - 250GB, 500GB and 1TB - and the one we have in our labs is the 1TB version.
Physically, the new VelociRaptor is not that different from the model it replaces. Although the drive itself is effectively of a 2.5-inch form factor, it is mounted on a specially-designed "IcePack" mounting frame which acts as a heatsink for the fast spinning drive and is what gives the drive its 3.5-inch form factor. The drive is made in a 2.5-inch form factor because it's difficult to control and design larger platters (such as those on 3.5-inch drives) spinning at such insanely fast speeds at close distances without developing severe problems. As such, the drive mounted on the IcePack to form its final 3.5-inch form factor bodes well for it.
Underneath the familiar form factor, the new VelociRaptor still spins at 10,000RPM but this has been complemented by a larger 64MB cache and a new controller. Lastly, the VelociRaptor also uses the latest SATA 6Gbps interface for the quickest possible transfers. These improvements should boost the drive’s performance and help bridge the gap between traditional mechanical HDDs and SSDs.