Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The main bullet point that stands out with the Raptor Series is the rotational speed. The new VelociRaptor retains its 10,000 RPM platter speed, giving the drive unparalleled access time for a consumer drive. In a nutshell, information is requested by the system and the hard drives' controller then needs to pull the information. Once the address is located, the heads (the part that reads the data) move into position. The platters then need to rotate to the area where the data is stored. This action takes only milliseconds, but when several items are requested milliseconds turn into seconds and seconds to minutes. The faster a drives platter rotates, the faster the access time of your data.
Physically, the VelociRaptor has changed a great deal. Most of the changes will be looked at in greater detail when we get to the product images section, starting on the next page. To start with, the VelociRaptor has transformed into a true enterprise product that is stuffed in a 2.5 inch casing like many SAS drives. It is important not to confuse 2.5 inch notebook drives with the enterprise standard since the enterprise drives are a little taller than notebook drives. There is also an issue with power; notebook drives use 5 volts and enterprise drives 12 volts. Some notebooks will physically accept the new VelociRaptor, but in theory will not provide enough power.
One big advantage of the 2.5 inch standard is that you can fit more drives in the same amount of space. A couple of companies make consumer friendly 5.25 inch drive bays that fit 4 hard drives in the same amount of space a typical CD/DVD drive uses.
The secondary advantage of moving to 2.5 inches is the new VelociRaptor comes with a 3.5 inch bracket that doubles as a heatsink. 2.5 inch drives typically produce less heat at 10,000 RPMs than most 7,200 RPM full size drives, but the additional cooling is welcome. Acoustic noise and vibration is also reduced when moving to 2.5 inches, a problem with some of the earlier drives and one enthusiast that I know calls the first and second generation Raptors "Rock Grinders".
In recent press releases Western Digital announced a couple of purchasing options. The first comes from the enterprise nature of the Raptor. It is possible to buy the drive bare as a 2.5 inch enterprise variant or with the 3.5 inch adaptor/heatsink. The first versions of the bracket placed the drive in the middle while putting the drive out of spec for 3.5 inch drives when it came to the location of the connectors; this will be covered in the Product Images Area in more detail. The latest Western Digital press release states that an updated bracket will bring the drive back into 3.5 inch compliance for use in systems with backplanes such as NAS and server systems.
Like the previous 150 and 74 Raptors, it is possible to purchase a VelociRaptor with a smaller capacity; this is done by reducing the amount of platters in the drive. This coupled with two versions with a bracket and a 2.5 inch bare drive gives us six product SKUs just in retail form. Currently the only version I have been able to find for sale is the version reviewed here which carries an MSRP and current e-tail price of 299.99.