Western Digital Raptor WD740GD Hard Drive Review

Today we are playing host to Western Digital's Raptor WD740GD 74.8GB Hard Drive which includes an impressive list of features such as 10,000 RPM, SATA connectivity and Command Tag Queuing and it is the fastest consumer level Hard Drive we've tested. We compare it against two Seagate 7,200 RPM PATA and SATA drives.
| Mar 8, 2004 at 11:00 pm CST
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: Western Digital

Raptor WD740GD - Introduction

IntroductionWestern Digital have been firmly established within the hard drive sector of the market for quite a long time now, beginning with their "Centaur" series of ATA and XT attachment drives back in 1988 if memory serves correctly. Only a few years later (1991 I believe) they hit a milestone with the release of their highly successful "Caviar" series of hard drives which used the latest in embedded servo and computerized diagnostic systems. Along with earning an excellent reputation for their corporate structure over the following years, they have (more so recently) started to focus on implementing future integrated technologies in order to keep a firm grasp on a unique segment of the hard drive industry.A perfect example of their now continuous efforts to stay ahead of competing manufacturers was to boldly go where no other company has with the release of their "Raptor" 10,000 RPM SATA series some nine months ago. SATA was still in the midst of maturing in the mainstream market at that stage but WD knew it wouldn't be long before more people began to take advantage of the several benefits the interface has to offer. Initially aimed at low-end servers and workstations, the hot swappable capabilities of the SATA interface was an indefinite necessity so this allowed them to enforce their decision. Although the first Raptor was an outstanding product in the way of its 10,000 RPM goodness, it lacked a couple of things that would have helped with its success. Due to its somewhat limited storage capacity (36GB), many couldn't warrant the price tag in conjunction with this, 10,000 RPM or not. Second of all, a feature many of you are probably not yet fully aware of is "Command Tag Queuing", something the first Raptor lacked. "What the hell is that?" I hear many of you say. Without getting too technical, it optimizes the sequence of which data transfers take place from the host controller to the hard drive which effectively increases overall efficiency. This in turn provides higher performance and throughput, also minimizing rotational and drive seek latency by allowing simultaneous data transfer between commands.With these issues rectified along with several other additional enhancements, Western Digital knew they'd be clearly enforcing the crown within their own unique category of performance hard disk drives, there was never any doubt the demand was there. In saying all of this, it's time for me to spit it out, the WD740GD. Bigger, faster, better - it's everything the first Raptor wasn't. This is the puppy we have on the test bed for your reading pleasure today. Let's see how it fairs as a successor to its sibling, starting with the specifications.

Raptor WD740GD - Specifications and Overview of Features

SpecificationsInterface: - ESATARotation speed: - 10,000 RPMBuffer size: - 8MBFormatted Capacity: - 74,356 MBNumber of platters: - 2Number of Heads (Physical): - 2Bytes per sector: - 512Average Read Seek - 4.5msTrack-to-Track Seek - 0.7ms (avg)Overview of FeaturesWhen comparing the specifications of the new drive and its smaller brother, we see a few differences. Aside from the obvious increase in storage capacity, the seek timings of the new drive are slightly better with the average read seek time reduced to 4.5ms. That's quite a significant speed boost over the original Raptor, 0.7ms faster in fact.Second of all, the WD740GD houses two platters as opposed to the single platter on the previous drive. The fact that its storage capacity is twice as large explains this obvious change. The platters themselves on the new drive also feature a slightly higher bit density which in turn helps to result in higher read speeds.
Another noteworthy change is the implementation of a fluid bearing motor over that of the ball bearing one used in the original WD360GD. This would undoubtedly play a role in how quiet the drive operates as it helps to alleviate vibration along with the high pitched whining noise heard with many ball bearing hard drives on the market, this being merely due to metal-against-metal. Obviously the fluid bearing design separates the direct contact which one would assume dampens down what would normally have been a major cause of these issues.Finally, as was pointed out earlier, we see the inclusion of Command Queuing. A feature previously seen only across the SCSI range of hard drives but is new territory for the IDE/ATA sector. It should also be mentioned that WD allow this feature to be utilized only through its firmware (in other words, software), as opposed to the feature on many SCSI drives being controlled via a dedicated hardware implementation. How this would affect the drive's ability in this area is not currently known, but at the end of the day, the feature is resident on this drive and it works in exactly the same manner.
Looking at the back of the drive, we still see the 4-pin molex connector there, which tells the same story the original Raptor did. The drive isn't natively a SATA disk. Why? Well for one, a native SATA drive only allows power connectivity via its unique lower power consuming 15-pin connection.
Secondly, if you turn the drive upside down and take a look at the PCB, you'll still spot the same implementation of Marvell's 88i8030 SATA to PATA Bridge used with the first-gen Raptor. What is it? Basically it is there to interface PATA to SATA, essentially meaning that the drive itself is based around PATA technology. This is nothing to be alarmed about though because with current drive technology being performance-limited by other factors (platter speeds, firmware, and mechanical design), even a traditional ATA100 PATA interface isn't utilized to the fullest of its potential. Thus, performance of the drive isn't influenced by the method in which it talks to the controller, but rather the design of the drive itself.Now let's move on to the section you've all been waiting for, benchmarks!

Raptor WD740GD - Benchmarks - Test System Setup and SiSoft Sandra

Testing InformationFor our testing phase, we decided to compare the new Raptor with a couple of Seagate Barracuda 7200.7's using the Intel ICH5R controller on an ABIT IC7 MAX3 motherboard. This is so you can get a reasonably good indication of how much faster it performs to that of more common desktop drives found in the majority of people's systems at the moment. The two Seagate drives differ in that one is a slightly older 80GB PATA, and the other a newer 160GB SATA drive. Now we move on to the test bed used for our benching activities.Test System SetupMotherboard: ABIT IC7 MAX3Processor(s): Intel Pentium 4 3GHz (800MHz FSB with HT enabled) (Supplied by Intel)Memory: 2 x 256mb Mushkin PC4000 (Supplied by Mushkin)Video Card: GeCube Radeon 9800 XT 256MB (Supplied by Kingmax Technology)Operating System Used: Windows XP Professional SP1Drivers Used: Intel INF 5.00.1012Software Used: SiSoft Sandra 2004 and HDTach v2.70We initially intended to provide more results using other various benching methods, but soon after came to realize that none of the other methods would allow us to demonstrate the direct performance characteristics of the drive without non-related factors coming into play such as hard drive fragmentation, CPU influenced tasks, etc. We feel that the two dedicated hard disk benchmarking utilities used here are enough to provide you with a clear perspective on the drive's overall performance without being impacted by other irrelevant elements.SiSoft Sandra 2004SiSoft Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) 2004 is a synthetic windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
Here is where it all comes together. The first bench is already showing us the Raptor's sheer domination against the mainstream Seagate drives, coming in 25MB/sec faster than Seagate's 160GB SATA drive for its buffered read test. As you can also clearly see here, the difference in performance between the SATA and PATA Seagate drives is negligible.
In this case, we actually see Seagate's PATA drive slightly out-perform its SATA brother, but still struggles to come even remotely close to that of the Raptor.
The random read tests always bring hard drives down to their knees. Nonetheless, in this instance we still see the Raptor performing at double the speed the Seagate's are capable of.

Raptor WD740GD - Benchmarks - HD Tach

HD TachHD Tach has been around for a long time and is excellent when it comes to testing hard drive performance. It is also a very handy program when it comes to testing the controller used on particular motherboards. Tests such as Read, CPU Utilization and Burst are available at a click of the button and give you a good idea of how the hard drive can perform from system to system.To be sure we achieved accurate figures between the drives, we ran each of the following tests three times and averaged out the results.
Here we see the Raptor well and truly shine against the other two drives, showing us a 4.8ms advantage over the SATA Seagate drive, with the PATA drive trailing behind. Not too shabby at all!
In this case, we see some extreme results from the Raptor with a whopping read burst speed of just over 118MB/sec. That's a burst speed increase of more than 30MB/sec over the other drives.
Once again, we still see the Raptor clearly ahead of the 7,200 RPM Seagate's with its average read speed still being higher than the other drives maximum read speeds. You'll notice that the Seagate PATA's max read speed is slightly higher than the SATA drive, but otherwise falling behind.
All three drives in this test show superb results with very little CPU being used to push massive amounts of data. Understandably, the 10k Raptor brings more to the table in the way of overall performance so give a little take a little; this is why you see it eating up slightly more in the way of resources.

Raptor WD740GD - Heat Dissipation and Noise

Heat DissipationWe were able to measure the temperatures on each of the drives with our trusty RayTek Laser Temperature gun by simply pointing the laser at the top centre of each drive to get a reading. The temperatures for each drive were measured midway through our Sandra benchmarks; these being the last software tests we ran allowing us to achieve typical results. Room temperature was also consistent throughout the entire testing period at around 30c Celsius.
Surprisingly, even though the Raptor was spinning away at 10,000 revolutions per minute, it still didn't quite reach the 50c mark and was far from being too hot to the touch. Admittedly, testing was performed with the drives placed outside of a PC enclosure which helps to explain why each of them operated somewhat cooler than one would have expected. However, providing your case has half decent air flow (particularly over the hard drive bays) I think it's safe to say you've nothing to worry about in this department.NoiseIn terms of noise levels, I have to say I was struggling to hear anything coming from the Raptor at all, regardless of what tasks were being performed at the time.The whirring sound of the 9800 XT's reference fan was enough to wash out anything audible coming from the drive. It was only when I put my ear up to the drive itself that I heard its inner workings ticking away. This also applies to the Seagate drives, although already renowned for being some of the quietest drives on the market, I have to say there honestly wasn't much in it between the Raptor and the Seagate drives. Evidently, the fluid bearing motor is playing a role here too (which the first Raptor drive lacked).I'll also point out that when placed inside a case with several fans etc. this would only more so attribute to the overall quietness of the drive.

Raptor WD740GD - Conclusion

ConclusionAs has been the case for as long as I can remember, the common hard drive is one of the slowest components of a typical PC system. However, this ain't no common hard drive, proven by the results we've gathered in our test lab today. The drive never once showed any sign of failing to perform the way a 10,000 RPM drive should. In providing the results of the Seagate drives in conjunction with WD's new Raptor, you can clearly see it is leaps and bounds ahead of the mainstream market.One of the biggest "wow" factors whilst testing the drive was its astonishing boot up times. Although on a fresh installation of Windows XP, it was still clear to me that I'd never witnessed a drive this fast before. Categorized as an "enterprise-class" storage drive, it's certainly right up there, however perhaps not quite to the extent of Ultra/160 SCSI devices which many high-end servers require.Unfortunately, with all of this extra performance, there is of course a pretty price to pay, one I'm sure many will be deterred by. But there are also undoubtedly those of you who are just itching for noticeably faster loading times in their games, applications, digital video capturing and editing or what have you, all of these areas in which the Raptor really shines. Furthermore, if you wanted to go all out, there's always the option of purchasing two of these puppies for a RAID 0 array to experience some truly serious data movement.Finally, I have to commend Western Digital for being the first (once again) to cover new ground in an area where there is always demand for it. If you've the bucks to spare, you won't regret your purchase of a new Raptor.- ProsAwesome performance!Surprisingly very quiet for a 10k driveAwesome performance!Opens the door to a new breed of hard drivesAwesome performance!- ConsExpensive74GB still a bit smallRating - 9 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Performance Award

Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:26 pm CDT

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