WD VelociRaptor [WD6000HLHX] Review

May 3, 2010

When it comes to fast storage, Western Digital aren't willing to accept that the only way forward is a solid state drive. Instead, they're pushing forward with the VelociRaptor series, a range of traditional platter-based hard-drives spinning at high speed and promising SSD-style transfer rates but HDD-style prices per gigabyte. Is the latest Western Digital VelociRaptor WD6000HLHX top of the food chain or overdue for extinction? Check out the full SlashGear review after the cut.

Western Digital slot the VelociRaptor WD6000HLHX into their enterprise range, but they're also clear that it's an enthusiasts drive. Among those enthusiasts are speed-freak gamers looking to balance transfer rates against storage capacity, together with home server builders demanding the same sort of performance as their corporate cousins.

The new WD6000HLHX offers 600GB of capacity, paired with 32MB of cache, and uses the latest SATA 6 Gb/s interface. A 2.5-inch drive in a 3.5-inch "IcePack" caddy, it spins at a whopping 10,000 rpm and Western Digital reckon you'll see 3.6ms read seek times, 4.2ms write seek times, and just 3.0ms latency. The caddy, meanwhile, bristles with cooling fins that work as a huge heatsink and also allow you to mount the drive. It's worth noting that, while the core HDD is a 2.5-inch unit, it's too thick to fit into most notebooks.

In a desktop though - and one with a 6 Gb/s SATA interface, of course - the improvement over previous VelociRaptor drives is more than just speed. Read rates averaged out at around 98 Mb/s with burst rates of around 150 Mb/s, while write rates came in at around 92 Mb/s with burst rates of around 147 Mb/s. That added up to apps loading significantly quicker, as you'd expect from a fast drive, but also in-app performance being higher than comparable HDDs; storage-intensive tasks, such as heavy duty video crunching or adding large quantities of media to libraries.

However the WD6000HLHX is also a surprisingly quiet drive; Western Digital quote 30 dBA when idle or 37 dBA when under load, and while that makes for louder storage than an SSD, it's nonetheless quieter than most slower-spinning drives we've used. Assuming whatever workstation you're using it with has more than a couple of fans, you can pretty much count out hearing the VelociRaptor when it's idle.

Finally there's power, and though the VelociRaptor can't quite match the green-credentials of some of Western Digital's own "Caviar Green" range, it's still more frugal than we expected. Although they quote 5W when idle, we found it more in the range of 4.0W to 4.3W; that'll obviously rise when active. Still, it shouldn't break the bank in terms of ongoing power costs.

Of course, those ongoing costs are only encountered when you get past the not-inconsiderable sticker price of the WD6000HLHX. The 600GB drive is currently listed for around $279.99, which is a high for platter-based GB/$ but competitive against the SSDs Western Digital are pitting the VelociRaptor line. It's worth noting that you'll need a suitably upbeat system to pair the HDD with if you want to see the benefit of its capabilities; that's not just a SATA 6 Gb/s port, but a decent processor and ample RAM. It'll also do better with a fresh system install, rather than swapping the drive out from your existing setup, and we've a feeling many users - and their wallets - would be content with the SATA 3 Gb/s model from the same range.

Overkill for most home users, then, but if your priority is speed and you're looking at building a performance RAID array then the VelociRaptor WD6000HLHX makes for a more cost-effective and capacious choice than an SSD. As long as you don't expect it to be a silver bullet dropped into a mediocre existing system - it can't work miracles, after all - there's plenty to like about the WD6000HLHX.

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