The benchmarks we've shown in the last few pages speak loudly, as the new Western Digital Raptor is undoubtedly the best performing Serial ATA/150 hard disk WD has ever released. Since the original Raptor was the previous performance king, the new 74GB Raptor just exceeds on the performance gains WD already has over the compeitition, as the WD740GD proves itself to be the best performing non-SCSI drive on the market. The performance gains made by the WD740GD were even better compared to what we were expecting and are impressive any way you look at them. On a drive-to-drive level, the 74GB Raptor is about 10% faster compared to the 36GB Raptor, which is quite an improvement considering they have the same spindle speed and cache amount.
The fact that Western Digital has also managed to make these drives quieter is also just as impressive. The Raptors no longer have their high-pitched whine (which honestly, wasn’t that bad, but was mildly annoying), making the WD740GD quiet enough for most silent PC systems. While Maxtor DiamondMax and Seagate Barracuda will still remain slightly quieter, the performance increase one will see over these drives with the 74GB Raptor will very much be worth the slight increase in noise and heat.
Of course, let's not forget that the Raptor is still quite expensive. In terms of price to performance, there are certainly much better drives on the market, but if you want the best that Serial ATA/150 has to offer, the WD740GD is most certainly it. For those who want a comparison, the 74GB Raptor is actually more expensive compared to a 250GB Western Digital Caviar SE drive. Price conscious, it is not.
Hooking all these drives up to a high-end RAID card was really quite fun, and we were amazed at how much data these drives can push when configured correctly. A simple two RAID-0 setup of 74GB Raptors can peak out at 130 MB/s, while a six disk RAID-0 or RAID-50 setup can push 200-215 MB/s. That’s some serious storage horsepower there, folks. Again, for comparison, a single WD Caviar drive can push around 50 MB/s at its peak.
Honestly though, LSI Logic’s MegaRAID card didn’t impress us that much, nor did their RAID-5 and RAID-50 implementations. If given the choice, we would head on over to 3Ware’s camp any day. It is very clear to us though that if you’re going to use more than two Raptor drives, the standard PCI bus will become a bottleneck. Moving to 64-bit PCI controller doubled and in some cases nearly tripled our peak transfer rates with a bunch of Raptor drives attached, showing very visible performance increases. As for RAID-50, well, it’s impressive in terms of disk read speeds, but disk write performance left something to be desired. A little too overly complex for us, but setting up a RAID-50 array gave us an interesting look into the world of high-end workstation-class RAID.
Maxtor and Seagate should really start thinking about a competing product before Western Digital gets too far ahead in this market. The high-end Serial ATA/150 market is now in Western Digital’s hands, and it’s their market to lose. Congrats to WD for upping the ante.
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