If PC enthusiasts had a hall of fame for hardware, Western Digital's Raptor hard drive would be a shoo-in. Storage-related products are usually a little short on sex appeal, but the Raptor has become an icon, a testament to what it means to be an enthusiast.
Like many enthusiast legends, the Raptor started with enterprise-class hardware designed for corporate server rooms. Western Digital, a plucky desktop drive maker with no background in SCSI hardware that dominated the enterprise scene at the time, came to bat with the world's first 10K-RPM Serial ATA hard drive. The original Raptor didn't usurp the enterprise crown from well-established SCSI players, but its performance blew away every other Serial ATA hard drive on the market. What's more, the Raptor plugged into standard desktop motherboards, delivering near-SCSI performance without the need for expensive expansion cards.
Enthusiasts were so hungry for the performance delivered by the Raptor's 10K-RPM spindle speeds that we were willing to live with the drive's anemic 36GB capacity. That capacity slowly grew over time, with Western Digital upping the Raptor to 74GB in 2004 and 150GB two years later. The Raptor's last refresh was a couple of years ago, though, and the drive has fallen behind a new wave of terabyte wonders whose crazy-high areal densities deliver phenomenal performance even at 7,200 RPM.
Western Digital wasn't about to let a performance icon get beaten by run-of-the-mill desktop drives, and certainly not by ones manufactured by companies that also make washing machines, so they've rolled out an all-new Raptor. Specifically targeted at enthusiasts, the VelociRaptor VR150 breaks bold new ground by bringing 10K-RPM spindle speeds to a 2.5" drive buried inside a heatsink that slides into a standard 3.5" drive bay. Read on to see why this is a brilliantly ambitious idea and whether it allows the VelociRaptor to reclaim the crown of fastest Serial ATA hard drive on the market.