The 150GB Raptor still features the signature 10,000rpm spin speed and the buffer has been increased from 8MB to 16MB, but the big news is the addition of NCQ (Native Command Queuing).
I tested the WD1500ADFD against a WD360GD and WD740GD on an Intel test platform, which used a Intel D975XBX motherboard with a 3.46GHz Pentium Extreme Edition processor and 1GB of PC5300 Samsung memory. For benchmarking I used HD Tach 3, a file copy test and PCMark05 and the results were impressive.
Sure enough, the 150GB Raptor is faster in every department than the earlier drives. Of course, you’d expect that as we are comparing it with drives that are more than two years old, so we also tested it against a more recent Hitachi T7K250. This 250GB drive is also a twin platter design featuring NCQ but has a 7,200rpm spin speed and an 8MB data buffer. The Hitachi has the same operating noise level as the Raptors but runs slightly cooler and in performance terms it falls somewhere between the 36GB and 74GB Raptors but looks positively slow compared to the 150GB Raptor.
The testing showed what we expected, which leaves the small matter of cost. At the time it launched, the WD360 cost £130 and even though it has now come down to £75 it still costs over £2 per Gigabyte. The WD740 was about £250 at launch and has since come down to £116 which is £1.57 per Gigabyte while the 150GB Raptor is £1.32 per Gigabyte, or £1.61 for the RaptorX if you feel the need. This makes WD1500ADFD the fastest and best value Raptor that you can buy.
The Hitachi 77K250 costs less than £80 though, which works out to a mere 30p per Gigabyte. It’s hard to claim that the Raptor is four times better than the Hitachi (and similar drives) – it’s not – but it’s still a relatively inexpensive way to add a few per cent extra performance to your PC. This is bolstered by the fact that the 150GB capacity is large enough that you aren’t forced to build a RAID array to get a C drive that can hold both Windows and your games.
The new 150GB Raptor is the fastest SATA hard drive that money can buy. It is extremely impressive and the capacity is now respectable, but you have to pay a high premium for the extra speed.