Western Digital's (WD) Raptor line of performance hard drives are the stuff of legend. They combine the high spindle speed and performance of more expensive server hard drives with the cheap, simple, and consumer centric SATA connection of home user systems in a combination that enthusiasts have lapped up. The first drives were a revelation at the time of their release and they still have a dedicated fan base to this day. Quite simply, if speed rather than capacity was your motivating factor, and you didn't want to get into the expensive and complicated world of SCSI, a Raptor was the way to go.
Now, the only drawback with Raptors has been their capacity, or their lack thereof. The first Raptor was released in 2003 when the largest hard drives were hitting 200GB+. The Raptor WD360, though, was a piffling 37GB. When a revised version, the WD740, was released in 2004 it still only doubled the capacity to 74GB and a further revision, the WD1500 (or Raptor X), in 2006 again doubled this to 150GB - but by this point other hard drives were hitting 500GB+. Now, a further two years on with hard drive capacities reaching over 1TB and SSDs starting to nip at the Raptor's rapidly aging heels, Western Digital has finally released a new Raptor; the WD3000, or VelociRaptor - a nice name I'm sure you'll agree.
The VelociRaptor, then, is the fourth generation of Raptor and looking at the spec sheet you'd be forgiven for thinking it just another minor tweak of previous versions:
Double capacity - Check.
SATA interface - Check.
10,000RPM spindle speed - Check.
Same price as previous model - Check.
However, one quick look at the above picture and you realise that there's been quite a rethink on WD's part. No longer is the Raptor a conventional 3.5in hard drive, instead the mechanics are stored inside what looks like a standard 2.5in notebook hard drive chassis with the rest of the VelociRaptor's bulk being made up of an enormous heat sink.
The reason I say, 'what looks like' is because the 2.5inch housing is actually thicker than a conventional notebook hard drive, at 15mm. This means you won't be able to upgrade your existing notebook's storage but it does leave the option open for OEMs to mount the hard drive in smaller than usual custom chassis - whether they be desktop or notebook.
While for most enthusiast users this change will be of little consequence there is one fundamental problem - the position of the SATA connectors has changed. This means you can't use the VelociRaptor in conventional 3.5in hotswap hard drive mounts, like those used on servers and some enthusiast cases. The drive itself does at least conform to 2.5in server drive specifications, if you remove the heatsink, so will fit in more modern servers but you should make sure to double check before buying. Also, if you have an external hard drive enclosure, whether 2.5inch or 3.5inch, you'll likely find the VelociRaptor doesn't fit, which is a pain if you quickly want to transfer some files.