The 10,000 RPM Scenic Drive

Review: Western Digital's latest 150GB Raptor has a clear cover that shows what's going on inside and costs as much as a half-terabyte drive. Which should you choose?

The original 37GB Raptor came onto the scene in early 2003 essentially as an entry-level enterprise server-class drive. While it failed to outdo the faster SCSI competition in the server market, the Raptor did find a warm reception from performance PC enthusiasts. And now, it seems that Western Digital has fully embraced the high-end desktop niche that gamers and case modders helped create.

In keeping with the trend of clear side covers and visible PC internals, the new Raptor features a transparent crystalline polycarbonate window on the cover. This design allows the inner workings of the head and platter assembly to remain visible while the drive is in motion without the risk of electrostatic discharge and contamination.

If youre not that keen on the brassy clear cover, Western Digital also offers a non-windowed enterprise version for $50 less. Both drives share the same firmware and hardware.

Western Digital has made some changes to the Raptor that are more than skin deep. Theyve doubled the capacity of the previous WD740 to a more useable 150GB. The buffer size has also doubled from 8 to 16MB. In place of the single platter, two head setup from the 74GB version, the new Raptor X sports four heads and two platters.

With similarly priced drives promising up to half a terabyte on the market like the Seagate Barracuda and WD Caviar RE2, the Raptor X brings up an interesting question. How does this 10,000RPM screamer weigh against more moderately-performing alternatives with twice or even three times the capacity for the same price?

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