Fast desktop alternative to the WD Raptor

It's been a long time since I bought a hard drive so I've been doing a little shopping.  My primary concern is cost and performance (size really is not)  I've been looking at the ultra fast WD raptor drives but at 160 for a 150 GB drive, I can't help wondering if I can't get a larger, cheaper drive that performs nearly as well.  I was hoping I'd find an expert that had already had a similar shopping trip and could save me the time at looking at a whole bunch of reviews.
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_Connect With a Mentor Commented:
The Seagate Barracuda 500GB through 1TB and WD Caviar Black 1TB drives are pretty fast for 7200 rpm drives
Sniper98GConnect With a Mentor Commented:
If you are looking for performance in an SATA drive the western digital velociraptor 300GB drive is the current king. It trouces everthing eles on the market. The only way to get any better preformace would be to use a SCSI drive. However that peformance does come at a price. If you were looking for something that is more economical but still has really good performance; I would recomend the Seagate 7200.11 seris drives. Tom's hardware keeps charts of how most popular drives stack up against each other (,24.html) and they are usualy up near the top.
hmmmm... should have 'refreshed' first.   ; )
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The 10K RPM raptors are amazing, but depending on what you are using it for, are usually not necessary. They produce more heat and use more power than other 7,200 RMP drives. If preformance is truly your concern then check out the speeds you can get from the newer SSD drives. The preformance is sick on these little guys, of course so is the price. The only thing they do lack is drive space. Compared to the currintly available 1.5 TB 7200 RMP drives with 32 MB of cache, most people go with the one that takes years to fill.
Gary CaseConnect With a Mentor RetiredCommented:
It simple depends on which performance measure is most important to you:  access time or sustained transfer rate.

For access time, nothing comes close to the Velociraptor (4.2ms) or Raptors (4.6ms).   The best 7200 rpm drives are typically in the 8.5 - 11 ms range.   Note that it can be hard to find the access times on many modern drives -- with the "green" (lower power) drives the access time is even slower (at the 11ms end of that range).   Many drive makers are focusing on the "average latency" -- which looks good (a 7200 rpm drive has 4.2ms average latency) ==> don't be fooled by that spec ... it's meaningless -- it's simply 1/2 the time of a single drive rotation (i.e. the average time the head has to wait for the right sector once it's already been moved to the correct cylinder (i.e. the seek time).

The sustained transfer rate is the speed the drive can sustain once data begins to flow.   The better 7200 rpm drives compete very well with the Velociraptor in this area, because they have higher areal densities (i.e. the data is more tightly packed -- so even though they're rotating slower, they compete very well with a Velociraptor at sustained data transfers.   The 750GB and larger drives can typically sustain ~ 110MB/s ... very close to the 120MB/s spec for the Velociraptor.

For a FAST system drive, I'd still suggest a Velociraptor if performance is an important factor => for many transfers (e.g. swap file pages) a Velociraptor will be DONE before a 7200 rpm drive would even start (since it starts ~ 5ms earlier than the 7200 rpm drive, it can transfer 5ms worth of data (~ 600kb) before the 7200 rpm drive could seek to the proper sector.   [And once it's at the right cylinder, the Velociraptor's latency time is much better as well, since the drive's rotating at 10,000rpm, the average latency is 3ms].   You'll get notably faster boot times; quicker program loads; etc. with the Velociraptor (or a Raptor).

The counterpoint is simply that once a system has booted and your programs are loaded, the performance you'll notice is generally not much different if you're typically dealing with large files (audio, video, graphics, etc.) -- since the time to transfer the file is similar, the 5-7ms advantage a Velociraptor has at STARTING the transfers is dwarfed by the total transfer time.

Personally, I have one Raptor for the system drive; and a few 1TB (and larger) drives for everything else -- and will likely do the same with my next system.   A very nice combination :-)

Bottom line:   You won't come close to getting a "... larger, cheaper drive that performs nearly as well ..." if you factor in the access time (which is very important for booting; program loading; and small file transfers).   The combined seek time/latency advantage of the Raptors (~ 6-7ms) simply gives them too much of a head start on transfers for 7200 rpm drives to be competitive.    But the overall data transfer performance of modern drives can be competitive when you're typically dealing with larger files; and if this matches your likely use of the system, you may be willing to forgo the speed advantage of the Velociraptors for the much lower cost/GB of the larger drives.   If you're decide to do that, I'd suggest you look at the 640GB and 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black drives ... they're both excellent performers and very reasonably priced.
b_levittAuthor Commented:
The WD black is what I'm going with and the link for tom's help me confirm.  SSDs are awesome but just too expensive right now.
Thank you much.   : )

>> late breaking news
I just got one of my mags in, and the Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 is out now, and should be under $150.00 USD
That is a 1TB drive with only 2 platters (higher areal density) instead of 3 or 4 platters.
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