|Introduction & Specifications|
|While we were testing the WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo, a funny thing happened. At one point, we reflected on our first external hard drive--a 40GB unit salvaged from a laptop--and remarked at how quaint it seems in comparison to WD's powerful, spacious storage beast. Indeed, external storage has come a long way in a relatively short time. Hampered in the past by relatively slow interfaces such as USB and FireWire, Intel’s Thunderbolt interface promises comparatively blazing fast speeds, and available storage capacities are now in the multi-terabyte range.
Thunderbolt, originally dubbed “Light Peak”, is a dual-protocol interface that combines PCI-Express and DisplayPort into one metaprotocol with bi-directional speeds of up to 10Gbps. The technology makes even the relatively speedy USB 3.0 interface (5Gbps) look downright pokey by comparison.
The technology supports 8 channels of HD audio, daisy-chaining, and hot-plugging and was co-developed by Intel and Apple. Although Apple got first dibs on implementing the new speedy interface on its products, plenty of other manufacturers were involved early on as well, including Western Digital.
What would you do if you were a storage company and had this next-gen I/O technology in hand? Probably more or less what Western Digital has done, which is to make an external storage device that teams Thunderbolt’s impressive interface bandwidth with a pair of the company's fastest 1TB VelociRaptor 10,000RPM HDDs. WD calls it the My Book VelociRaptor Duo.
WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo
These days, 2TB of external storage capacity in a single unit isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s certainly spacious enough for most users. Capacity is only a small part of the story here, however. WD focused on performance, with the Thunderbolt interface (including a second port for daisy-chaining) and the two 10,000RPM VelociRaptor drives spinning inside.
One of the convenient features of the VelociRaptor Duo is that it’s user-serviceable, so you can easily open up the unit and swap drives in or out--not that you’re going to want to replace those snappy 10,000RPM drives anytime soon.
There’s not much in the box, which is to be expected with an external unit such as this one; it contains a three-foot Thunderbolt cable, AC adapter, and a little installation guide.
|A Closer Look & Features|
|The My Book VelociRaptor Duo is, like most of WD’s large-capacity external desktop units, a boxy affair. It’s virtually all matte black plastic except for a wide gray stripe that covers the top, back, and bottom and features a stylish grill design to allow heat to escape.
The top is hinged to allow access to the drives, and the back features the two Thunderbolt ports, an AC jack, and a lock port.
To get to the drives, you push the gray button on top, and the cover pops open and swings out of your way; note that one should be careful here, as the top is rather flimsy and could be easily broken.
Next, there’s a thumbscrew that needs to be loosened, and then the cage will come out with a firm, even pull. Use one of the pull tabs to gently tug a drive out. To put it all back together, you just perform the above steps in reverse, although it’s worth noting that the cage was a little tricky to fit back on properly.
With both drives installed, the My Book VelociRaptor Duo is somewhat heavy at 4.18 lbs, but considering that this is a desktop unit that’s not designed to go anywhere, that’s actually a good thing; between the weight and the sturdy rubber feet underneath, the VelociRaptor Duo won’t easily be accidentally knocked over nor slide around your workspace.
When in operation, we found that the VelociRaptor Duo was rather noisy and generated quite a bit of heat. The top grill area was always noticeably warm to the touch, and the Thunderbolt connector and the area of the unit around it were downright hot, so much so that it was uncomfortable to touch it for more than a few seconds. Loud and hot are ideal attributes for a summer rock concert perhaps, but not so much for an external storage unit.
|Test Setup and ATTO Disk Benchmarks|
|Our Test Methodologies: Under each test condition, the drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with an SSD for the OS and benchmark installations. Our testbed's motherboard was updated with the latest BIOS available as of press time and AHCI mode was enabled. The drives inside the external storage unit were left blank without partitions wherever possible, unless a test required them to be partitioned and formatted, as was the case with our ATTO, PCMark 7, and CrystalDiskMark benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle before invoking a test.
As we mentioned earlier, the My Book VelociRaptor Duo is geared for Macs, and the unit ships with the drives striped in a RAID 0 array for maximum performance and formatted with the HFS + Journaled file system. Because we tested the device in the Windows environment as well, we had to reformat to NTFS, and because of the current lack of support for Windows we had to test with the drives set up as JBOD. We’ve been told that a firmware update enabling RAID in Windows is coming, but it wasn’t ready in time for us to test it out. Thus, note that our normal spate of performance numbers we're showing here will go up when the drives are striped in RAID 0.
** RAID 0 and Mac Testing: We did, however, also run a couple of tests with a MacBook Pro, so you can at least see some hard numbers on read and write speeds with RAID 0 configured.
ATTO is a "quick and dirty" type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. We chose .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes and a queue depth of 6 over a total max volume length of 256MB. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure raw bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc. This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with default NTFS partitions in Windows 7 x64.
In both the read and write tests, the My Book VelociRaptor Duo got off to a rather slow start, but once the test got past the 4K transfer size mark, it exploded. The only drive in our test bank that did better was another 1TB VelociRaptor SATA hard drive, which was mounted as an internal drive.
|CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers. It provides a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to drive performance, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers.
We see more of the same in our CrystalDiskMark tests; for the most part, the My Book VelociRaptor Duo posts scores a step or two below the SATA-connected VelociRaptor but easily outpaces the rest of the field.
One exception is in the 4K transfer (read) test, where the WD VelociRaptor 600GB (noticing a VelociRaptor-heavy theme here?) delivered an ever-so-slightly better score than our test unit.
|PCMark 7 Storage Benchmarks|
|We really like PCMark 7's Secondary Storage benchmark module for its pseudo real-world application measurement approach to testing. PCMark 7 offers a trace-based measurement of system response times under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system operation. From simple application start-up performance, to data streaming from a drive in a game engine, and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel more comfortable that these tests reasonably illustrate the performance profile of a hard drive in an end-user / consumer PC usage model, more so than a purely synthetic transfer test.
PCMark 7 is more of a real-world benchmark than some of the synthetic tests we use. Since Western Digital has positioned the My Book VelociRaptor Duo as ideal for creative professionals who need “extreme” performance, we’ll give the scores above here a little more weight in terms of what to expect out of this external storage system.
As you can see, although there is less separation across the field in the Secondary Storage scores, the VelociRaptor is again out in front, but the My Book VelociRaptor Duo is just a hair behind.
|Mac RAID 0 Performance Testing|
|As we mentioned before, because the WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo is not yet fully supported in Windows 7, we aren’t yet able to test the external storage system in RAID 0 on our usual test platforms. However, we were able to test the unit with a Thunderbolt-packing MacBook Pro, and Mac OS X does indeed support RAID 0.
These numbers won’t compare directly to our usual benchmark metrics, but they do show the performance of both VelociRaptor drives running in a striped array.
We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention how incredibly easy it is to configure the My Book VelociRaptor Duo in whatever supported RAID configuration you want; it takes just a few clicks of WD's intuitive Utilities application.
In the Disk Speed Test, you can see that read and write speeds just about double from our other tests, as we expected--to 373 MBps read and 350.5 MBps write. Impressive.
Once again we see in the QuickBench test that the WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo managed to hit expectations, and it actually performed better than in the Disk Speed Test, delivering an average of 382.6 MBps read and 362.56 MBps write. At these speeds, HD video editing should move along swimmingly.
|Our Summary & Conclusion|
|Performance Summary: The VelociRaptor 1TB (10,000 RPM) drives ensconced in the Western Digital My Book VelociRaptor Duo delivered performance that was comparable to (but not exactly equal to) the same type of drive set up as an internal drive. There were a couple of notable performance differences, however. Note again that there is not yet RAID support for the VelociRaptor Duo in Windows, so once that firmware update comes through and you can stripe both HDDs in RAID 0, expect roughly double the performance in Windows, as we demonstrated in our Mac OS X testing.
Running with a Mac, the unit delivered on the performance promise of a RAID 0 configuration. Does it match the performance of a high-end SSD? No, but it’s not terribly far off either. You also get the notable benefit of spacious 2TB storage that can hit raw bandwidth numbers in the area of 350MB/sec. For the Mac platform, the WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo is one of the fastest external personal storage devices on the market currently.
The My Book VelociRaptor Duo itself features an attractive enough design considering that it’s essentially just a simple rectangular box, and although some of the plastic pieces feel flimsy, Western Digital gets high marks for making it easy to switch drives in or out. However, we didn’t like how much heat the unit generated, particularly around the actual Thunderbolt port; the device seems like it could use a fan--which of course would unfortunately add a layer of unwanted noise and draw more power. So it goes.
Western Digital does offer a three-year limited warranty on the My Book VelociRaptor Duo, which should be music to the ears of anyone who's used an external storage device for any length of time. Your data is priceless of course, but at least your hardware is covered. Mac users looking for data redundancy can setup a RAID 1 for a little more peace of mind. Again, we're hopeful RAID support comes to Windows platforms soon.
Finally, there’s the issue of price: this bad boy lists at $899.99 MSRP. That’s awfully steep, but bear in mind that other external storage systems typically have 7200RPM drives installed, instead of the 10,000RPM drives that the VelociRaptor Duo has. The premium you’re paying is for the extra throughput and the relatively new Thunderbolt interface that can support the higher speed transfers.
High cost and a couple of rather minor complaints aside, the My Book VelociRaptor Duo is designed with a certain type of user in mind, and for that specific segment, Western Digital offers seriously fast external storage over the fastest external PC link available on the market today. Mac-powered Video Production mavens should be all over this storage device, though you've got to pay to play.