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Raptor drive takes swipe at retail

Western Digital begins targeting PC enthusiasts with its best-performing hard drive, which was originally introduced for servers.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
3 min read
Western Digital on Tuesday began targeting PC enthusiasts with its best-performing hard drive, originally introduced for servers.

The drive manufacturer said its WD Raptor hard drive will sell for $249 in special kits at retail and via its online store.

The new marketing strategy is aimed at desktop PC users who are looking to upgrade their machines or build a brand new computer from scratch. The shift also allows the company to extend its reach within the vast retail market for hard drives, which was worth $425 million in revenue last year and totaled 218 million gigabytes in capacity, according to research firm NPD Techworld.

"There's a lot of opportunity there. Everyone is looking for a premium-priced product that has a distinct value proposition that can set it apart from other products," said Stephen Baker, an analyst with NPD.

The 36GB Raptor drive isn't for everyone. It offers less storage capacity than Western Digital's Caviar line of desktop drives, which range from 30GB to 250GB. But the drive maker asserts that some people will make the trade off in size for performance. For those customers, the Raptor line will deliver data much more quickly than a standard desktop hard drive due to a combination of a newer drive interface, Serial ATA, and a faster rotation speed of 10,000 revolutions per minute, Western Digital said. As rotation speed increases, performance improves.

The Raptor also offers an average latency--or lag time between a data request and the response--of 2.99 milliseconds and an average data-read seek time?basically how long it takes to locate data--of 5.2 milliseconds.

A similarly priced 160GB Caviar Special Edition drive, which rotates at 7,200 rpm, offers an average latency of 4.2 milliseconds and takes an average of 8.9 milliseconds for a read seek. Meanwhile, the Raptor's data transfer rate is a maximum of 150MB per second, compared with a maximum of 100MB per second for the Caviar drive, according to Western Digital's Web site.

Lake Forest, Calif.-based Western Digital said it decided to bring the drive to retail based on customer feedback. It introduced Raptor for servers in February.

"We have received a groundswell of interest from those upper-end users who seek the very best in computing equipment," Richard Rutledge, vice president of marketing at Western Digital, said in a statement. "The class of end-users that has traditionally embraced enterprise-class SCSI hard drives for their computing systems is now turning to Serial ATA for its increased performance and reliability. This new interface is designed for power users who enjoy video editing, digital audio applications or high-end gaming and want to push their overall system performance to its limits."

Western Digital will sell the Raptor drives in a $249 kit that includes a Serial ATA adaptor and cable, allowing the drive to be installed in a desktop. Raptor comes with a five-year warranty.

A Caviar 160GB Special Edition drive costs the same, but offers a three-year warranty. A standard Caviar drive, which uses a smaller memory buffer than the special edition drive, carries a one-year warranty.