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WD: New Thunderbolt desktop hard drive is faster than SSD

The My Book VelociRaptor Duo drive comes with a Thunderbolt cable

Western Digital (WD) today released a portable external drive for Macs and a dual-disk external desktop backup drive that it claims is faster than a solid-state drive (SSD).

WD announced the My Book VelociRaptor Duo desktop backup drive and the My Passport for Mac. The My Passport for Mac portable drive comes with one 5Gbps USB 3.0 port.

On the performance side, WD is touting its VelociRaptor Duo as king of the heap. The performance of the VelociRaptor Duo is at least as good as any consumer SSD, even though it contains hard drives, according to Ralf San Jose, WD's new branded product manager. "However, you get eight times the capacity of [the average] SSD."

This past spring, WD released 4TB and 6TB My Book Thunderbolt Duo external drives. Those desktop backup drives, however, used slower 7,200rpm WD Caviar Green internal hard drives.

The new My Book VelociRaptor Duo comes with two 10Gbps Thunderbolt ports and uses the RAIDed capacity of two 10,000rpm VelociRaptor internal hard drives.

One notable feature of the desktop VelociRaptor Duo is it comes with a Thunderbolt cable, which can typically cost up to $49.99. But the VelociRaptor Duo isn't cheap at $899.

Still, San Jose pointed out that in a price-per-gigabyte comparison, the VelociRaptor Duo comes in at 43 cents per gigabyte, while most SSDs cost anywhere from $2 to $3 per gigabyte.

In reality, some lower-capacity SSDs have fallen below $1 per gigabyte. However, the VelociRaptor Duo does more than halve the price of capacity compared with a larger SSD, and 1TB SSDs are far and few between; the ones that are available, such as OCZ's Octane, cost more than $2,400.

The My Book VelociRaptor Duo has a maximum performance of 400MB/sec for reads and 380MB/sec for writes, but because of its Thunderbolt ports, it can be daisy-chained with additional external drives to increase its performance.

WD's My Book VelociRaptor Drive daisy-chained to other hard drives using the Thunderbolt port specification

"You can daisy chain two VelociRaptor Duos together, giving you 800MB/sec for reads and 760MB/sec for writes," San Jose said. "We haven't seen performance like this in the hard drive industry pretty much until now."

By comparison, the 1TB OCZ Octane SSD sports a top speed of 460MB/sec for data reads and 330MB/sec for writes. WD's own My Book Thunderbolt Duo, which uses the two Caviar Green internal drives, has read/write speeds of 244MB/sec and 235MB/sec, respectively.

According to San Jose, using the Thunderbolt ports, the VelociRaptor Duo can transfer 2,000 5MB .mp3 files in 9 seconds, a 22GB HD movie in 65 seconds and a 5GB SD movie in 16 seconds.

By comparison, he said, transferring a 5GB SD movie using USB 2.0 (480Mbps) would take 120 seconds; with USB 3.0 (5Gbps) it would take 58 seconds; and using Thunderbolt with a single drive, it would take 58 seconds.

"To take advantage of Thunderbolt's bandwidth, you need to use two drives or daisy chain these drives together," San Jose said.

The VelociRaptor Duo comes with two 1TB drives. The internal drives can be configured as RAID 0 for performance or RAID 1 for data protection. A JBOD option allows users to connect it for running Windows OS on a MAC.

The 2TB dual-drive desktop system is being pitched by WD as ideal for editing high resolution video, 3D rendering, graphic design and other demanding digital media applications. "Photographers, graphic designers and post-production professionals can conduct several high-intensity tasks such as video editing [and] 3D rendering, while completing other graphics-intensive projects," WD said in a statement.

The VelociRaptor Duo comes pre-configured for Apple's Time Machine backup feature -- the HFS + Journaled format for Mac. Users can reformat the drive for a Windows-friendly File Allocation Table (FAT).

The drives can also be easily changed out with the push of a release button.

My Passport for Mac portable drive

The other drive WD announced today is the upgraded My Passport for Mac, a backup drive that's also pre-configured for use by Time Machine and it comes in 500GB, 1TB and 2TB capacities.

Previous iterations of the My Passport for Mac drive had a maximum capacity of 1TB and used the USB 2.0 port specification. The new version uses USB 3.0 offers a 10-fold improvement in bandwidth over USB 2.0, according to the USB specification.

WD's My Passport for Mac portable hard drive

In reality, with overhead included, the USB 3.0 port can reduce data transfer time by up to three times when compared to USB 2.0 transfer rates, WD said.

Just as with its predecessor, the My Passport for Mac comes with WD's security utility, which can be used to set password protection and hardware encryption and protect files from unauthorized use or access.

WD is pitching the My Passport for Mac as their highest-capacity portable hard drive. The drive is 3.24 inches wide, 4.26 inches long and 0.82 of an inch thick.

My Passport for Mac drives have a suggested retail price of $99.99 for the 500GB model, $129.99 for the 1TB model and $199.99 for the 2TB drive.

Both the My Passport for Mac and the My Book VelociRaptor Due come with three-year warranties.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is [email protected].

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

Read more about data storage in Computerworld's Data Storage Topic Center.


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