Western Digital's Velociraptor series of hard drives have always occupied a specific niche. They are the first and only 10,000rpm desktop drives on the market, and have a long history of being the drive of choice for enthusiasts (while also being a cheap solution for enterprise).
Speed vs capacity
The tradeoff for such speed has historically been small capacity. Unfortunately though this niche is now being taken over by Solid State Drives. There is no way that a mechanical hard drive can come close to the performance of the flash memory powered SSDs. So it is unsurprising that the new generation of Velociraptor drives, announced overnight, double the capacity of the previous generation of product.
Two new models have been announced, with capacities of 450GB and 600GB. While this is still small compared to 7200rpm drives that are now hitting 2TB, it is a significant leap over the previous generation of Velociraptors (which came in 150GB and 300GB varieties).
It isn't just a capacity increase however. These drives use the new SATA 6GB/s standard and come with 32MB of cache. While this means that reading from the drive cache is ultra-quick, the extra bandwidth means very little as mechanical hard drives have never even come close to saturating the bandwidth delivered by previous generations of Serial ATA.
So while SSDs gain traction as the fastest option for operating system drives, the increased capacity on the new Velociraptors means that they are now much more viable to use for secondary drives. While mechanical drives won't really gain much from the new SATA 6GB/s standard, the Velociraptors are still the fastest ones on the market.
As always these performance drives come at a price. We are still waiting to hear back from Western Digital on local pricing, but the announcement has the 450GB model coming in at US$299 and the 600GB model priced at US$329.
[Update]: We just heard back from Western Digital with the Australian pricing for the new Velociraptors. The 450GB model will retail for $379 and the 600GB model for $419.