Seagate Constellation ES.3 4TB Enterprise Hard Drive Review

by Rob Williams on February 18, 2013 in Storage

We took a look at both of WD’s 4TB hard drive options in the past month, so it’s a great time to get some Seagate action going. The Constellation ES.3 competes with WD’s RE in the enterprise space, but it brings an interesting feature to the table: a 128MB cache. So let’s give the the drive a good test and see if it can topple the RE drive we raved over.

Final Thoughts

With our look at WD’s RE drive last month, drawing up a conclusion wasn’t too difficult. Compared to the company’s own enthusiast-bound Black 4TB, it won the proverbial race in every shape and form. Meanwhile, Seagate’s Constellation ES.3 4TB leaves us enthusiastic, but confused.

You see, based on synthetic tests alone, Seagate’s drive looks to be the hands-down winner. But it’s not until we get into our real-world transfer tests that we begin to see some oddities. While the drive managed to beat out its direct competitor in HD Tune, AIDA64 and even PCMark 7, it fell short in our folder transfer and file/folder copy tests – areas we would have believed it to excel in.

As of this article’s posting, we’ve been waiting some time to hear back from Seagate regarding the couple of oddities we discovered, but it reached a point where we couldn’t hold off on publishing any longer. If we do end up hearing back, I’ll update this page of the review and also make mention of it in our news section.

Seagate Constellation ES.3 4TB Hard Drive

At the end of the day, the areas where the ES.3 fell short are not major. It proved a bit slower in our folder transfer tests, but not too much. While it was considerably slower with file/folder copies, that sort of operation is rare for normal usage (how often do you copy / paste a piece of data on the same drive?).

That said, the fact that there are discrepancies like this at all is strange, and frustrating. Prior to wrapping up our results, I wanted to make absolutely sure that our initial results were not flukes, so I:

  • Re-installed WD’s RE drive for re-testing. Results were identical.
  • Re-installed the ES.3 for the third time. Results were identical.
  • Changed the ES.3 port from Intel to Marvell. Results were identical.

Normally, we don’t need to re-test a storage device four times over in order to feel confident in our results, but it was necessary here. If there’s one thing that drives me truly bonkers, it’s feeling a little iffy about our test results.

Seagate Constellation ES.3 4TB Hard Drive

That all aside, Seagate’s Constellation ES.3 is far from being a poor performer. It does fall a bit behind in a couple of our real-world tests, but it excelled throughout our gaming and synthetic tests (leading us to believe that it -could- outpace WD’s drive with different types of data).

Could Seagate’s odd folder and copy performance be improved with a firmware update? We’re guessing that there is a good chance it could. Is there a chance we’re experiencing some rarity performance-wise? Also yes, but as Seagate has so far been unable to comment on our results, we remain confident in them. We do hope to be corrected in the near-future, however, as this drive has huge potential and should be delivering better real-world performance than what we’re seeing.

  • JD Kane

    As someone who has a file server array at home, articles on drives like this (and its market competition) are very interesting. Hopefully TechGage will continue to cover this market segment as it hopefully continues to grow. I’ll surely be needing to change my file server’s drives, especially with a view towards expanding its storage capacity.

  • Igor Mendelev

    It would have been great if you also test different capacities (for example, 1TB and 2TB) of the same drive to see how that’ll impact performance. 2TB version also is priced very similar to 1TB Velociraptor – which makes that even more interesting.

    • Rob Williams

      If I can procure a drive like that, I’ll update the graphs. Will touch base with Seagate.

  • Matt Sferrazza

    Where did the Segate Desktop HDD.15 (4TB) go? The beginning of this article said it was going to be tested, but none of the graphs mention it.

    • Rob Williams

      I talked about the drive because it had come out during the process of reviewing this enterprise drive. At the time I didn’t have a unit, but I did review it a couple of months later:

      • Matt Sferrazza

        Dude, you rock! Both drives got a very thorough review. I appreciate it because information of this kind appeals only to a very esoteric market. After reading both articles, I decided to grab a pair of the Constellation ES.3 drives because I found a good open box deal that retains the 5yr warranty. It seems like a significantly better drive that I wouldn’t have spent full price on, but the slight price jump from the HDD.15 was worth it given the deal. Putting such a high quality drive in a RAID1 gives me peace of mind, especially with the warranty. It’s for my photo studio’s originals, plus other things like laptop backups. Thanks for all the great informtion!

        • Rob Williams

          Ahh, it’s sweet to get a good deal on enterprise drives, grats! Since I have multiple 4TBs hanging around, I think I am going to upgrade my NAS and create a RAID 5 array with four different ones, and see which kicks the bucket first. Should be interesting ;-)

          Glad the articles could help!

  • Ranmamez

    What benchmark setting did you set on HD Tune Pro? Full test, partial test (fast or accurate?) or the default out-of-the-installation setting?
    In any case it would’ve be interesting having the HD Tune Pro screenshots.

    • Rob Williams

      HD Tune’s defaults are used. Back when this article was written, I didn’t save screenshots of the benchmarks (I just edited the results into a text file), but that’s since changed (mostly because I second-guess myself). If I end up rebenchmarking the entire lot (which I’m hoping to do, but I’m loaded up with other things), I’ll provide them on the site (and respond to this comment again so you can see a notification).

      • Ranmamez

        Thank you very much.
        BTW I have the WD20EARS Green drive but my Maximum read speed on HDTune is 116 MB/s while yours is 128.7 (can’t try write speed since i’m using it and can’t backup): can you tell me what firmware version do you have? Thanks.

        • Rob Williams

          There are a number of things that could cause that, from the SATA controller to data fragmentation (if there’s data on the drive) to other variables. I am not even sure I still have that drive kicking around to be honest, but if I do I’ll include it in the next round of benchmarking.