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WD Black 4TB Hard Drive Review
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by Rob Williams on January 2, 2013 in Hard Drives, Storage

WD’s Black 4TB is the sort of product that doesn’t need much of an introduction – it speaks for itself. We’re dealing with a standard-sized desktop hard drive that sports a market-leading 4TB of storage. That’s 4,000GB, for those not paying enough attention. It’s impressive on paper, so let’s see how it fares in our benchmarks.

Real-World: Transfers, Game Level Loading & Windows Boot

One of the most common tasks that someone will tackle with a storage device is transferring data, so to see what our collection of drives are capable of, we take a collection of solid files and folders and transfer them from our super-fast SATA 6Gbit/s SSD to each hard drives. Then for good measure, we copy a file and folder on the same drive. Both our files and folders come in 4GB and 16GB sizes, with the folders holding between ~5,000 (4GB) and ~20,000 (16GB) files.

Our stopwatch starts as soon as we click the “Copy here” button in the context menu, and stops as soon as the transfer dialog disappears.

Up to this point, the performance seen from the Black 4TB has been hit or miss, but with our real-world tests here, things begin to smooth out again. As such a massive drive, it’s unlikely that most people would use it for anything but a fast storage drive – and fortunately, it delivers in that regard. The 2TB still manages to outshine it overall, but only mildly.

Game Level Loading

One of the biggest benefits of faster storage is faster load times for games, both with regards to their startup and level loading. For testing here, we use two of the heaviest games we have on hand; Sid Meier’s Civilization V and Total War: SHOGUN 2. How we benchmark with each game differs. In Civ V, our stopwatch starts as soon as we click the button to load the late-game level (turn 350), and stops the instant we see our map. In SHOGUN 2, we instead record the amount of time it takes to load the entire game, and its built-in 720p benchmark. Our stopwatch starts once we click the benchmark option in Steam’s context menu, and stops the instant we see the level.

Despite the significant performance hit to read access on the 4TB model, it didn’t drag it too far down where gaming is concerned.

Windows 7 Boot Time

Like game level loading, faster storage can mean faster OS boot times. To put this to the test, we rely on an Acronis image that has a clean install of Windows 7 Ultimate x64 and required drivers, with Ethernet disabled. For a more accurate result, we do our testing with a cold boot, after the system has been left to sit for a couple of minutes. Our stopwatch starts as soon as the power button is pressed and ends once all of the system tray icons have loaded.

Although I highly recommend running an SSD as your primary (OS) drive, I feel inclined to test Windows boot time anywhere, as it is a useful benchmark thanks to the amount of data that needs to be read from the drive. Here, the 4TB drive performs quite well – it only barely sits behind the 2TB model.


  • http://techgage.com/ Brett Thomas

    I’ll still stick to my green 2TBs in my server arrays for now – RAID5 more than offsets the performance concerns. This drive would be a go-to if I needed the storage/space balance in such a large size, but who NEEDS their “working” drive to be 4TB? I’d rather have a 3-tier model for a full desktop – SSD for the OS, Raptor for a working drive, and a large and slow one for long-term storage.

    What are the warranty differences between the top brand WD black and the HGST drive? May account for the $20. WD’s warranty service has always been spectacular, I’m not sure about its subsidiaries.

    • http://www.facebook.com/deathspawner Rob Williams

      The HGST drive carries the same 5-year warranty. I can agree that most people won’t need a 4TB drive, but for those needing to maximize their storage potential, it’s a great option. A four-bay NAS that supports 4TB drives would offer 12TB of storage space – that’s pretty damn attractive. The fact that WD doesn’t really charge a premium for these beefy drives is what can make them a good investment. Though the HGST is an even better value on paper.

  • Danny Young Lim

    Western Digital Velociraptor 1TB has the lowest Access Time, compared to WD Black 2TB and 4TB model. Access Time is very important when it comes to loading data, saving information, for small files and big sequential files. Hence, WD Velociraptor 1TB is worth it to invest for better performance, better response time, as well as better power efficiency due to 2.5 Platter Density form factor.

  • Friday Wedding Photography

    I’m a huge fan of 4tb 7200rpm hard drives because I run them in my Drobo 5d and Drobo 5n and when you spend $600+ for your “enclosure”, and you lose 2 drives worth of space for “redundancy / protection”, your cost per tb of usable space is rather important.

    Example: You load your 5 bay with 3tb drives. 3×5=15tb of total space but drive 1&2 get substracted for your raid copy using Drobo’s software. Now you’re left with 3x3tb=9tb for usable space. Compare that with 5×4=20tb and 3x4tb=12tb of usable space.

    9tb of protected data = $150×5 (750) + $650(drobo) = $1400/9= $155 per tb of protected data (ouch!)
    12tb of protected data = $190 (950) + $650(drobo) = $1600/12= $133 per tb of protected data (14% increase in price for a 33% increase in usable storage space).

    The numbers get even better once they introduce the 5tb drives. Now, do you need that much storage space? Most people no. But if you do video production and produce a large amount of data from commercials or wedding videography projects, then you probably buy hard drives like they’re candy. Trying to manage that much data becomes a huge headache that can keep you up at night wondering “what happens if…” and “has my backup software been running?”

    Travis
    I run a Minneapolis based video production company.
    http://www.providfilms.com

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