WD Black 4TB Hard Drive Review

by Rob Williams on January 2, 2013 in 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.