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Western Digital Red NAS Hard Drive Review
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by Rob Williams on August 27, 2012 in Hard Drives

With the release of its Red hard drives, WD hasn’t only managed to scratch another color off its list, but it also gives NAS users a drive designed just for them. Beyond its NAS-specific features, Red proves to be one of the fastest drives on the market, and with its 3-year warranty, it’s without a doubt a very compelling option for NAS users.

Performance Testing

Being a hard drive that’s designed for NAS use, all of our benchmarking with WD’s Red has been conducted with the help of Thecus’ five-bay N5550 NAS. Coincidentally, this NAS hit our lab at about the same time as WD’s drives, so they complement each other perfectly. We’ll be saving 5-disk testing for our review of the NAS itself.

The N5550 is equipped with a fast (for a NAS) CPU; Intel’s dual-core Atom D2700, running at 2.13GHz. It also has plenty of RAM (2GB DDR3) to ensure that the NAS itself is never a bottleneck. Our test PC, sporting GIGABYTE’s Z77X-UD5H and an Intel Core i7-3770K, connects to our NETGEAR WNDR3700 router via its Intel 82579V on-board NIC using a Cat6 cable.

When testing graphics cards, “3DMark” is a term everyone’s familiar with. Where NASes are concerned, the familiar name is “Intel NAS Performance Toolkit“, or NASPT for short. Every NAS vendor we’ve talked to has recommended it as our tool of choice, and the same can be said of WD itself when we asked for recommendations to test its Red drives. So that’s that. For good measure, we do include a couple of real-world transfers as well, conducted with SyncBackPro 6.2.

Before we get into the results, I should talk a bit about the drive that the Red will be compared to. That’s WD’s enterprise-level RE4-GP, a four-plattered 7,200 RPM offering . Despite the RE4 being an enterprise drive, WD’s Red has the upper-hand as it has double the density per platter, which can totally override the downside of its slower rotational speed for throughput performance. The less physical space a head needs to travel for its data, the better.

That said, let’s kick our results off with a single drive test:

1 Disk (JBOD)
RE4-GP
Red
HD Video Playback
87.0 MB/s
96.6 MB/s
2x HD Playback
77.2 MB/s
88.2 MB/s
4x HD Playback
82.0 MB/s
83.8 MB/s
HD Video Record
112.4 MB/s
120.1 MB/s
HD Playback and Record
93.2 MB/s
100.6 MB/s
Content Creation
9.4 MB/s
10.9 MB/s
Office Productivity
56.0 MB/s
55.5 MB/s
File copy to NAS
117.2 MB/s
118.8 MB/s
File copy from NAS
74.7 MB/s
82.1 MB/s
Dir copy to NAS
17.3 MB/s
17.6 MB/s
Dir copy from NAS
25.3 MB/s
24.9 MB/s
Photo Album
13.5 MB/s
13.7 MB/s

For being a low-power drive, WD’s Red sure is delivering some nice performance; even reaching 120MB/s in one test. Because our 1Gbit/s connection theoretically tops-out at 125MB/s throughput, it’s great to see we’ve come so close here. Let’s see if the trend continues with RAID 0 using 4 drives:

4 Disk (RAID 0)
RE4-GP
Red
HD Video Playback
93.9 MB/s
94.8 MB/s
2x HD Playback
102.3 MB/s
100.5 MB/s
4x HD Playback
104.6 MB/s
104.4 MB/s
HD Video Record
121.3 MB/s
123.4 MB/s
HD Playback and Record
98.6 MB/s
98.3 MB/s
Content Creation
12.1 MB/s
11.8 MB/s
Office Productivity
57.2 MB/s
58.1 MB/s
File copy to NAS
125.6 MB/s
126.8 MB/s
File copy from NAS
79.7 MB/s
80.2 MB/s
Dir copy to NAS
18.4 MB/s
16.8 MB/s
Dir copy from NAS
26.5 MB/s
25.1 MB/s
Photo Album
13.4 MB/s
13.2 MB/s

As we’d expect, performance is boosted in many of the tests here, with the tests giving us the worst performance being those that rely on transferring hundreds or thousands of individual files. Though fast, WD’s Red and really, any other hard drive out there, pales in comparison to SSDs in the IOPS department; that’s just one of the trade-offs with mechanical drives. The upside? For 8TB of HDD storage, you don’t need to sell your car first.

For our transfer tests, we take a single 10GB file, a 10GB folder (5,739 files) and a 25GB video folder (9 files) and transfer them over to the NAS using SyncBackPro. While a normal Windows copy would suffice, SyncBackPro records our results, namely the duration of the transfer, which is helpful.

1 Disk (JBOD)
RE4-GP
Red
Green
10GB File
102.43 MB/s
110.14 MB/s
105.59 MB/s
10GB Folder
59.61 MB/s
59.96 MB/s
57.60 MB/s
25GB Video Folder
103.69 MB/s
109.92 MB/s
105.40 MB/s

WD’s Red has proven victorious in its battle against the RE4-GP, which in some regards, is a little unfortunate for those on the enterprise side of things. The most up-to-date RE4 drive, the WD2003FYYS, still has 4 platters sized at 500GB each, so performance from it and the -GP we’ve tested here wouldn’t be that different. The reason that might be a sour note to some is that RE4 drives cost far more (~$230 vs. ~$130, 2TB models), but under-perform in comparison. There are of course other factors to weigh in, such as warranty, but the RE4’s loss is the Red’s gain – if you plan on integrating Red into your NAS or server, you can rest easy knowing that the performance is top-rate.

Page List:
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1. Introduction
2. Performance Testing
3. Final Thoughts