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WD Red 4TB NAS Hard Drive Review

WD NAS 4TB Press Shot

Date: November 13, 2013
Author(s): Rob Williams

With the recent release of WD’s long-awaited 4TB ‘Red’ model, folks looking to fill their networked-storage box up with the largest density drives now find themselves with two options to ponder. Join us as we establish which drive comes out the victor – WD’s Red or Seagate’s NAS HDD – after their head-to-head battle.

Introduction & WD Red 4TB HDD Synopsis

Despite being first to market with a NAS-targeted hard drive, WD has proven itself to be the late one on offering a 4TB model – Seagate beat it to the punch just a couple of months earlier. It was a little baffling that WD didn’t offer the top-density model sooner, but there’s nothing like a little competitive prodding to get the ball rolling, right?

When Seagate released its NAS HDD series a couple of months ago, it had a verbatim list of goals against WD’s Red NAS line. Typical error correction is stripped in order to let a RAID controller do its thing, and it’s also designed with a couple of other properties perfect for NAS use.

If you’re in the market for drives to fill a NAS up with, it’s highly encouraged to choose a model that’s designed with NAS use in mind, such as WD’s Red. Likewise, it’s not recommended to use such drives in the desktop, although you can probably get by just fine. It’s worth bearing in mind though that the things companies like WD or Seagate strip out of the NAS models were designed for desktop use – enough said.

WD Red 4TB NAS Hard Drive WD40EFRX

If interested in learning more about what WD’s Red series offers, I recommend checking out my look at the launch model from last fall. For contrast, you can check out my look at Seagate’s first NAS HDD from August.

Here’s a rundown of WD’s current desktop and enterprise line-up:

  Density Speed Warranty Usage Price
VelociRaptor 250GB – 1TB 10K RPM 5-year Enthusiast ~$230 (1TB)
Re 250GB – 4TB 7.2K RPM 5-year Enterprise ~$390 (4TB)
Se 2TB – 4TB 7.2K RPM 5-year Enterprise ~$275 (4TB)
Black 500GB – 4TB 7.2K RPM 5-year Performance ~$265 (4TB)
Blue 80GB – 1TB 7.2K RPM 2-year Consumer ~$65 (1TB)
Green 500GB – 4TB ~5.3K RPM 2-year Storage ~$180 (4TB)
Red 1TB – 4TB ~5.3K RPM 3-year NAS ~$200 (4TB)
All drives are available in SATA 6Gbit/s flavors with 64MB of cache.
Pricing is based on stable trends across two major etailers.

Since we took a look at WD’s Se series back in May, pricing across its entire lineup hasn’t changed much at all. At the top-end, the VelociRaptor retains its $230 pricing; the biggest overall change hit the Se series, which now sits at $275 for the 4TB model.

Not long after WD announced its 4TB Red, it quietly released a Green counterpart, which at the current time is about $20 cheaper. As mentioned above, it’s important (in my opinion) to go for a NAS model if that’s the target usage scenario; otherwise, the Green model will be just fine for desktop use. While it might seem unfortunate to have to shell out an extra $20 for a NAS-specific model, note the subtle perk: A 3-year warranty. That strikes me as important when talking about a drive that’s going to be getting a lot of constant use.

How does pricing stand if we compare to Seagate’s current NAS HDD line?

  1TB 2TB 3TB 4TB
Seagate NAS HDD N/A $120 ($60/TB) $140 ($47.7/TB) $200 ($50/TB)
WD Red $70 ($70/TB) $100 ($50/TB) $135 ($45/TB) $200 ($50/TB)
Pricing information courtesy of Amazon and Newegg (11/12/13) . Best (stable) prices selected only.

Hard drive pricing can vary wildly depending on the day, the etailer, and of course, your orientation to the moon, so if planning to buy a drive based on price alone, always check out different etailers before pulling the trigger. As of the latest check though, $200 is the average price for either Seagate’s or WD’s 4TB NAS model. Perfect. Let’s get to testing.

Please note: Unlike most of the drives we’ve tested up to this point, we tested both the WD Red 4TB and Seagate NAS HDD 4TB with just 2GB of RAM installed in the test PC. We did this because we were inspired by our NAS testing, which requires the same change to be made. When dropping down to 2GB of RAM, we can see the true performance of a drive, and not the RAM-accelerated version of it. After seeing the results, we regret not having tested that way all along, so we’ll be retesting key drives when time allows to get more accurate results for them.

Test System & Methodology

At Techgage, we strive to make sure our results are as accurate and real-world applicable as possible. We list most of the steps and processes involved in setting up and conducting our benchmarking process below, but in the interests of brevity we can’t mention every last detail. If there is any pertinent information that we’ve inadvertently omitted or you have any thoughts, suggestions, or critiques, then please feel free to email us or post directly in our forums. This site exists for readers like you and we value your input.

The table below lists the hardware used in our current hard drive-testing machine, which remains unchanged throughout all of our testing. Each drive used for the sake of comparison is also listed here.

  Techgage Hard Drive Test System
Processor Intel Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition – Six-Core @ 4.50GHz
Motherboard ASUS P9X79-E WS
Memory Kingston HyperX Genesis 2GB DDR3-1333
Graphics GeForce GTX 780 3GB (Reference)
Audio Onboard
Storage OS Drive:
Kingston HyperX 240GB SATA 6Gbit/s SSD
Tested Drives:
Seagate Constellation ES.3 4TB (ST4000NM0033, 128MB, 7,200)
Seagate NAS HDD 4TB (ST4000VN000, 64MB Cache, ~5.9K RPM)
Seagate Desktop HDD.15 4TB (ST4000DM000, 64MB, 7,200)
WD Re 4TB (WD4000FYYZ, 64MB Cache, 7,200 RPM)
WD Se 4TB (WD4000F9YZ, 64MB Cache, 7,200 RPM)
WD VelociRaptor 1TB (WD1000DHTZ, 64MB Cache, 10K RPM)
WD Black 4TB (WD4001FAEX, 64MB, 7,200)
WD Black 2TB (WD2002FAEX, 64MB Cache, 7,200 RPM)
WD Green 2TB (WD20EARS, 64MB Cache, ~5.3K RPM)
WD Red 4TB (WD40EFRX, 64MB Cache, ~5.3K RPM)
WD Red 2TB (WD20EFRX, 64MB Cache, ~5.3K RPM)
Power Supply Corsair AX1200 1200W
Cooling Thermaltake WATER3.0 EXTREME Liquid CPU Cooler
Et cetera Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit

Please note: Unlike most of the drives we’ve tested up to this point, we tested both the WD Red 4TB and Seagate NAS HDD 4TB with just 2GB of RAM installed in the test PC. We did this because we were inspired by our NAS testing, which requires the same change to be made. When dropping down to 2GB of RAM, we can see the true performance of a drive, and not the RAM-accelerated version of it. After seeing the results, we regret not having tested that way all along, so we’ll be retesting key drives when time allows to get more accurate results for them.

Our Windows 7 Desktop for HDD Testing (Photo Credit)

When preparing our HDD testbed for benchmarking, we follow these guidelines:

General Guidelines

Windows 7 Optimizations

Other Considerations

Outside of the Windows 7 boot time test, reviewed hard drives are installed as the target; the OS and all of the applications are stored on the SSD. This is done to remove the overhead off of the tested drive, and also to reflect the fact that most people nowadays are not installing their OSes on mechanical storage.

While HD Tune and AIDA64 are able to be used on a drive without a partition, the remainder of our tests require one. As mentioned above, we feel that the focus of hard drives is moving towards pure storage rather than housing an OS, so we’ve adopted the use of 64KB cluster sizes. It’s the maximum NTFS can support, and it’s much more efficient than 4KB for those needs.

Test Suite

For the sake of thoroughly testing the drives we review, our test suite consists of a blend of both real-world and synthetic benchmarks. Although we value real-world tests higher than synthetic, we appreciate the latter because A) they can give us the “best possible” performance numbers from a drive and B) can be run by our readers, more often than not.

Our synthetic tests include Futuremark’s PCMark 7, HD Tune Pro 5.0 and AIDA64 2.70. Our real-world testing includes file and folder transfers, and game level-loading.

In the past, we used Iometer for the sake of truly stressing a drive in high-load scenarios, but have dropped it in favor of using HD Tune’s built-in Random Access benchmark. Our goal with Iometer was to deliver an IOPS result, but because the program doesn’t support unpartitioned GPT drives, it’s useless for our needs. Fortunately, HD Tune can give us those IOPS results we’re after.

Synthetic: PCMark 7

Futuremark’s PCMark benchmarking suite should need no introduction – it’s been a staple of PC benchmarking for the better part of a decade. PCMark offers a range of tests to gauge every aspect of a computer’s performance and presents it in a simple final result. Thankfully, it also breaks down the overall score with individual subsystem scores (such as Memory, Storage, et cetera) in addition to providing individual test results.

As we’re not too concerned with the performance of the PC as a whole, for our testing here we deselect all default tests and run only the “Secondary Storage” suite, with the hard drive in question as the chosen drive. Tests in this suite range from the loading of applications, running a Windows Defender scan, editing video, gaming and more.

PCMark 7 Professional

According to PCMark 7, WD’s drive outperforms Seagate’s overall – with the exception of two tests (picture import and Windows Media Center). Since PCMark 8 came out in recent months, I decided to give that a whirl on just these two drives. Overall, it supports PCMark 7′s findings:

  Seagate NAS 4TB WD Red 4TB
Score 2467 2510
Bandwidth 9.80 MB/s 10.14 MB/s

Let’s move on to HD Tune and see if the trend continues.

Synthetic: HD Tune Pro 5.0

One of the best-known storage benchmarking tools is HD Tune, as it’s easy to run, covers a wide-range of testing scenarios, and can do other things such as test for errors, provides SMART information and so forth. For our testing with the program, we run the default benchmark which gives us a minimum, average and maximum speeds along with an access time result, and also the Random Access test, which gives us IOPS information.

HD Tune Pro 5.0

Throughput-wise, Seagate’s drive comes ahead of WD’s by about 20% (~110MB/s versus 130MB/s), while WD’s whittles-down the access times just a wee bit. Note that because the throughput charts are arranged based on the minimum, WD’s drive placed at the bottom. More on this on the final page.

For the most part, it’s hard to declare either Seagate’s or WD’s NAS drives as the definitive winner, but WD’s does seem to get the nod overall – namely thanks to its much higher write IOPS performance at 4K and 64K.

Synthetic: AIDA64 2.70

Similar to HD Tune, AIDA64′s built-in disk benchmarker is one of the easiest to run. The developer also keeps up on top of architectural trends so that you feel confident that the algorithms don’t get much better than this. This spreads beyond the storage benchmark, as AIDA64′s system stress-testers is one of the best, if not the best, out there – thanks to it being able to take full advantage of any given CPU architecture.

For our testing, we run the Linear Read and Random Write tests. Because AIDA64 by default automatically chooses a cluster size (which changes at random), we force it to use 64KB for our testing.

AIDA64 2.30

Seagate continues its lead here.

As we saw with HD Tune, WD’s drive has slightly better access times than Seagate’s. But now, it’s time for the real test: File and folder transfers.

Real-World: Transfers

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 drive. 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.

We can glean a couple of interesting results here. For our straight transfers, WD’s drive proved superior to Seagate’s where a lot of files were concerned – there was just no comparison (158 seconds for a 16GB folder versus 180 seconds). But when solid large files were transferred, it was Seagate’s drive that excelled – although to a lesser degree. It’s clear that Seagate and WD tuned their respective NAS drives for different purposes.

Regarding the on-drive copy transfers, the results might as well be considered the same.

Final Thoughts

After poring through all of the results, we can see that a NAS drive isn’t just a NAS drive – each vendor can put its own spin on the firmware, resulting in one being better at some scenario than the other.

Overall, we discovered that WD’s Red was the superior where large file counts were concerned. We’re not talking just a handful of files here, but rather folders filled with hundreds or perhaps thousands of documents, photos, music files, and so forth.

While WD’s drive in that regard was superb, Seagate’s surpassed it when transferring large solid files. Based on these findings, you might be able to surmise which company’s NAS drive will suit you better.

Before closing this review up, I’d be remiss to not bring up a small “issue” I discovered when testing WD’s drive – and I do mean “small”. As you can see in the shot from HD Tune below, WD’s drive dips at the start of the linear test – not just a little bit, but quite a substantial amount:

WD Red 4TB HD Tune
WD’s Red 4TB Dips in Performance at the Start of a Linear Test

At first, I figured we might have had a bugged sample, but I encountered the same issue on three other drives. In talking to WD about the issue, the company acknowledged it, but stated that it was specific to HD Tune’s latest version, and that it’s something the company is in the process of discussing with the program’s developer. However, when running the linear read test with AIDA64, I experienced the same thing, so it’s clear to me that it’s not just limited to HD Tune.

Interestingly, this issue isn’t unique to WD’s drive. Here’s the same test on Seagate’s NAS HDD drive:

Seagate NAS HDD 4TB HD Tune
Seagate’s NAS HDD 4TB Mimics the Oddity, But to a Lesser Degree

Here, the problem isn’t quite as severe. Due to time, I wasn’t able to test a variety of drives under the same test, but I am planning to investigate this a little bit further for a future article.

I don’t consider either of these drives to exhibit real problems, because even though WD’s drive dips off at the start, it’s consistently been in that location, and it hasn’t been 100% (the first test after a reboot is normally fine) – nor has the drive been sporadic in other ways. I just considered the oddity to be odd enough to oddly mention it to you odd fine people.

WD Red 4TB NAS Hard Drive WD40EFRX

That all said, I am pleased with the performance WD’s Red 4TB delivers overall, and all of the perks it carries with it. It took far too long for WD to cough up a 4TB version, but if you’re in the market for a NAS drive now, it’s well worth considering.

It’s impossible to choose a “winner” between Seagate or WD here, because as mentioned above, Seagate offers better overall throughput, but WD offers better multi-file transfers. Depending on your usage scenario, you might be able to easier choose one side or the other. I’d recommend WD’s drive for those who plan on keeping backups and other things on their NAS, and Seagate for those who plan on storing large files only, or might want to work with large projects that happen to be stored on a NAS.

Whichever NAS drive you choose, both choices are good, and both are priced-right.

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