Western Digital Red NAS Hard Drive Review

by Rob Williams on August 27, 2012 in Storage

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.

Page 1 – Introduction

When Western Digital first unveiled its 2TB Caviar Green drive in 2009, those who were planning on building a home server or purchase a NAS felt that they were a no-brainer choice. After all, what’s better than low-power and huge storage? Well, that was before we learned the caveats of using such drives in a NAS, or even with a RAID controller in a home server.

WD’s long-overdue solution? NAS-specific models.

One of the biggest issues WD’s Red drives remedy relates to error correction, a great feature for the desktop but one that could create a critical problem in a NAS or RAID configuration. Typical desktop drives are not designed to work with a RAID controller, resulting in both the OS and the RAID controller trying to handle errors. In the event that the OS prevents the RAID controller from doing its thing, a drive could disappear from the RAID, and could cause the controller to believe that the array needs to be rebuilt. Clearly, this is the sort of problem that could ruin your evening.

To avoid that issue, Red drives have an error recovery time set to a very low value, allowing your NAS to be in charge of handling errors (which it should be). In a similar vein, problems that arose with WD’s own Green drives in the past had to do with head-parking. With desktop drives, this is typically fine, but it’s not for NAS usage which generally demands 24/7 access. Here, WD disabled the parking entirely – but that doesn’t mean that power consumption has been worsened as a result. In fact, we’ll soon see that Red drives offer the best power consumption of any other desktop offering in WD’s line-up.

Western Digital Red NAS Hard Drive
Red – WD With More QR

Because WD Red drives are designed for NAS use, it’s not recommended that they be purchased in lieu of Green drives if it’s going to be used in the desktop. With proper software tools, both the error correction and head-parking timer can be adjusted – essentially, back to Green levels.

The above features are important, but that’s not all Red brings to the table. Also here is reduced vibration (vs. Green, and well, any other WD drive), reduced power consumption, higher MTBF (mean-time between failures) vs. the Green, and compared to the also-suitable-for-NAS RE4 enterprise drives, is a bit lighter (-0.26lbs 2TB vs. 2TB).

Those features aside, let’s take a look at how the Red compares to all of the other models in WD’s line-up:

Green Red Blue Black VelociRaptor
Design Goal Low-Power NAS Usage Consumer Performance Enthusiast
Interface SATA 6Gbit/s SATA 6Gbit/s SATA 6Gbit/s SATA 6Gbit/s SATA 6Gbit/s
Capacities 500GB – 3TB 1TB – 3TB 80GB – 1TB 500GB – 2TB 250GB – 1TB
Cache 64MB 64MB 64MB 64MB 64MB
Speed IntelliPower IntelliPower 7,200 RPM 7,200 RPM 10,000 RPM
Acoustics (Idle) 24dBA 23dBA 29dBA 29dBA 30dBA
Acoustics (Seek) 29dBA 24dBA 30dBA 34dBA 37dBA
Operating Shock 65G / 2ms 65G / 2ms 30G / 2ms 30G / 2ms 65G / 2ms
Temperatures 0ºC – 60ºC 0ºC – 70ºC 0ºC – 60ºC 0ºC – 60ºC 5ºC – 55ºC
Power (Active) 5.30W 4.40W 6.80W 10.70W 5.10W
MTBF ??? 1M ??? ??? 1.4M
Warranty 2-year 3-year 2-year 5-year 5-year
Price (Approx) $115 (2TB) $130 (2TB) $90 (1TB) $170 (2TB) $270 (1TB)

Like its Green drives, WD doesn’t publicly state the rotational speed for its Red drives. Instead, both models fall into the “IntelliPower” category, as they’re optimized for power efficiency. Based on math done by others in the past, it’s safe to assume that the average RPM speed during activity is 5300~5400.

Though Red drives carry a premium over the Green, I’d say the added year on the warranty makes it worth it. But to sweeten the pot, Red is more power efficient, can operate in hotter environments (actually beating out the rest of the desktop line) and perhaps best of all, is much quieter (24dBA vs. 29dBA of the Green). All in all, the Red sports great features for the price.

Western Digital Red NAS Hard Drive

WD sent along five of its 2TB models, and we’ll be testing them in 1x and 4x configurations (5x is reserved for NAS testing at a later date). As these drives are targeted exclusively to the NAS market, we’ve opted to not test them in our usual storage-testing rig.

Once installed in your NAS, the drives will show up like this:

Western Digital Red NAS Hard Drive

Like all 2TB drives, WD’s Red offers 1.81TB of usable storage per drive. In a RAID 5 configuration using 4 drives, the storage offered is 5.44TB, while with 5 drives, that’s boosted to 7.26TB. If you’re crazy or your NAS itself is redundant, RAID 0 will net you 9.08TB. This is based on using ext4 as the file system.

Equipped with a Thecus N5550 NAS, let’s see what WD’s Red is made of.

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Rob Williams

Rob founded Techgage in 2005 to be an 'Advocate of the consumer', focusing on fair reviews and keeping people apprised of news in the tech world. Catering to both enthusiasts and businesses alike; from desktop gaming to professional workstations, and all the supporting software.

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