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Seagate Desktop HDD.15 4TB Review

Date: May 8, 2013
Author(s): Rob Williams

With our ever-increasing need for storage, 4TB models couldn’t be more tempting. On the scale of temptation, though, one drive is placed higher than all the others: Seagate’s Desktop HDD.15. There’s one good reason for that: it costs less than $200. We hear you – it sounds crazy. Let’s dig in and find out if it really is.



Introduction

Up until a couple of months ago, the 4TB desktop market was bare. Alright, it’s still bare, but it’s been made better with the help of the drive we’re taking a look at here, Seagate’s Desktop HDD.15. The reason? Its pricing, of about ~$190 (it can be found for a bit less when you shop around). Compared to the previous minimum of ~$300 for HGST’s bottom-of-the-rung 4TB model, Seagate had one heck of an interesting drive on its hands.

At its $190 price-point, Seagate is offering a drive boasting a per-GB fee of about five cents. That’s not the lowest we’ve ever seen, as there have been times where drives like WD’s Green 2TB have dropped to about $80 during sales, but given 4TB is the largest capacity available at the moment, it looks to be a great buy from almost all angles.

Given the fact that this drive has been available for about three months, and always at a ~$200 price-point, it’s rather surprising that WD hasn’t already released a competing model. It’d could be that the company doesn’t see a major demand for such a large density at the moment (doubtful), or it just prefers to not devalue its Black and RE offerings relatively soon after their respective launches.

Seagate Desktop HDD.15 4TB Hard Drive

Comparing the prices in the table below (based on Newegg and Amazon’s pricing), we can see that all six current 4TB models on the market have declined in price since our look at Seagate’s Constellation ES.3 this past February. The top two drives saw about $20 lobbed off, while HGST’s Ultrastar dropped $90.

 SpeedCacheWarrantyUsagePrice
Seagate Constellation ES.3
(ST4000NM0033)
7,200 RPM128 MB5-yearEnterprise~$400
WD RE
(WD4000FYYZ)
7,200 RPM64 MB5-yearEnterprise~$390
HGST Ultrastar 7K4000
(HUS724040ALE640)
7,200 RPM64 MB5-yearEnterprise~$350
WD Black
(WD4001FAEX)
7,200 RPM64 MB5-yearPerformance~$285
HGST
(H3IK40003272SW)
7,200 RPM64 MB3-yearPerformance~$260
Seagate Desktop HDD.15
(ST4000DM000)
5,900 RPM64 MB2-yearStorage~$189

In the consumer space, the drive we’re taking a look at in this article dropped from $210 to $190 (and again, even a couple of dollars cheaper when shopping around); HGST’s dropped from $310 to $260; and WD’s Black dropped $45 to sit at $285. With these drops, HGST’s consumer drive has inched a lot closer to Seagate’s, but even so, there’s still a $70 gap. Seagate’s HDD.15 remains the most attractive-looking drive from a pricing stand-point.

Between HGST’s and Seagate’s model, the notable differences are spindle speeds and warranty. Seagate offers a mere 2-year warranty on its drive, while HGST offers 3. To see a 2-year warranty on a 4TB sub-$200 drive isn’t surprising… in fact, it’s to be expected. Seagate hasn’t chosen to award a 2-year warranty as a result of its lack of confidence – instead, it’s what helps keep pricing low. Your drive could very well last five years or more – these things are impossible to predict. As for the spindle speed, as 4TB drives are likely to be used mostly for storage, 5,900 RPM is hardly a notable disadvantage.

That said, I personally don’t hold a huge amount of confidence in a drive that carries only a 2-year warranty, based on my personal experiences with hard drives as of late. Recently, a WD RE4 2TB drive died on me that had about one-and-a-half years clocked in (NAS-use). As you’d expect, the more you pay, the better the warranty is. In the case of a drive like this, you have to take the good with the bad. You get a weak warranty, but you get a ton of storage for the best price possible.

Seagate Desktop HDD.15 4TB Hard Drive
Seagate’s Desktop HDD.15 and Constellation ES.3

That fact compels me to reiterate what I hope would be obvious: you never want to place a large amount of data on a drive like this and not have some sort of redundancy. At the very least, you’ll likely want two of these drives in a RAID 1 configuration (mirror). Exceptions would be if the drive is used only as a “throwaway”, where data stored on it is truly unimportant, like game installs, downloads and so forth.

Simply put, 4TB of data tied to a single drive, regardless of the warranty, is dangerous if the data is important. So, if you’re interested in a 4TB drive like this and want to study up on RAID, I highly recommend you read through Brett’s in-depth look at redundant storage that we published this past fall. As the article’s title suggests, it will demystify everything for you.

With that all taken care of, let’s take a quick look at our testing methodology and then move into the test results.

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 Drive Test System
ProcessorIntel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition – Six-Core @ 4.20GHz – 1.375v
MotherboardGIGABYTE G1. Assassin 2 – F4E BIOS (12/12/2011)
MemoryCorsair Dominator GT 16GB DDR3-2133 9-11-12-27, 1.60v
GraphicsGeForce GTX 680 2GB (Reference) – GeForce 301.42
AudioOnboard Creative X-Fi
StorageOS Drive
Kingston HyperX 240GB SATA 6Gbit/s SSD
Tested Drives (Model, Cache, Speed)
Seagate Constellation ES.3 4TB (ST4000NM0033, 128MB, 7.2K)
Seagate Desktop HDD.15 4TB (ST4000DM000, 64MB, 7.2K)
WD RE 4TB (WD4000FYYZ, 64MB, 7.2K)
WD VelociRaptor 1TB (WD1000DHTZ, 64MB, 10K)
WD Black 4TB (WD4001FAEX, 64MB, 7.2K)
WD Black 2TB (WD2002FAEX, 64MB, 7.2K)
WD Green 2TB (WD20EARS, 64MB, ~5.3K)
WD Red 2TB (WD20EFRX, 64MB, ~5.3K)
Power SupplyCorsair AX1200 1200W
CoolingCorsair H70 Self-Contained Liquid Cooler
Et ceteraWindows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit


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 then 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 half 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

Compared to WD’s Red and Green 2TBs, Seagate’s Desktop HDD.15 sits comfortably in the lead (albeit by a mere ~5% over the Red). Both the Red and Seagate’s drive include 1TB platters, so Seagate’s gain is notable. We’ll see if this trend continues with our further testing.

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

It’s cases like this where the benefits of having beefier platters over faster spindle speeds works out to a drive’s favor (but of course, both would be best). WD’s Black 2TB uses 500GB platters vs. 1TB, which allows Seagate’s drive to deliver better performance despite its 5,900 RPM speeds.

On the other side of the coin, the larger platters do nothing to improve latencies when there are four of them for the head to traverse. In this case, Seagate’s drive clocked in at 17ms versus 5.5ms (read) and 12ms (write) for the Black. Compared to the other 5×00 RPM drives, Seagate’s performs as we’d expect.

Here’s where things get a bit interesting. In our read test, Seagate’s drive cleans house – easily. It slots right in behind WD’s VelociRaptor. Really. The performance isn’t quite as impressive though with regards to the writes IOPS. Seagate has clearly tuned this drive for 64KB operations (which for a drive of this size I completely agree with) – so for the best performance, make sure you format it as such, unless you really need 4KB clusters (eg: if you insist on installing an OS to the drive).

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’s Desktop HDD.15 continues to give us roughly the performance we’d expect, and backing up HD Tune, AIDA gives us the exact same latency report of 17ms.

Real-World: Transfers, Game Level Loading

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.

Compared to the other 4TB drives, the performance of Seagate’s budget drive isn’t too impressive – but it’s moreso when you compare it to the WD Black 2TB. While that drive is crippled by its smaller platters, it is considered a performance drive, and Seagate’s much-larger 4TB keeps right up to it in many cases.

Game Level Loading

One of the biggest benefits of faster storage is quicker 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. Our test here is simple: we see how long it takes each game to load. Our stopwatch starts as soon as we click the option to load either game..

Seagate’s drive has come head-to-head with WD’s Green and Red 2TB drives many times during the course of this review, and wrapping up, not a thing changes. Again, not the best performance we’ve seen here, but given the tight scaling seen across the board, it’s still quite good.

This is the point in the review where I’d normally talk about our Windows Boot Time test, but unfortunately, our benchmarking machine has for some reason developed a temper. It now boots much slower than before, both with regards to the POST and to the actual Windows load. Drives we benchmarked before suddenly had 20 seconds added to their overall time, and after spending an afternoon trying to remedy the problem, it just never went away. As such, we’ll be looking to replace our test bench in the months ahead – likely in time for our next hard drive review (the market isn’t exactly brimming with model releases at the moment). Apologies to those who like observing this result; we wish we could share one.

Final Thoughts

Putting together a “Final Thoughts” page can sometimes be difficult, but this isn’t one of those times. This is a product that lives up to what’s reported on its spec sheet; before testing, we had certain expectations, and after testing, those expectations were validated.

For multiple reasons, Seagate’s Desktop HDD.15 should be considered a “value 4TB”. It’s not just its sub-$200 pricing, but also its short 2-year warranty and 5,900 RPM speed. But a “value” it definitely is. The next-best drive costs $70 more, boosts the spindle RPM to 7,200 and bumps the warranty up to 3 years.

Warranty-wise, that $70 does make HGST’s option a very attractive one. That drive carries a 36% price premium over Seagate’s drive here, should perform a bit better, and boosts the warranty by 50%. Let’s face it: a 2-year warranty isn’t long. At all. I recently had a Seagate 1TB drive give up the ghost, and lo and behold, it hadn’t yet exhausted its five-year warranty. Those used to be common back then, but not so much anymore. And given my experiences, I’d say it’s for a reason.

Seagate Desktop HDD.15 4TB Hard Drive

That said, if you happen to purchase a drive like Seagate’s now with its 2-year warranty and it does die at the tail-end, you’re not exactly out any money, since HGST’s current offering scales in price pretty reasonably. Hopefully you’d be adhering my earlier recommendation of running a RAID 1 configuration, and by that time, another 4TB drive should (in theory) cost much less. It’s just the hassle of replacing a drive you’d be left to deal with.

Here’s an overview of the market’s current 4TB models for your perusal:

 SpeedCacheWarrantyUsagePrice
Seagate Constellation ES.3
(ST4000NM0033)
7,200 RPM128 MB5-yearEnterprise~$400
WD RE
(WD4000FYYZ)
7,200 RPM64 MB5-yearEnterprise~$390
HGST Ultrastar 7K4000
(HUS724040ALE640)
7,200 RPM64 MB5-yearEnterprise~$350
WD Black
(WD4001FAEX)
7,200 RPM64 MB5-yearPerformance~$285
HGST
(H3IK40003272SW)
7,200 RPM64 MB3-yearPerformance~$260
Seagate Desktop HDD.15
(ST4000DM000)
5,900 RPM64 MB2-yearStorage~$189

Aside from the 2-year warranty that kind of puts me off, Seagate’s drive offers so much more that makes it excellent. It’s the best-priced 4TB model on the market right now, and by a fair margin. For those who need a single or multiple units, the best bang-for-the-buck is right here.

The drive didn’t overly impress us throughout our testing, but we never expected it to. To the drive’s favor, its 1TB platters decrease the areal bit density enough to help it match WD’s Black 2TB, which uses 500GB platters. Its latencies are a bit lacking (17ms, vs. ~12ms on a 7,200 RPM model), so I wouldn’t recommend it as an OS drive, but again, it’s unlikely that anyone plans to put an OS on a drive like this – it’s a drive for storage, through and through.

For it’s fantastic value and ample performance, Seagate’s Desktop HDD.15 4TB earns one of our Editor’s Choice awards.

Pros

Cons


Seagate Desktop HDD.15 4TB

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