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Seagate NAS HDD 4TB Review

Date: August 12, 2013
Author(s): Rob Williams

The arena for NAS-targeted hard drives has just welcomed a second combatant: Seagate’s “NAS HDD”. Like WD’s Red series, NAS HDD is designed to work well with RAID controllers, has improved vibration-reduction, and additional power profiles. Unlike WD’s Red, NAS HDD has a 4TB model. Let’s see how that one stands up.

Introduction & Seagate NAS HDD Synopsis

Considering the fact that network-attached storage (NAS) use is growing at an alarming rate, it didn’t surprise us much last summer when WD released its NAS-bound “Red” series, but it did make us question, “what took so long?”

A NAS-specific hard drive might seem like a gimmick at first, but there are important differences over other low-powered drives that makes them the better and safer solution.

The most important tweak in NAS drives is the reduction of the timeout value for error correction. Low-power drives, such as WD’s Green, for example, are not designed to work with RAID controllers, which are what handles the error-correction in NAS solutions. Thus, if a hard drive and RAID controller are battling each other for error-correction, one can cancel out the other, and the drive can potentially drop from the RAID – that’s the beginning to a bad day.

The unfortunate thing is that these caveats weren’t properly understood when green drives first hit the market. A couple of months ago, a host I had a couple of services with lost a ton of my data (nothing important). In discussing the problem with the company later, I discovered it had been using WD’s Green drives in its servers. After a couple of years, and out of nowhere, there was a problem, and a lot of data was lost. This isn’t WD’s fault, of course… green drives are simply not meant for server use. My host was looking for the cheap way out, and it eventually hit it where it hurts. The issue could have been avoided with NAS or enterprise drives.

Seagate NAS HDD 4TB

Upon their release, WD’s Red capped at 3TB (1 and 2TB models were also available). I considered it to be a little strange that a 4TB model wasn’t made available at the time, but didn’t rant about it too much since I figured it was right around the corner. It wasn’t until just a couple of months ago that we realized the reason why: WD’s enterprise-bound Se fills the 4TB void.

While WD’s Se series is the better of the two (vs. Red), it’s more expensive. For a consumer wanting to make the most of their NAS, cheaper options are likely to be considered – there’s redundancy in place, after all, so if a 2-year warranted drive dies a little too soon, it can be easily replaced with no data loss. From that standpoint, Red is ideal, but with the lack of a 4TB option, some consumers might not have been too pleased.

Well, Seagate noticed that void and has come to fill it, and interestingly, while WD’s Red series includes a 1TB option, Seagate’s “NAS HDD” series does not. We can’t imagine that 1TB options for NAS use is that popular anyway.

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

Desktop HDD1TB – 4TB5,900 ~ 7,200 12-yearConsumer~$175 (4TB)
Desktop SSHD 21TB – 2TB7,200 + 8GB SLC3-yearConsumer$???
Enterprise Capacity1TB – 3TB7,2005-yearEnterprise~$370 (4TB)
Enterprise Value1TB – 3TB7,2003-yearEnterprise~$190 (3TB)
Terascale HDD4TB5,9003-yearEnterprise~$335 (4TB)
NAS HDD2TB – 4TB5,9003-yearNAS~$210 (4TB)
All speeds are in RPM (rotations per minute).
All drives include 64MB of cache (Enterprise Capacity (Constellation ES.3) includes 128MB).
Pricing is based on stable trends across Amazon and Newegg.
1 4TB model is 5,900 RPM; rest are 7,200 RPM.
2 Cannot be found at retail; for OEMs only.
For NAS compatibility, go here (click on “Features”).

Would you believe that this single table took me longer than an hour to create? That’s entirely thanks to how difficult Seagate makes it to find certain information. Transparency clearly isn’t the company’s strong point. That aside, I found that understanding Seagate’s line-up was much more difficult than WD’s – I guess I kind of like the simplified naming scheme on the WD side (Red, Green, Blue, Black, Se, Re) better than Seagate’s, which sometimes doesn’t even stay consistent with itself. Did you know that “Enterprise Capacity” is being sold as Constellation ES.3 virtually everywhere? Seems needlessly complex.

The best-comparable drive to the NAS HDD in Seagate’s own line-up is Desktop HDD – at least if we’re talking about the 4TB model. While all three NAS HDD densities are spec’d at 5,900 RPM, only the 4TB model in the Desktop HDD series is. Similar to what we saw in WD’s line-up, the NAS variant costs a bit more TB for TB, but it has the worthwhile perk of having another year added to its warranty (3 vs. 2).

NAS HDD is recommended by Seagate for those at home, running a NAS with 1 – 5 drives, while Constellation CS drives are better recommended for small business, where 6 – 8 bay NASes might be used. For mission-critical NAS-use, such as with surveillance, Constellation ES.3 drives are Seagate’s recommendation (as would be ours, or WD’s Re drives).

Hard drives from different vendors might have various tweaks to their formula, but it’s safe to say that WD’s NAS drive and Seagate’s NAS drive are not going to be too different for the average consumer. So, pricing comes into play. Where do we stand?

Seagate NAS HDDN/A$124 ($62/TB)$156 ($52/TB)$210 ($52.5/TB)
WD Red$80 ($80/TB)$105 ($52.5/TB)$146 ($48.66/TB)N/A
Pricing information courtesy of Amazon and Newegg (08/11/13) . Best (stable) prices selected only.

For a 4TB NAS offering, there’s just one option, so that will rule WD out for some people (WD’s enterprise Se 4TB is $280). Perhaps due to the fact that they’ve been on the market for a year, WD’s Red costs a bit less than Seagate’s NAS HDD for the 2TB and 3TB options (saving $19 and $10, respectively).

Seagate NASworks

We won’t go into each and every feature the NAS HDD series includes, because little has changed over the years (that the companies can tell us, at least). NASworks is the leading feature on this particular series, which as we mentioned before tweaks the error correction to make sure it never becomes a problem, reduces vibration and includes more advanced power profiles. All very good stuff.

While this won’t affect the home user much, it’s worth quickly covering what the NAS HDD series lacks vs. Constellation. Performance is at the top of the list, with a reported 140MB/s for NAS HDD and 160MB/s+ for Constellation. NAS HDD also lacks an internal secure erase (important for truly sensitive data), lacks the self-encryption of the Constellation ES.3 series and doesn’t have quite as robust vibration-reduction solutions. Again though, nothing here is likely to affect a home user, especially overall performance, given 140MB/s exceeds your Gigabit network’s peak of 125MB/s.

On the topic of performance, let’s see how Seagate’s NAS HDD fares there. 

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
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:
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 2TB (WD20EFRX, 64MB Cache, ~5.3K RPM)
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 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

Because our WD Red drive is 2TB, and the Seagate NAS HDD is 4TB, comparing the two head-to-head is a little unfair. That said, Seagate’s offering does come out on top in all but two of the tests here, with a 4.6% improvement in the overall Storage Score.

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

Seagate’s NAS HDD has an excellent showing here, landing itself midway up the charts with regards to read and write throughput. Its access times are a bit lacking, but typical of low-RPM offerings (and still beats WD’s Red).

Simply fantastic continued performance here. 

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 NAS HDD continues to shine here, and I admit, I’m rather impressed – the drive continues to give the Desktop HDD a run for its money, but I guess if you suppose the NAS variant is the more expensive of the two, then it might even out.

AIDA agrees with HD Tune on the latency front when talking about the NAS drives, though WD’s Red fell a bit further behind here.

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.

There’s a noticeable flip-flopping going on here between WD’s 2TB Red and Seagate’s 4TB NAS HDD. It’s hard to declare one a winner, but it does appear that the WD Red’s endurance is a bit better when dealing with large transfers that deal with thousands (or tens of thousands) of files.

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..

Here, Seagate’s NAS HDD aligns itself nearly perfectly with the Desktop HDD model of the same size – it’s almost scary. In the grand scheme, performance differs very little among all the low-RPM drives.

Final Thoughts

I love tackling our “Final Thoughts” section for products like Seagate’s NAS HDD because it’s just so straight-forward. Plus, it helps when products prove to be quite good, such as this one has.

When choosing between hard drives for your NAS, I wholeheartedly recommend targeting models that are built for that use. Prior to the release of WD’s Red and Seagate’s new NAS HDD, the best options were much more expensive, and we can see what can arise from using low-powered drives not designed for use behind a RAID controller. Personally, I’d feel a lot safer using one of these drives in my NAS than a WD Green or Seagate Desktop HDD.

That said, error correction isn’t the only tweak made to these drives that make them more suitable for NAS use. Each contains their own flavor of things to improve on things. On Seagate’s side, the highlight feature is called NASware, and perks there include vibration reduction (could be important given NASes tend to be 24/7 appliances) and improved power profiles. We’re sure there’s even more to the formula than what we’re being told, because hard drive vendors are notorious for keeping specifics a secret (and it’s hard to blame them).

Seagate NAS HDD 4TB

The battle worth paying attention to in our testing was WD Red 2TB vs. Seagate NAS HDD 4TB, but because of the density differences, it’s not a match-up I’m too comfortable focusing on too much. A 3TB match-up would be a little more interesting, and if there’s demand for that, we’ll consider tackling it.

From what we did see, though, even compared to other 4TB models, Seagate’s NAS HDD performed very well. It delivered some of the best IOPS performance in our HD Tune tests, and more often than not, surpassed the performance of WD’s 2TB Red. Nothing stood out as a problem with the NAS HDD, and that’s what’s important.

Given what both Seagate and WD offer with their respective drives, it’s impossible to say that one is better than the other, but because of some of their choices, a decision on your part can be easier made. For example, if you want a 4TB NAS option, you have exactly one choice if affordability is your goal (enterprise drives are nice, but expensive). For 2TB and 3TB options, WD’s Red tends to be a bit cheaper at this point in time ($10 cheaper for 3TB, $20 for 2TB). And, if you happen to be one of the few that wants to put a 1TB drive to their NAS work, WD is the only one offering that solution.

Depending on what you’re looking for, both companies offer great products here. Tackling the Seagate NAS HDD 4TB specifically, I’d be hard-pressed to not award it an Editor’s Choice given all that it offers. It’s a bit more expensive than the standard Desktop HDD variant which offers similar speeds, but its NAS perks and the additional year warranty more than makes up for it.



Seagate NAS HDD

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