With SSDs increasingly serving our high-performance storage needs, the acoustic footprint of hard drives has arguably become a more important differentiating factor—especially for PC enthusiasts who have built themselves near-silent systems. We're a little OCD here at TR, so we've constructed a Box 'o Silence to test the noise emitted by mechanical hard drives. This 18" x 20" anechoic chamber is lined with acoustic foam, and we suspend hard drives inside it, exactly 4" away from the tip of our TES-52 digital sound level meter. You can read more about the setup here.
To ensure the lowest possible ambient noise levels, we swapped the test system's graphics card for a passively cooled Gigabyte model and unplugged one of the Frio's dual fans. Noise levels were measured after one minute of idling at the Windows desktop and during an HD Tune seek test.
We've color-coded the results by manufacturer to make the graphs easier to read, marking the Black 4TB with a brighter shade of blue than the other WD drives. Because they have no moving parts and are essentially silent, the SSDs are missing from the noise results. When they do appear in the graphs, the corresponding bars are greyed out to set apart what is really a different class of PC storage.
The Black 4TB is nearly the quietest 3.5" desktop drive of the bunch, humming just a fraction of a decibel louder than the Barracuda 3TB. That's a particularly impressive achievement considering the 'cuda has only three platters. Drives with fewer platters are typically quieter, a point nicely illustrated by the louder drone of the five-platter Deskstar 7K3000 3TB.
While those Hitachi and Seagate drives only get about a decibel louder when seeking, the Black 4TB's noise output jumps substantially. And audibly. The pitch of the chatter isn't too shrill, which is a relief.
We tested power consumption under load with IOMeter's workstation access pattern chewing through 32 concurrent I/O requests. Idle power consumption was probed one minute after processing Windows 7's idle tasks on an empty desktop.
The Black 4TB's power draw is the highest of the bunch under load and nearly the highest at idle. For the same reason they tend to be louder—more weight for the motor to spin—drives with higher platter counts tend to consume more power. Note that the five-platter Deskstar is also relatively power-hungry. Don't worry too much about differences of just a few watts, though. Those add up to a drop in the bucket on the average desktop user's utility bill.
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