In some ways, the Red 4TB feels like the future of mechanical drives. It's tuned for PC RAID arrays and network-attached storage, which are the most attractive applications for high-capacity hard drives right now. When you're storing 4TB of data, you want some measure of redundancy. RAID provides that protection, and NAS devices add another layer. They're also pretty good at sharing data between multiple machines, a crucial capability in a world increasingly filled with mobile devices that have limited storage.
Although we haven't plugged the Red 4TB into any NAS devices, it's comforting to know that WD has conducted extensive compatibility testing. We're more interested in the drive's suitability for PC applications, where its time-limited error recovery is perfect for DIY RAID configs.
We ran the Red through an exhaustive suite of PC-based performance tests, and it was consistently faster than its low-power peers. In a few instances, the Red even managed to beat some 7,200-RPM drives. It wasn't too slow in our load time tests, either. I could live with loading the seldom-played games in my Steam library off of the thing.
Loading those games off the 7,200-RPM Black 4TB would be faster, of course, but it comes with an acoustic penalty. The Red is noticeably quieter, especially while seeking. In fact, the Red is the quietest 4TB drive we've tested to date.
The Red's perks do come at a premium; the drive costs $40 more than Seagate's Desktop HDD.15 4TB and $20 more than WD's own Green 4TB. Those low-power drives have shorter two-year warranties, though. The Red's three-year coverage is yet another perk, albeit one that would be more encouraging if there weren't so many DOA and premature failure reports in Newegg's user reviews. I see a lot of similar complaints about other high-capacity drives, suggesting that the handling and packaging problem WD identified may be more widespread.
If modern mechanical drives are somewhat fragile, then the case for deploying them in RAID arrays is even stronger. And so is the appeal of NAS devices that make redundant storage easy for everyday folks to manage and share. Even if the Red 4TB doesn't foretell the future of hard drives, it feels very much of this time.