WD’s Red 4TB hard drive reviewed

PC storage has increasingly split into two categories: system and secondary. System storage houses your OS, applications, games, and all the data you need to access quickly. Secondary storage handles everything else.

SSDs are easily the best solution for system storage right now. They’re insanely fast and finally capable of housing a decent-sized Steam library without draining your bank account. For secondary storage, old-school mechanical hard drives are still the way to go—their cost per gigabyte simply can’t be beat.

Of course, there are multiple classes of mechanical storage. In the consumer space, high-end models typically rotate their platters at 7,200 RPM, while low-power variants spin them at a more sedate 5,400 RPM. The slower spindle speed hinders performance, but it also lowers noise levels and power consumption.

If you can afford an SSD large enough to house all of your important applications and data, a low-power hard drives (or two) is the best option for secondary storage. Low-power drives are also preferred for NAS devices, which seem to be more popular than homebrew file servers these days. NAS devices are limited by the bandwidth of their network connections, so speed isn’t the primary concern.

Which brings us to the WD Red 4TB.

The Red is a low-power drive built specifically for secondary storage, whether it’s connected via a network or living inside your PC. The drive’s low-power credentials are somewhat obfuscated by its spec sheet, which lists the spindle speed as “IntelliPower”—marketing speak for about 5,400-RPM. Red models can have slightly different spindle speeds based on their particular platter configurations, so there’s some justification for the IntelliPower nonsense. Listing the spindle speed as ~5,400 RPM would have been much simpler, though.

WD uses four one-terabyte platters to bring the Red up to 4TB. That configuration is shared by WD’s Green 4TB, which is another IntelliPower model. Both sport 6Gbps Serial ATA interfaces and 64MB DRAM caches.

Interface 6Gbps SATA
Spindle speed ~5,400 RPM
Cache size 64MB
Platter capacity 1TB
Total capacity 4TB
Max sustained data rate 150MB/s
Idle acoustics 25 dBA
Seek acoustics 28 dBA
Idle power 3.3W
Read/write power 4.5W
Warranty length Three years

Specifications are just a small part of the equation for the Red 4TB. The drive’s defining feature is NASware 2.0, a collection of optimizations targeting network-attached storage and RAID implementations. The firmware includes special hooks for NAS-specific power management routines. It also supports the ATA Streaming command set used by some consumer electronics gear. Designed for streaming media, this extension to the ATA command set allows hosts to demand that data is delivered within a specific timeframe.

For RAID configurations, NASware offers time-limited error recovery. This feature prevents drives from engaging in lengthy error recovery procedures. If drives spend too long chasing down errors, the RAID controller can drop them from the array, forcing a time-consuming rebuild. RAID controllers have their own error correction routines, so they can address problems that drives can’t resolve quickly enough on their own.

The Red’s TLER support should work with any PC RAID controller. WD has also done extensive testing to ensure that the Red family is compatible with a wide range of NAS boxes. If you’re curious whether your network-attached storage device supports the 4TB model, check WD’s compatibility selector.

In addition to testing the Red in a range of NAS devices, WD performs validation testing to ensure the drive can run non-stop in warmer environments. Hard drives can really heat up when multi-drive arrays are squeezed inside the smaller chassis typical of NAS gear.

Vibration can also be an issue for tightly packed drives, but the Red has “dual-plane balance control technology” to minimize that. WD says this feature helps lower the Red’s noise levels and lengthen its lifespan. We’re still waiting for the firm to clarify exactly what the balancing act entails, though. Balance control appears to be limited to reducing the drive’s own vibration, unlike WD’s Rotary Acceleration Feed Forward (RAFF) tech, which aims to cancel out the vibration produced by adjacent drives. RAFF is available in WD’s enterprise-oriented Se and Re models.

The Red 4TB’s one-million-hour Mean Time Between Failures rating falls between the 800,000- and 1.2-million-hour ratings attached to the Se and Re drives, respectively. Those enterprise-oriented models have five-year warranties, while the Red is covered for just three years. The three-year warranty is at least longer than the two-year coverage typically associated with desktop drives.

Although WD touts the Red’s reliability, an awful lot of Newegg user reviews complain of DOA drives. Over 20% of the reviews for the 2TB and 3TB models give those variants just one star, with stillborn drives and premature death often cited as the cause. I see just a couple of legitimate user reviews of the 4TB model, which has only been available for a few weeks, but both report problems. Oddly enough, the user reviews at Amazon are considerably more positive. We asked WD about the discrepancy; after looking into it, the company “identified an improper handling and packaging issue at a few partners.” WD is working to resolve the issue, and we’ll be keeping an eye on user reviews to see if the complaints persist.

If you encounter problems, reaching out to WD should be easy. The Red family has a dedicated support line that, apart from major US holidays, is available 24/7. The hotline is free for 30 days from your first call. After that, you’ll need to purchase a support plan or pay a per-incident fee.

Lining up the competition

We’ve run quite a few desktop drives through our storage test suite, including a handful of low-power models with spindle speeds close to 5,400 RPM.

Interface Cache Spindle
speed
Areal
density
Hitachi
Deskstar 7K3000 3TB
6Gbps 64MB 7,200 RPM 411 Gb/in²
Seagate
Barracuda 3TB
6Gbps 64MB 7,200 RPM 625 Gb/in²
Seagate
Desktop HDD.15 4TB
6Gbps 64MB 5,900 RPM 625 Gb/in²
WD
Caviar Black 1TB
6Gbps 64MB 7,200 RPM 400 Gb/in²
WD
Caviar Black 2TB
6Gbps 64MB 7,200 RPM 400 Gb/in²
WD
Black 4TB
6Gbps 64MB 7,200 RPM NA
WD
Red 3TB
6Gbps 64MB 5,400 RPM NA
WD
Red 4TB
6Gbps 64MB 5,400 RPM NA
WD
VelociRaptor VR200M 600GB
6Gbps 32MB 10,000 RPM NA
WD
VelociRaptor 1TB
6Gbps 64MB 10,000 RPM NA

The Red 4TB’s most direct competition is Seagate’s Desktop HDD.15 4TB, which has a similar spindle speed and Seagate’s blessing for use in desktop RAID configs. Seagate also makes a NAS-specific 4TB drive, but that model isn’t quite finished working its way through our test suite. Stay tuned for a full review.

Another drive to watch is the Black 4TB. That model is WD’s flagship 7,200-RPM desktop drive; it will highlight the performance difference between the two predominant spindle speeds in the desktop storage world.

While it’s hard to rationalize how a 4TB mechanical hard drive really competes with SSDs that cost at least ten times more per gigabyte, the comparison has to be made. Here’s the stack of solid-state drives that will be squaring off against the mechanical field.

Cache Flash controller NAND
Crucial M500 240GB 256MB Marvell 88SS9187 20nm Micron sync MLC
Intel 335 Series 240GB NA SandForce SF-2281 20nm Intel sync MLC
OCZ Vector 256GB 512MB Indilinx Barefoot 3 25nm Intel sync MLC
Samsung 840 Series 250GB 512MB Samsung MDX 21nm Samsung Toggle TLC
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB 512MB Samsung MDX 21nm Samsung Toggle MLC

These five drives nicely cover some of the more popular controller and NAND combinations for modern SSDs. We have representatives from the high end of the spectrum, the more affordable side, and multiple points in between. All the drives are in the 240-256GB range.

If you’re a TR regular already familiar with our storage test system and methods, feel free to skip ahead to the performance results. Apart from minor tweaks to the table below, the rest of this page is copied lazily from previous reviews.

Our test methods

We used the following system configuration for testing:

Processor Intel
Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz
CPU cooler
Thermaltake Frio
Motherboard
Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Bios revision 1850
Platform hub Intel P67
Express
Platform drivers INF update
9.2.0.1030

RST 10.6.0.1022

Memory size 8GB (2
DIMMs)
Memory type
Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM
at 1333MHz
Memory timings 9-9-9-24-1T
Audio Realtek
ALC892 with 2.62 drivers
Graphics
Asus EAH6670/DIS/1GD5 1GB
with Catalyst 11.7 drivers
Hard drives Crucial M500
256GB with MU02 firmware

Intel 335 Series 240GB with 335s firmware

OCZ Vector 256GB with 10200000 firmware

Samsung 840 Series 250GB with DXT07B0Q firmware

Samsung 840 Pro Series 256GB with DXM04B0Q firmware

Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 3TB with MKA0A580 firmware

Seagate Barracuda 3TB with CC47 firmware

Seagate Desktop HDD.15 4TB with B660 firmware

WD Caviar Black 1TB with 05.01D05 firmware

WD Caviar Black 2TB with 01.00101 firmware

WD Red 3TB with 80.00A80 firmware

WD Red 4TB with 80.00A80 firmware

WD VelociRaptor VR200M 600GB with 04.05G04 firmware

WD VelociRaptor 1TB with 04.06A00 firmware

WD Black 4TB with 01.01L01 firmware

Power supply
Corsair Professional Series Gold AX650W
OS
Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Thanks to Asus for providing the systems’ motherboards and graphics cards, Intel for the CPUs, Corsair for the memory and PSUs, Thermaltake for the CPU coolers, and Western Digital for the Caviar Black 1TB system drives.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

Some further notes on our test methods:

  • To ensure consistent and repeatable results, the SSDs were secure-erased before almost every component of our test suite. Some of our tests then put the SSDs into a used state before the workload begins, which better exposes each drive’s long-term performance characteristics. In other tests, like DriveBench and FileBench, we induce a used state before testing. In all cases, the SSDs were in the same state before each test, ensuring an even playing field. The performance of mechanical hard drives is much more consistent between factory fresh and used states, so we skipped wiping the HDDs before each test—mechanical drives take forever to secure erase.

  • We run all our tests at least three times and report the median of the results. We’ve found IOMeter performance can fall off with SSDs after the first couple of runs, so we use five runs for solid-state drives and throw out the first two.

  • Steps have been taken to ensure that Sandy Bridge’s power-saving features don’t taint any of our results. All of the CPU’s low-power states have been disabled, effectively pegging the 2500K at 3.3GHz. Transitioning in and out of different power states can affect the performance of storage benchmarks, especially when dealing with short burst transfers.

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1280×1024 in 32-bit color at a 75Hz screen refresh rate. Most of the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Noise levels

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 CPU cooler’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. 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 WD Red 4TB is remarkably quiet; it emanates a faint hum while idling, and its seek chatter is barely audible from a few inches away. Only the 3TB version produces less noise, likely because it has fewer platters. Drives with higher platter counts tend to generate more noise.

Spindle speeds also affect noise levels, so it’s no surprise that the three quietest drives have rotational speeds close to 5,400 RPM. The 7,200-RPM models are all much louder. In fact, the Black 4TB generates nearly 10 decibels more than its Red counterpart during our seek test. Since decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale, that delta makes the Black twice as loud as the Red. You can definitely hear the difference between the two—and even between the Red and Seagate’s Desktop HDD.15 4TB—when the drives are getting hammered.

Power consumption

Power consumption was tested 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.

Although the Desktop HDD.15 consumes a little less power than the Red 4TB under load, the WD drive is more efficient at idle.

The Red 4TB draws only a fraction of the power of its Black sibling, largely due to the difference in spindle speed. Drive motors require more power the faster they spin the platters. Power consumption typically increases with the platter count, as well. That’s why the Red 3TB requires less wattage than the 4TB model.

Unless you’re running a big stack of drives, such small differences will amount to little more than a drop in the bucket on your monthly power bill. Keep in mind that heat output usually tracks with power consumption, though.

HD Tune — Transfer rates

HD Tune lets us look at transfer rates across the extent of the drive, and we’ve plotted the full profiles for the mechanical drives in the line graphs below. The SSDs are fast enough to throw off the scale, so we’ve left them out. You can click the buttons below each of the line graphs to see how the Red 4TB compares to different classes of competitors.


The Red 4TB has slightly slower sustained read speeds than the 3TB variant, putting it near the bottom of the standings. The Desktop HDD.15 is 21MB/s faster in this test, besting even the Black 4TB. Seagate drives have always performed well in sequential transfer rate tests like this one.

Of course, the SSDs are in another class entirely. Even the slowest of the bunch is three times faster than the Red 4TB.


The mechanical drives have similar transfer rates in the write speed test. Again, the Red 4TB lags behind much of the field. 114MB/s is nearly fast enough to saturate a Gigabit Ethernet connection, though.

This next test measures the speed of short “burst” transfers that target the DRAM caches on traditional hard drives.

As long as you stick to short, bursty transfers, the Red 4TB can push data at over 300MB/s. The drive’s burst rates are notably quicker than those of the Desktop HDD.15. However, the Black 4TB’s DRAM cache is faster still.

HD Tune — Random access times

Our next set of HD Tune tests probes random access times with various transfer sizes. We’ll start with a line graph showing all the results for the mechanical drives before moving onto bar charts that cover a couple of key transfer sizes.

The 5,400-RPM drives have the longest access times of the bunch, but the Red 4TB is the quickest among them. It has shorter access times than the Red 3TB and Desktop HDD.15 across the board.

The WD Black 4TB’s access times are considerably shorter, of course. Higher spindle speeds typically produce quicker access times. But SSDs have nearly instantaneous access times, making the differences between the mechanical drives seem relatively minor. In the 4K test, the solid-state drives are two orders of magnitude ahead of the fastest mechanical models.

Some of the hard drives turn in funky scores in HD Tune’s random write tests, and the Reds are among them. The 3TB and 4TB models both exhibit longer access times in the 512-byte test, likely due to their implementation of native 4KB sectors. They fare much better than the Desktop HDD.15, which struggles in all but the 1MB test.

Once again, the SSDs are in another class entirely. Their advantage over the mechanical field isn’t as pronounced in the 1MB test, but it’s still substantial.

TR FileBench — Real-world copy speeds

Concocted by resident developer Bruno “morphine” Ferreira, FileBench runs through a series of file copy operations using Windows 7’s xcopy command. Using xcopy produces nearly identical copy speeds to dragging and dropping files using the Windows GUI, so our results should be representative of typical real-world performance. We tested using the following five file sets—note the differences in average file sizes and their compressibility. We evaluated the compressibility of each file set by comparing its size before and after being run through 7-Zip’s “ultra” compression scheme.

  Number of files Average file size Total size Compressibility
Movie 6 701MB 4.1GB 0.5%
RAW 101 23.6MB 2.32GB 3.2%
MP3 549 6.48MB 3.47GB 0.5%
TR 26,767 64.6KB 1.7GB 53%
Mozilla 22,696 39.4KB 923MB 91%

The names of most of the file sets are self-explanatory. The Mozilla set is made up of all the files necessary to compile the browser, while the TR set includes years worth of the images, HTML files, and spreadsheets behind my reviews. Those two sets contain much larger numbers of smaller files than the other three. They’re also the most amenable to compression.

The SSDs were tested in a simulated used state that should be representative of their long-term performance. We didn’t simulate a used state with the mechanical drives or hybrids, which tend to offer consistent performance regardless of whether we’ve run our used-state torture test.

The Red 4TB fares well in the Mozilla and TR tests, besting the Desktop HDD.15 by 5-6MB/s. However, it’s 4-7MB/s slower than the Seagate drive in the MP3 and RAW tests. The Red seems to do better with smaller files, while the Desktop HDD.15 has an edge with larger ones. That doesn’t explain the results of the movie test, though. That test has the largest files of the lot, and the Red copies the movies a little bit faster than the Desktop HDD.15.

Interestingly, the Red 4TB isn’t that much slower than its Black counterpart. The IntelliPower 5,400-RPM model is only 2-9MB/s slower than its 7,200-RPM sibling.

The SSDs boast much higher copy speeds, of course, but they’re closer than one might expect in the Mozilla and TR tests. This test appears to require larger files for the SSDs to really stretch their legs.

TR DriveBench 1.0 — Disk-intensive multitasking

TR DriveBench allows us to record the individual IO requests associated with a Windows session and then play those results back as fast as possible on different drives. We’ve used this app to create a set of multitasking workloads that combine common desktop tasks with disk-intensive background operations like compiling code, copying files, downloading via BitTorrent, transcoding video, and scanning for viruses. The individual workloads are explained in more detail here.

Below, you’ll find an overall average followed by scores for each of our individual workloads. The overall score is an average of the mean performance score for each multitasking workload.

The SSDs absolutely crush the mechanical drives in DriveBench 1.0. If we just consider the hard drives, the Red 4TB doesn’t look too bad. It has higher I/O throughput than not only its 5,400-RPM competition, but also a couple of 7,200-RPM drives. Let’s see what we can learn from the individual test results.

The Red struggles a bit in the compiling test, but so do all of the 5,400-RPM drives. At least the Red 4TB is the best performer in that group; it hits higher I/O rates than the 3TB model and the Desktop HDD.15.

TR DriveBench 2.0 — More disk-intensive multitasking

As much as we like DriveBench 1.0’s individual workloads, the traces cover only slices of disk activity. Because we fire the recorded I/Os at the disks as fast as possible, solid-state drives also have no downtime during which to engage background garbage collection or other optimization algorithms. DriveBench 2.0 addresses both of those issues with a much larger trace that spans two weeks of typical desktop activity peppered with multitasking loads similar to those in DriveBench 1.0. We’ve also adjusted our testing methods to give solid-state drives enough idle time to tidy up after themselves. More details on DriveBench 2.0 are available on this page of our last major SSD round-up.

Instead of looking at a raw IOps rate, we’re going to switch gears and explore service times—the amount of time it takes drives to complete an I/O request. We’ll start with an overall mean service time before slicing and dicing the results.

All things considered, the Red 4TB performs pretty well in DriveBench 2.0 overall. Though it can’t catch the Black 4TB, the Red has a healthy lead over the Desktop HDD.15. It’s quicker overall than a couple of 7,200-RPM drives, too.

The SSDs have much lower mean service times, of course, but you knew that was going to happen.

Let’s slice and dice the data with a few more metrics. We’ll start by splitting mean service times between read and write requests.

Betcha didn’t see that coming. The SSDs have substantially quicker read service times than the hard drives, but the contest is much closer when we look at write service times. The Crucial M500 256GB actually comes out behind the mechanical pack, though it has less internal parallelism than the other SSDs.

Back to the mechanical drives, the Red 4TB looks solid. The Desktop HDD.15 and Red 3TB both have longer mean service times for reads and writes. The Black 4TB has a distinct advantage on both fronts, highlighting the benefit of its higher spindle speed. If you’re going to use a mechanical drive to house your OS and applications, you’re better off with a 7,200-RPM model.

There are tens of millions of I/O requests in this trace, so we can’t easily graph all the service times to look at the variance. However, our analysis tools do report the standard deviation, which can give us a sense of how much service times vary from the mean.

The Red 4TB’s write service times are more consistent than its read service times. That’s true for all the hard drives, but there’s another subplot here. The Red 4TB has less write variance than its 5,400-RPM peers but more read variance than pretty much all of the mechanical drives.

We can’t easily graph all the service times recorded by DriveBench 2.0, but we can sort them. The graphs below plot the percentage of service times that fall below various thresholds. You can click the buttons below the graphs to see how the Red 4TB compares to different classes of mechanical and solid-state drives.



The Red 4TB’s read and write distributions closely shadow those of the Black 4TB. That’s pretty good company to keep, and it puts the Red well ahead of the Desktop HDD.15. The Seagate drive has fewer service times under each threshold.

Even the mechanical drives complete the vast majority of I/O requests in less than 100 milliseconds. Service times longer than that may have a perceptible impact on system responsiveness, so we’ve graphed them separately.

Although the percentages are very low overall, DriveBench 2.0 comprises tens of millions of I/O requests over nearly two weeks of disk activity. Even half a percent works out to tens of thousands of extremely long service times.

The Red 4TB occupies an increasingly familiar position ahead of its 5,400-RPM rivals but behind most of the 7,200-RPM contenders. It has three times more extremely long write service times than the Black 4TB but half as many as the Desktop HDD.15.

Meanwhile, the SSDs typically lead the mechanical drives by at least one order of magnitude. No wonder they feel so much snappier overall.

IOMeter

Our IOMeter workloads feature a ramping number of concurrent I/O requests. Most desktop systems will only have a few requests in flight at any given time (87% of DriveBench 2.0 requests have a queue depth of four or less). We’ve extended our scaling up to 32 concurrent requests to reach the depth of the Native Command Queuing pipeline associated with the Serial ATA specification. Ramping up the number of requests also gives us a sense of how the drives might perform in more demanding enterprise environments.

There’s too much data to easily show on a single graph for each access pattern, so we’ve once again split the results by drive class. You can compare the Red 4TB’s performance to that of the competition by clicking the buttons below each graph. Note that the scale is different for the Raptor results.

We’ve also banished the SSDs from this set of results. Their transaction rates demand a much higher scale, making it impossible to discern what’s going on with the mechanical drives. You can see how the SSDs compare on this page of our Samsung 840 EVO review.


The web server access pattern is made up exclusively of read requests. True to the trend, the Red 4TB finds itself wedged between the two spindle speeds. It has higher I/O rates than the Desktop HDD.15 and Red 3TB but lower performance than everything with a 7,200-RPM or faster rotational speed.

Impressively, the Red 4TB nips at the heels of the 7,200-RPM drives from Seagate and Hitachi. The WD Blacks crunch a lot more I/O across our scaling load, though.




The rest of our IOMeter access patterns mix read and write requests, and the results are similar to what we saw in the web server test. The Red 4TB has a consistent edge over its low-power peers but pulls up short of taking on the next tier.

Boot duration

Before timing a couple of real-world applications, we first have to load the OS. We can measure how long that takes by checking the Windows 7 boot duration using the operating system’s performance-monitoring tools. This is actually the first test in which we’re booting Windows off each drive; up until this point, our testing has been hosted by an OS housed on a separate system drive.

Level load times

The Red 4TB’s load times are only about a second slower than those of the Black 4TB. The gaps between the Red and the slower Desktop HDD.15 aren’t much wider, but I can’t bring myself to do much more than shrug my shoulders. It’s hard to get excited about differences of only a couple of seconds when the SSDs are so much faster.

The value perspective

Welcome to our famous value analysis, which adds capacity and pricing to the performance data we’ve explored over the preceding pages. We used Newegg to price all of the drives, and we didn’t take mail-in rebates into account when performing our calculations.

First, we’ll look at the all-important cost per gigabyte, which we’ve obtained using the amount of storage capacity accessible to users in Windows.

At $210 online, the Red 4TB costs a fair bit more than the $170 Desktop HDD.15. The difference works out to only about a penny per gigabyte, though. That’s less than the two-cent gap between the Red and Black 4TB, which sells for $290.

Finally, the mechanical drives exact their revenge on the SSDs. The solid-state drives have similar asking prices to the 4TB HDDs but only a tiny fraction of their storage capacity.

Our remaining value calculation uses a single performance score that we’ve derived by comparing how each drive stacks up against a common baseline provided by the Momentus 5400.4, a 2.5″ notebook drive with a 5,400-RPM spindle speed. This index uses a subset of our performance data described on this page of our last SSD round-up.

The Red 4TB is a solid all-around performer; it’s competitive with several 7,200-RPM models and comfortably ahead of the 5,400-RPM competition. The WD Black 4TB offers a nice step up, but it’s nothing like upgrading to an SSD.

Now for the real magic. We can plot this overall score on one axis and each drive’s cost per gigabyte on the other to create a scatter plot of performance per dollar per gigabyte. The best place on the plot is the upper-left corner, which combines high performance with a low price. We’ll focus on the mechanical drives first. You’ll see why in a moment.

The Red 4TB is quite a bit faster than the 5,400-RPM contenders for only a little more per gig. As a result, it occupies a nice spot on the plot. You could get higher performance from something like the Black 4TB, but you’re going to pay for it.

WD’s 10k-RPM VelociRaptors are definitely outliers. They occupy a sort of no-man’s-land between traditional hard drives and SSDs.

Adding the SSDs to the plot throws off the scale enough to minimize the differences between the mechanical drives. This is why PCs are best equipped with hybrid configurations that combine separate system and mass-storage drives.

Conclusions

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.

Comments closed
    • tipoo
    • 6 years ago

    I really think all mainstream to high end hard drives should start slapping a small amount of NAND cache on them, it really does make a huge difference. I still really like my second gen Momentus XT 750. 4GB or 8GB per disk isn’t that much more expensive, and it really takes the performance to a new level. In the face of SSDs, standard hard drives just feel like doo doo, and a bit of NAND cache helps them not.

    • DiMaestro
    • 6 years ago

    What makes this drive more or less ‘NAS’ ready from other drives, besides WD marketing saying it’s a NAS drive.

      • DiMaestro
      • 6 years ago

      What’s the price per gigabyte compared to this article? [url<]https://techreport.com/review/23867/hard-drive-prices-one-year-after-the-flood[/url<] What *are* we paying for these drives with the slightly above half warranty they had 3 years ago? (yea, they dropped the warranties on the 'better' drives from 5 to 3 years).

      • Krogoth
      • 6 years ago

      It has a different firmware that has increased access time period when dealing with bad sectors. They are assuming you are going to paid the drives in a RAID inside the NAS box.

    • Chrispy_
    • 6 years ago

    So:

    WD Reds have dubious reliablity – might be shipping issue, but no evidence either way.
    My latest Seagates are running hot and noisy, might be a duff batch of four.
    WD Greens are still bad for RAID, head parking not playing with softRAID out of the box

    Does anyone have experience with Toshiba DT drives? I’m not so great on non-enterprise mechanical disks.
    I think they’re rebadged hitachi “up-to” 5940RPM models, if that’s any help.

    • TheCollective
    • 6 years ago

    While we are discussing high capacity storage and trade-offs, the gorilla in the room is Apple’s FusionDrive. Why oh why Microsoft won’t you do this in Windows? Apple allows their desktop users to have their cake and eat it too. I want the same on my Windows machine.

      • indeego
      • 6 years ago

      Yeah and Apple users want a working network stack. Good luck with that, OSX is fairly lackluster there!

      Fusion Drive sets aside over 10% of the drive for its purposes.

      It seems like it makes far more sense to Build Your Own and pair SSD + Mechanical. Fusion is Limiting on the low-end, and you pay dearly for it…

      [quote<]" On the iMac, Apple limits your options quite a bit. You can either buy a hard drive or the Fusion Drive on the 21.5-inch model, there’s no standalone SSD option. There the choice is a no-brainer. If you’re not going to buy your own SSD and replace the internal HDD with it (or try to see if OWC’s rMBP SSD fits), then the Fusion Drive is absolutely right choice. You’re paying handsomely for the right ($250 for 128GB of NAND is very 2011), but if you’re not willing to crack open the iMac case this is really the only way to go. For the 27-inch iMac the decision is similarly difficult. Apple does offer a standalone SSD option, but it’s for a 768GB model that will set you back $1300. All of the sudden that $250 Fusion Drive upgrade sounds a lot more reasonable. On the Mac mini side the decision is far simpler. The Fusion Drive is only available on the $799 configuration (for $250) but so is a 256GB SSD upgrade for $300. As long as you’re ok with using an external hard drive for mass storage, here I’d go for the big standalone SSD. The usual caveat applies: this is only true if you’re not interested in cracking open the mini yourself and using a 3rd party SSD."[/quote<]

      • MadManOriginal
      • 6 years ago

      Intel already did it for them.

      • tipoo
      • 6 years ago

      What now? Doesn’t Intels SSD cache do the same thing?

    • davidbowser
    • 6 years ago

    I own several Reds that I use in a NAS. I have not run into any issues yet, but I have had Hitachi and WD Blacks die in the NAS.

    I think that the heat has some influence as the 7200s tend to run hotter than the 5400s. I have pulled a 7200 Hitachi out of the NAS and it was hot enough that I nearly dropped it. (Cue Snoop) NAS boxes tend to have tiny fans and poorly vented enclosures. I started leaving the front covers off to keep them cool.

      • squeeb
      • 6 years ago

      Hitachi makes some truly awful drives.

    • defacer
    • 6 years ago

    Geoff, we are talking about high-capacity 5400 rpm drives. Why no WD Greens in the comparison?

      • End User
      • 6 years ago

      Greens are not NAS rated drives.

        • dashbarron
        • 6 years ago

        What exactly certifies this to be NAS? I’m not entirely sure what the difference is between a Green a Red. They both seem to be low-power/speed solutions?

          • Chrispy_
          • 6 years ago

          The red has firmware optimisations for 24/7 operation and error-recovery reporting that plays well with RAID controllers.
          The green does not.

          There are probably other differences, but I don’t think there are any “certifications”. It’s just marketed for NAS appliances rather than desktop PC’s.

      • Dissonance
      • 6 years ago

      We have a Green 4TB on the way. Stay tuned for a full review.

        • Chrispy_
        • 6 years ago

        Yay \o/

        I assume you guys will take a look at how they play with the ICH10 or similar fakeRAID?

    • Dissonance
    • 6 years ago

    WD has identified an “improper handling and packaging issue at a few partners” that may explain the high numbers of DOA reports in Newegg user reviews. We’ve updated the review accordingly.

      • continuum
      • 6 years ago

      Hah… I like how tactfully they worded that. “Improper handing” and “few partners”… *grins*

      • maxxcool
      • 6 years ago

      newegg = drunk monkeys with clamshells

    • LoneWolf15
    • 6 years ago

    A perfect backup drive in an eSATA enclosure for my (not full) 6TB RAID-5 array on my ProLiant Microserver. I’ll have to put it on my Christmas list.

    • Mightyflapjack
    • 6 years ago

    A few key areas that I would like to see tested:

    1. Detractors of these drives have stated that many are not seen in RAID configs or get errors in them, it would have been nice to see a test setting up a RAID 0/1 for all the drives to see if any failed to work on different mobos.

    2. I would have liked a multi-hour torture test to see if these drives are robust in a stress situation.

    Speed and access time is not really an issue with me for NAS/Storage drives, I want to be sure that they are robust.

      • Dissonance
      • 6 years ago

      Our IOMeter tests run for a few hours straight. DriveBench 2.0 also takes several *days* to run on mechanical hard drives, so they get quite a bit of sustained testing in our standard suite.

    • slaimus
    • 6 years ago

    Do the Red drives have the same aggressive head parking behavior as the Green drives?

    • hasseb64
    • 6 years ago

    Same shit different marketing names, they could produce A 4 TB drive and you as a costumer could choose what you what and need, speeds/functions, but no, they choose to divide these “HIGH TECH pieces” into many segements and put fancy colour labels on them…. to get better paid off course..

      • SoM
      • 6 years ago

      it’s all about color, didn’t you know..

    • CampinCarl
    • 6 years ago

    Edit: I shouldn’t do maths in the morning.

    • flip-mode
    • 6 years ago

    About a year ago I got five Reds and four of them were DOA. I sent them back and got Seagate drives which have been spinning 24/7 since with no problems.

      • Chrispy_
      • 6 years ago

      Conversely I switched to Seagate drives for my 6TB array when my greens started annoying me with the head-parking problem.

      They’re noisy hot and vibrate a lot more than the greens, I wish I’d bought Reds.

    • albundy
    • 6 years ago

    Seagate .15 FTW! made WD second class! it doesn’t really matter, but i had to root for one of the two, right?

      • Vhalidictes
      • 6 years ago

      Too true for an Internet commenter 🙂

      What’s truly sad about my situation is that this article helpfully includes the 1TB WDC Black, which I have 4 of in my PC. They are all slower than this bulk storage drive.

      I had been thinking that SSDs meant that platter performance wouldn’t go up that much. I was wrong!

        • Chrispy_
        • 6 years ago

        Areal density increases pretty much guarantee sequential performance as the capacity goes up
        Minor improvements to firmware and actuator tech make small improvements to seek times.
        The only thing that hasn’t changed is rotational latency which isn’t such a huge deal with NCQ.

    • wizpig64
    • 6 years ago

    [quote<]WD uses four one-terabyte platters to bring the Red up to 4TB. That configuration is shared by WD's Black 4TB...[/quote<] The black drive uses 5 platters, doesn't it? That's what let Seagate's HDD.15 do so much better than it despite the lower spindle speed.

      • Dissonance
      • 6 years ago

      Brain fart. Fixed.

    • IOwnCalculus
    • 6 years ago

    It’s the shipping method. Newegg wraps a drive (in an antistatic bag only) up in large-bubble bubblewrap football of sorts and drops it in a box with peanuts. Everyone else (specifically, the manufacturers) uses plastic guides to hold the drive still within a carefully fitted cardboard box.

    Interestingly, when one of the three 2TB Reds I bought off of Newegg died about two weeks in, the WD RMA process asked me how the drive had been packed when it was shipped to me.

      • indeego
      • 6 years ago

      Isn’t that an OEM thing, though? OEM frequently doesn’t get special packaging, “retail” does.

      You’d think newegg would not be doing this, returns likely cost them a huge chunk of change.

      • mako
      • 6 years ago

      When I bought a Red from Newegg (about a year ago) I’m pretty sure it came in a box with plastic guides.

        • demani
        • 6 years ago

        If you buy drives in bulk they just ship them in the original foam packing that holds up to 20 or so drives. That packing is great and comes in a double walled corrugated box. Those drives seem to hold up just fine. For that reason I usually order 10+ drives when getting OEM units. If I need less I just go retail. The extra few bucks gets the retail box, and saves the likelihood of a failed drive due to packing shenanigans.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 6 years ago

      I’ve gotten tons of drives from Newegg and only had one semi-DOA (bad sectors). I really just think it’s a statistical luck of the draw barring absolutely horrible packaging like a bare drive in a big box that gets thrown around, which even at its worst Newegg never did.

    • Prospero424
    • 6 years ago

    I’ve wondered about those Newegg reviews. I own five 3TB Reds (sourced from both Newegg and Amazon); they’ve been operating for nearly a year with no problems. A friend of mine owns six 2TB Reds, and he’s had no failures. A client has five of them in a NAS, no problems.

    Anecdotal for sure, but it makes me wonder…

      • HunterZ
      • 6 years ago

      I’ve had a high percentage of DOA (or fail within a week) drives from WD over the years. I still prefer them, though, because when they do die it’s usually within the first week, and they ship you a replacement right away if you give them a credit card as collateral on the return of the broken drive.

      I’ve been more frustrated with Seagate drives, as a number of them have died or started making weird sounds farther into their lifespans (but still much earlier than they should have), and some had terrible designs with large fragile electronic components (inductors I think) on their exteriors that are easy to knock loose during installation.

      I may give Seagate another chance at some point if I see a better deal on their stuff, as it’s been a few years since now I’ve taken a chance on them.

    • wof
    • 6 years ago

    Just installed another Red 3Tb into my home server and I’d love to know what WD has to say about the newegg reviews. Perhaps you could ask newegg about the amount of returns ?

    BTW it would be cool if TR could test these kinds of drives in a raid configuration aswell since working well in raid is one of the main features.

    • Sargent Duck
    • 6 years ago

    I have no interest in setting up a NAS (well, not currently anyways) or raid but if I were to buy another storage drive for my HTPC, I think this would be it.

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