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Western Digital RED 4TB Hard Drive Review

AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,274
Western Digital’s RED series is quite unique since it was from the ground up for home-use RAID environments and to compliment WD’s other NAS-centric products like the SE and RE. This is very much a middle-of-the road type product which hopes to bring mass storage to a desktop environment for those who have long since outstripped the limited space cloud-based solutions provide.

Unlike its siblings’ focus on datacenter environments with their scalability and enhanced longevity, the RED’s goals are less extreme. In order to appeal to price conscious users, it features a lower initial cost which has been achieved by cutting out some of the higher end models’ enterprise-centric features. It goes without saying that system administrators will likely avoid the RED but it provides an enticing option for everyone else.


2013 has been a big year for Western Digital with a new Black series alongside the refreshed RE and newly created SE but for the most part, the first generation RED drives were left alone. This left them to languish and fall further behind the completion.

With the release of the new 4TB RED this oversight was addressed with a drive that promises to be nothing like the original. That initial RED series was plagued by numerous problems ranging from poor performance to a reputation for poor reliability. Western Digital made it a priority to ensure that this never happened again and so this second generation refresh was introduced a few months ago.

Unfortunately, we have learned that some retailers still sell the first generation drives alongside the previous ones, resulting in no small amount of confusion. So what makes these newer drives different? 3D Active Balance, 1TB platters and a technology called NASware 2.0.


After working closely with their partners and consumers alike Western Digital was able to analyze exactly what buyers were looking for in entry level NAS storage device. The needs were distilled into four primary categories: Value, Capacity, Compatibility and Reliability.

Home and entry level SMB marketplace consumers don’t necessarily need the performance offered by the RE or SE models, but they still require a large capacity storage device which offers reasonable performance without breaking the bank. They also demand a drive which is nearly as reliable as the higher priced offerings and is guaranteed to work with their new NAS, even if it is not a Western Digital branded model.

This seemingly impossible task of offering increased reliability without a substantial price premium required an elegant solution. Hence NASware 2.0 technology was developed. NASware 2.0 is an umbrella term for a few key features which help make sure the new RED does more than pay lip service to addressing the previous RED model’s shortcomings.

These technology improvements take the form of both hardware and software solutions. On the software side of the equation is the drastically improved firmware which has been tailor-made for the entry level marketplace and places more emphasis on low queue depth performance. The firmware is also much more forgiving of NAS devices and along with support ATA Streaming and NAS-specific power management routines allows the new RED to be compatible with a broad a range of consumer NAS units.


Due to the RED 4TB’s low sub-$190 price point, Rotary Acceleration Feed Forward (RAFF) and other technologies weren’t possible. Thus, Western Digital has created a new way of ensuring that vibration and environmental conditions do not degrade the lifespan of the RED drives by implementing what they call 3D Active Balance Plus. This newly enhanced dual-plane balance control technology ensures that the entire drive – platters, arms, etc – is precisely balanced before they leave the factory. This is accomplished via much more exacting tolerances during final build and a more rigorous testing regime to ensure that each RED drive is up to spec before consumers even see it. These tolerances are actually tighter than the R.E. line, and this combined with increased factory testing allows the RED series to boast an MTBF which is 20% higher than the S.E - an impressive 1million hours. Beyond simple MTBF, the new RED is rated for a very, very impressive six hundred thousand Load/Unload cycles which is extremely high for the entry level marketplace.


Besides NASWare 2.0, the new RED series has another trick up its sleeve: 1 TB platters. It may still only be an ‘Intellipower’ / 5400rpm drive but with such ultra-dense platters backstopped by 64MB worth of SK-Hynix DDR2-800 cache and a Marvell 88i9446-NDB2 dual core controller, the new RED should drastically improve performance over its predecessor.
 
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AkG

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5,274
Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing a drive is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto folder on the drive in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account. There is also the SATA controller on your motherboard and how well it works with SSDs & HDDs to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for drives to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our testbed will be a more standard motherboard with no mods or high end gear added to it. This is to help replicate what you the end user’s experience will be like.

Even when the hardware issues are taken care of the software itself will have a negative or positive impact on the results. As with the hardware end of things, to obtain the absolute best results you do need to tweak your OS setup; however, just like with the hardware solution most people are not going to do this. For this reason our standard OS setup is used. However, except for the Vista load test times we have done our best to eliminate this issue by having the drive tested as a secondary drive. With the main drive being a Intel DC S3700 800GB Solid State Drive.

For synthetic tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HD Tune, Crystal Disk Benchmark, IOMeter, AS-SSD and PCMark 7.

For real world benchmarks such as OS startup, Firefox reload and data transfer times. For data transfer we timed how long a single 10GB rar file took to copy to and then from the devices. We also used 10gb of small files (from 100kb to 200MB) with a total 12,000 files in 400 subfolders.

All tests were run 4 times and average results are represented.

In between each test suite runs (with the exception being IOMeter which was done after every run) the drives are cleaned with either HDDerase, SaniErase or OCZ SSDToolbox and then quick formatted to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

For all RAID testing an LSI MegaRaid 9240 was used; however all drives attached were configured as JBOD and MS Windows 7 built in drive management tools were used to create the RAID array.

Processor: Core i5 2500
Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Memory:
8GB Corsair Vengeance "Blue" DDR3 1600
Graphics card: Asus 5550 passive
Hard Drive: Intel DC S3700 800GB, Intel 910 800GB
SAS Controller: LSI MegaRaid 9240
Power Supply: XFX 850
 

AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,274
Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


<i>For this benchmark, HD Tune Pro was used. It shows the potential read speed which you are likely to experience with these storage devices. We don’t put much stock in Burst speed readings and thus we no longer included it. The most important number is the Average Speed number. This number will tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations. The higher the average the faster your entire system will seem.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/read.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Write Performance


<i>For this benchmark HD Tune Pro was used. To run the write benchmark on a drive, you must first remove all partitions from that drive and then and only then will it allow you to run this test. Unlike some other benchmarking utilities the HD Tune Pro writes across the full area of the drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/write.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

<i>Please note: Due to the way HD Tune tests write performance, we were unable to test any drives in RAID configuration. As such, they have all been left out of this chart.</i>

Even though this new RED model makes use of 1 TB platters it still relies upon a rather slow 5400RPM rotational speed. This tends to handicap it somewhat but nonetheless, average read and write speeds are still respectable. Not that many generations ago, this level of performance would have required a 7200RPM spindle speed.
 
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AkG

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ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


<i>The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/atto_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/atto_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

As with the sequential file performance, the RED's read and write curves are actually impressive for a 5400RPM drive. On the surface of things these curves are rather lackluster, but the fact that a 5400RPM drive meant for RAID scenarios is actually competing against 7200RPM models is impressive.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,274
Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7 / AS-SSD

Crystal DiskMark


<i>Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/atto_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/atto_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Consumers who opt for the new RED line will be trading off a moderate amount of performance when compared against the RE and SE in return for a significant reduction in price. That is a very tempting trade-off considering the excellent multi-drive scaling. Based on these small file performance numbers the RED would be a sub-optimal boot device, but considering this model is meant to reside inside a NAS and not a PC this really isn't an issue.

PCMark 7


<i>While there are numerous suites of tests that make up PCMark 7, only one is pertinent: the HDD Suite. The HDD Suite consists of numerous tests that try and replicate real world drive usage. Everything from how long a simulated virus scan takes to complete, to MS Vista start up time to game load time is tested in these core tests; however we do not consider this anything other than just another suite of synthetic tests. For this reason, while each test is scored individually we have opted to include only the overall score.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/pcm7.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


AS-SSD


<i>AS-SSD is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and small 4K read/write speeds as well as 4K file speed at a queue depth of 6. While its primary goal is to accurately test Solid State Drives, it does equally well on all storage mediums it just takes longer to run each test as each test reads or writes 1GB of data.</i>
<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/asd_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/asd_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

The more we test this new model the more we come to respect what Western Digital have accomplished. As with all the other test results so far, the RED’s performance is significantly higher than we thought it would be.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,274
IOMETER

IOMETER: Our Standard Test


<i>IOMeter is heavily weighted towards the server end of things, and since we here at HWC are more End User centric we will be setting and judging the results of IOMeter a little bit differently than most. To test each drive we ran 5 test runs per device (1,4,16,64,128 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 8 subparts were set to run 100% random, 80% read 20% write; testing 512b, 1k, 2k,4k,8k,16k,32k,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 8 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments and workstation environments.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/iom.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

In single and simple RAID scenarios the RED does noticeably lag behind the other models at all queue depths. This was fully expected as it is the only 5400RPM drive in amongst 7200RPM models and terabyte-class platters can only take a drive so far.


IOMETER: File Server Test


<i>To test each drive we ran 6 test runs per device (1,4,16,64,128,256 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 6 subparts were set to run 100% random, 75% read 25% write; testing 512b, 4k,8k,16k,32k,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 6 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 6. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for file server usage.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/iom_file.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

In such scenarios the new 4TB RED drive provides very decent performance that belies its low spindle speed nature. At low queue depths the difference in performance between the RED and SE or even RE is not all that noticeable and it is only at the 16 queue depth point that the RED’s slower rotational speed starts to play a pivotal role.


IOMETER: Web Server Test


<i>The goal of our IOMeter Web Server configuration is to help reproduce a typical heavily accessed web server. The majority of the typical web server’s workload consists of dealing with random small file size read requests.

To replicate such an environment we ran 6 test runs per device (1,4,16,64,128,256 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 8 subparts were set to run 100% random, 95% read 5% write; testing 512b, 1k, 2k,4k,8k,16k,32k,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 8 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for web server environments. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/iom_web.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Considering the rather quick plateauing of performance, we would be hesitant to recommend REDs for deep queue web server duties, but at low queue depths the RAID performance of these REDs is rather admirable. As long as you can make up for a moderate reduction in performance by simply using more drives, the cost / performance analysis makes it rather hard to opt for anything other than the RED series in a SOHO environment. Once again the only exception to this will be scenarios where deep queue depth levels will be the norm, but even here the more drives you throw at the problem the better the results will be. Unfortunately most small business and home users usually have devices which are bay restricted and cannot simply double the number of drives they intend to use.


IOMETER: Email Server Test


<i>The goal of our IOMeter Email Server configuration is to help reproduce a typical corporate email server. Unlike most servers, the typical email server’s workload is split evenly between random small file size read and write requests.

To replicate such an environment we ran 5 test runs per drive (1,4,16,64,128 queue depth) each test having 3 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 3 subparts were set to run 100% random, 50% read 50% write; testing 2k,4k,8k, size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these numbers add them together and divide by 3. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for email server environments. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/iom_email.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

For email server duties the RED series won't be a great choice. They simply aren't designed for such scenarios and the drastically reduced performance at all queue depths - with a very noticeable drop off at deeper queue depths - just underscores this fact. However, even in such a demanding scenario the RED is not precisely a terrible performer at lower queue depths.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,274
Vista Start Up / Adobe CS5 Load Time

Vista Start Up


When it comes to hard drive performance there is one area that even the most oblivious user notices: how long it takes to load the Operating System. While all the other tests were run with a Windows 7 operating system, this particular test uses another older test bed's “day to day” OS (copied over to our new testbed) which has accumulated a lot of crud over the months from installs and removals. We chose the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line as it is the last program to be loaded on start up.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


ADOBE CS5 LOAD TIME


<i>Photoshop is a notoriously slow loading program under the best of circumstances, and while the latest version is actually pretty decent, when you add in a bunch of extra brushes and the such you get a really great torture test which can bring even the best of the best to their knees. Let’s see how our review unit faired in the Adobe crucible! </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

In both of these tests we are actually surprised by how well the RED performed when asked to do things way, <i>way</i> outside its operating parameters. These drives are not meant to be used for loading applications – let alone as a ‘boot’ drive - but the large 1TB platters combined with a very good dual core controller makes for a surprisingly decent performer.
 
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AkG

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5,274
Firefox Portable Offline Performance / Real World Data Transfers

Firefox Portable Offline Performance


<i>Firefox is notorious for being slow on loading tabs in offline mode once the number of pages to be opened grows larger than a dozen or so. We can think of fewer worse case scenarios than having 100 tabs set to reload in offline mode upon Firefox startup, but this is exactly what we have done here.

By having 100 pages open in Firefox portable, setting Firefox to reload the last session upon next session start and then setting it to offline mode, we are able to easily recreate a worse case scenario. Since we are using Firefox portable all files are easily positioned in one location, making it simple to repeat the test as necessary. In order to ensure repetition, before touching the Firefox portable files, we have backed them up into a .rar file and only extracted a copy of it to the test device.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/ff.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it can not really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, using MS RichCopy and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Once again, these results are rather remarkable. The RED may be noticeably lower than the RE’s performance levels, but these drives cost almost half of what of a 4TB RE will set you back.
 
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AkG

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Partial and Full Drive Performance

Partial and Full Drive Performance


<i>While it is important to know how a drive will perform under optimal conditions, more realistic scenarios are just as important. Knowing how drive will behave when partially or even nearly full than when it is empty is very important information to know. To quickly and accurately show this crucial information we have first filled the drive to 50% capacity and re-tested using both synthetic and real world tests. After the completion of this we then re-test at 75% and 90% of full capacity. </i>


Synthetic Test Results

<i>For our synthetic testing we have opted for our standard PCMark 7 test.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/data_pcm7.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Real World Results
<i>For a real world application we have opted for our standard Adobe CS5 test.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/data_adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Western Digital's Intellipower rotational speed technology is one of the main reasons why we are seeing some very good results here. This drive is not meant to compete with the RE or SE or even Black series on a performance basis but rather it provides reasonably good performance at a much lower asking price. In that regard, the RED is still stunningly impressive.
 
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AkG

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5,274
Conclusion

Conclusion


In creating the RED 4TB, Western Digital could very well have launched a hard drive that was extremely capable for its intended market yet only appealed to a very narrow market. Instead, this new drive is capable enough to pull duty in a number of different environments with equal aplomb.

On just a quick glance the new 4TB RED seems to follow firmly in its predecessors footsteps of being the redheaded stepchild of Western Digital’s storage lineup. From a purely performance orientated perspective, it clearly not a high performance option like the SE or RE series. Even from a durability standpoint, the shorter factory testing cycles, lower MTBF and removal of numerous reliability features –such as RAFF – also show the RED in a less than flattering light when compared against its more capable siblings. However, a price of less than $199 makes it infinitely more adaptable to home usage scenarios than any of the alternatives.

The real strength of the RED series is how well they scale when placed in NAS-centric RAID setups and this is also where the low cost really starts to become a factor. While the SE and RE can offer some impressive specifications, you can buy multiple REDs instead and start benefitting from their aggregate performance benefits right away. Plus, there are very few home or small office users that will ever really need the enterprise-level failsafes built into the higher-end Western Digital drives. All in all, the new RED 4TB may be outclassed in any single performance category we care to mention, but when you add up the results the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

What Western Digital has created here is the epitome of ‘good enough’ network storage. While it may never beat any of the higher end models in their particular areas of expertise, none of them can even come close to offering this level of flexibility or overall value. The new RED 4TB improves upon its predecessor in nearly every way imaginable and that makes it one of the most appealing NAS solutions currently available.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RED_4TB/DGV.gif" border="0" alt="" />
</div>
 
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