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Western Digital RED 8TB Helium HDD Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
Welcome to a brave new world, one with two very distinct storage mediums which, in some ways, are no longer actually competing for the same buyers. On one hand we have the SSD, an ultra fast storage format which has no problem featuring titanic throughput numbers but has historically struggled to deliver those numbers at affordable price points in the capacities today’s users require. In corner number two there’s the traditional hard drive; it can trump SSDs in the price per gigabyte category but performance just can’t compete.

Alongside the obvious performance-driven challenges, HDD manufacturers have also hit up against two other walls: one which limited platter density and the other which is a rather large but still spatially-constrained 3.5” form factor. In order to leap ahead in both those respects, Western Digital’s new RED 8TB’s platters are filled with helium and then sealed.


This new RED drive is targeted towards raw data storage rather than extreme performance and that’s an important distinction to make: Western Digital sees the benefit of focusing their new technology where it matters most to consumers. They realize the performance game has already been lost so capacity-driven options are the way of the future for spindle-based storage. In many ways this drive can be considered the first true collaboration between WD and their newly-minted Hitachi purchase.

It almost goes without saying that Western Digital’s RED series has gained a reputation as being a great value, but on the reliability side of the spectrum there have been a few stumbles. On the other hand, before their purchase, HGST was known as having some of the most reliable storage products available. If Western Digital has indeed taken the best portions of HGST and infused it into their next generation models, this new RED may just finally kill the idea that they are nothing but the ‘Green’ series with fancier firmware. This potential alone makes this new series very exciting – and that is just the tip of the iceberg!

Other than the helium filled goodness this drive brings to the table, there are a few other aspects we need to discuss. Being a 5400RPM drive means the new RED won't win any outright speed contents but it still has the capability to deliver some reasonable performance with transfer rates around 178MB/s. Meanwhile, power consumption is particularly noteworthy and that alone will likely be a large selling factor for anyone researching NAS-oriented HDDs. The warranty of 3 years is a bit disappointing given the fact that other current-generation consumer drives are moving towards 5 years of coverage but we also can't forget this length aligns perfectly with other RED models.


While there are some slight exterior design evolutions versus previous RED series drives, there’s no clue here to show that the RED 8TB’s pedigree is more Hitachi than Western Digital. However, when you do pick this drive up the sheer weight of it becomes apparent. This is due to the fact that unlike 6TB models which boosted aerial density to achieve their higher capacities, the 8TB version has a total of seven platters stacked into its chassis.



That aforementioned helium factor is how Western Digital was able to cram seven platters inside a chassis that really is only meant for six. They are stacked them closer together and since helium is lighter than air, there’s less turbulence as the platters spin, allowing that additional platter without worrying about the individual disks slamming into each other. This use of helium is also why when the 8TB RED is flipped over the usual air hole is MIA. Instead you will find a completely sealed unit.

While this is a first for Western Digital, using helium is actually not all that new of an idea – as it has been floating around for nearly as long as there have been hard drives. Hitachi on the other hand were among the first to make this idea a reality via their He8 series. As the name suggests the HGST Helium He8 was an eight terabyte hard drive meant for professional uses. Though it was not just meant for small business and home NAS use like the RED series, it is still considered to be a heavy duty enterprise-grade HDD that has proven the merits of helium filled solutions.



We mention the He8 because for all intents and purposes Western Digital has taken the He8 design and modified it for their needs. However, it is more accurate to say they used the He8 as the new 8TB RED’s foundation, upon which they then added in pure Western Digital technology – such as NasWare 3.0. The end result is a new hybrid drive that is neither true Hitachi nor true Western Digital. Instead it can trace it roots back to both previous RED models and the He8.



When the PCB is removed from its from the enclosure, it not only looks very similar to the He8’s but is also filled with He8 components. Make no mistake though, the controller and various other parts are the same, internally this drive is not an He8 clone. In fact, the firmware originates from Western Digital, and this is a good thing – as WD’s algorithms are some of the best in the business. By that same token we are glad to see that instead of the Marvel controller from previous generations, Western Digital has instead opted for the much more potent LSI controller that helped give HGST drives a reputation for being quicker than most of the competition.

The RAM cache buffer has also been improved and upgraded - 128MB instead of 64MB. This additional cache, when combined with Western Digital’s excellent firmware means that even though this is an ‘IntelliSpeed’ series, its performance should be excellent. This is especially true when consumers take into account the fact that there are fourteen read/write heads accessing those fairly dense 1.2TB platters. Whether or not this combination allows this approximate 5400RPM drive (as WD states the speed is set batch by batch) to compete against older 7,200RPM models remains to be seen.


This last piece of the puzzle is critical to understanding the RED 8TB. It not really meant to compete with last generation’s 6TB RED or RED Pro models, or even 6TB Black or Blue alternatives. Rather it is being introduced to allow SOHO and home consumers the ability to replace ageing 4TB 7,200RPM drives with the new 8TB RED and do so without sacrificing performance. Put another way, the new 8TB RED is meant to be used in an (up to) 8 drive array that previously held eight hot running, noisy, power hungry drives and do so without any noticeable drop in performance, a lower power envelope, less produced heat and an enhanced MTBF. This is what the RED is all about: excellent value with reasonable performance levels at a relatively reasonable price.


On the surface stating a traditional hard drive with an online asking price of $325 has a ‘reasonable asking price’ may seem counterintuitive since this is hugely expensive given the price points of lower-end drives. However, this works out to be only about 4 cents per Gigabyte. For comparison older 6TB RED’s also have an asking price of about 4 cents per Gigabyte of capacity. When you combine that with lower operating costs, purchasing multiple 8TB versions will likely prove to be better options in the long term for NAS users.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
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Messages
13,421
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Montreal
Test System & 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 i7 5930K
Motherboard: Asus Sabretooth TUF X99
Memory: 32GB Crucial Ballistix Elite DDR4-2666
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
Hard Drive: Intel DC S3700 800GB, Intel P3700 800GB
Power Supply: XFX 850
SAS Controller: LSI MegaRaid 9240
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
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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/WD_RED_8TB/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/WD_RED_8TB/write.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Even though this drive is not as fast as some 6TB 7,200RPM alternatives it is still quite competitive. So much so that it can actually outperform some older 4TB 7,200RPM models! It also happens to be much more consistent over a greater range than older models so consumers can expect to get better than 150MB/s read and write performance all the way past the 3.2TB level (something no 4TB model can do) and stay above 100MB/s for over 7.2TB. That is fast no matter how you look at it, and bloody amazing for a 5,400RPM drive.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
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/WD_RED_8TB/atto_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_RED_8TB/atto_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Thanks to <i>seven</i> 1.2TB platters and a whopping <i>fourteen</i> read/write heads this drive’s performance numbers are pretty astonishing. At the all-important 4K file size they are right up there with the best 7,200RPM models and simply destroy older the abilities of older RED models. It is just unfortunate that the slower spindle speed does handicap its larger sequential performance and this drive does quickly max out its abilities which is why older 7,200RPM models do catch up and then surpass it.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
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Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7 / AS-SSD

PCMark 7


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.


On first blush this result looks to be anything but impressive, but if you take a closer look the opposite is actually true. Remember this is a 5,400RPM HDD, and yet it is statistically tied with a Western Digital 4TB Black! What this means is for consumers who have older hard drives in need of replacement, this cool running, power sipping 8TB beast will not be a downgrade in the performance department.


Crystal DiskMark


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.




AS-SSD


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.



Great aerial density and a surreal number of read/write heads can only do so much to overcome the latency penalty that goes along with a 5,400RPM rotational speed. By that same token once this drive is in RAID configurations – where it was meant to be – the overall performance is very good. So much so that the sequential file performance can be classified as downright excellent.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
IOMeter Results

IOMETER: Our Standard Test


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.



IOMETER: File Server Test


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.



IOMETER: Web Server Test


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.




IOMETER: Email Server Test


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.



While the older S.E. series is no more, we have included it because it basically morphed into the RED Pro line. As such, this new standard RED model nearly tying what it can do at lower queue depths is impressive. Of course as the queue depths get deeper the two lines diverge, but this is to be expected as this is a model meant for less intensive workloads. Put another way, most consumers would not be able to tell the difference between what an older RED Pro 4TB can do and what this RED 8TB can.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
13,421
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Windows / Adobe CS5 Load Time

Windows 7 Start Up w/ Boot Time A/V Scan Performance


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. Where Windows 7 has become nearly ubiquitous for solid state drive enthusiasts we have chosen Windows 7 64bit Ultimate as our Operating System. In previous load time tests we would use the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line; this however is no longer the case. We have not only added in a secondary Anti-Virus to load on startup, but also an anti-malware program. We have set Super Anti-Spyware to initiate a quick scan on Windows start-up and the completion of the quick scan will be our new finish line.



Adobe CS5 Load Time


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.



The standard RED series in single, or even RAID configurations, was never meant to be used as an OS or even application drive and yet this new model performs admirably well even with such a handicap. So much so that one RED 8TB is faster than two RED 4TB in RAID 0. That is simply marvelous and is an excellent example of how great this melding of Western Digital and Hitachi technology really is.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
13,421
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Firefox Performance / Real World Data Transfers

Firefox Portable Offline Performance


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.




Real World Data Transfers


No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it cannot 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.




Once again this would not necessarily be our first choice for raw speed data transfers, but if we had to we know we could rely upon this new series to offer decent performance levels here.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
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Partial and Full Drive Performance

Partial and Full Drive Performance


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.


Synthetic Test Results

For our synthetic testing we have opted for our standard PCMark 7 test.



Real World Results

For a real world application we have opted for our standard Adobe CS5 test.


It is unfortunate that this model has a low 5,400RPM speed as this is what holds back performance. However, the RED 8TB does offer very consistent and very predictable performance across the entirety of its capacity rating. It will also be faster with 3 Terabytes worth of data on it than any 4TB 7,200RPM alternative. This truly does cement our opinion of this series and makes it an excellent upgrade option for older NAS devices.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
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Conclusion

Conclusion


The new RED 8TB may not be a barn burner in comparison to Seagate Enterprise Capacity series, Western Digital’s own RED Pro or Black series, but overall it is still a top-tier performer. There is certainly no denying latency is going to be a concern versus certain 7200RPM models, which can make it sluggish feel in some time-sensitive tasks, and deeper I/O queue depths, but with so many platters and so many read/write heads the speed at which consumers can transfer large files is both consistent and fast.

If anything, the RED 8TB will be a perfect suitor for buyers looking to upgrade the drives in their existing 2-8 bay home NAS appliance, 2-8 bay SMB grade NAS unit, or even their custom NAS server. Due to its low power consumption, high capacity and reasonable running temperature, this new RED is simply a sensible choice. More importantly it blurs the line between options that are meant for ‘small’ NAS systems and those destined for higher grade NAS devices. This is due to the fact WD’s newer RED series HDDs can now offer consumers a RAID array with up to 64TB of space at reasonably high performance levels. In other words, small business owners no longer need to purchase massive 12 to 16 bay NAS devices to optimize capacity and instead they can purchase easier to maintain, and less expensive 8 bay models without compromising performance or capacity.

Most interest in this model will likely come from the professional space, people who use their NAS for housing 4K videos, UHD photos, high resolution 3D renders and the like. They’ll be looking beyond their current capacities but will likely want to keep their existing, expensive-to-replace enclosure; it is here that the new RED truly excels. For most users using three years or older drives, this new model can offer a doubling (or greater) of capacity and a noticeably large boost in performance.

Now with that said, this model will certainly not be right for every usage scenario, nor should it be. This RED 8TB is tailor made for consumers who are interested in a low total cost upgrade option, but who still want good performance from their new drives. However, that capability does come with a small caveat: a relatively short 3 year warranty versus the 5 year coverage many other drives in this category come with. This combination is one of the major reasons to think long and hard before choosing it over the more expensive RED PRO line. While Western Digital’s Hitachi division has proven the merits of helium infusion, and this model is basically a highly modified Hitachi He8 drive using cutting edge technology that has not stood the test of time. Don’t get us wrong, this does not necessarily mean higher failure rates, nor does it mean lower failure rates. All it means is that this new territory that may not be right for risk adverse consumers.

The other issue is this is a pure NAS orientated model and as such we do not see many home users wanting to purchase it instead of the various lower cost home-focused models. While it is technically possible to use the RED 8TB in single drive scenarios, it really is not advisable – even if doing so will net home users an enterprise grade drive.

We honestly cannot fault Western Digital, nor the new 8TB RED, for being so focused on its intended market which may lead to it being contraindicated outside its niche. Rather it is very refreshing to see highly refined models that do no try and cater to every single corner of the marketplace. In other words, jack of all trade models are nice but sometimes what is needed is an expert – and this new RED 8TB is an expert in its field. As long as a consumer’s needs align with what this new series has to offer we would whole heartedly recommend taking a long hard look at the RED 8TB EFZX series before moving up to more expensive options like the RED Pro
.


 

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