The SMB / SOHO / consumer NAS market is expected to experience good growth over the next few years. With declining PC sales and increase in affordability of SSDs, hard drive vendors have scrambled to make up for the deficit and increase revenue by targeting the NAS market. Hard drive models specifically catering to 1-5 bay consumer NAS units have been introduced by both Western Digital and Seagate. Seagate took the lead in the capacity segment with the launch of the 4 TB NAS HDD in June 2013. Western Digital achieved parity with the launch of the second generation WD Red models yesterday.

The higher end SATA DAS/NAS storage segments have been served by 4 TB models for quite some time now. The WD Re (targeting applications where durability under heavy workloads is important) has been available in a 4 TB version since September 2012, while the WD Se (targeting applications where scalability and capacity are important) was introduced in May 2013.

The correct choice of hard drives for a NAS system is influenced by a number of factors. These include expected workloads, performance requirements and power consumption restrictions, amongst others. In this review, we will discuss some of these aspects while evaluating four different hard drives targeting the NAS market:

  • Western Digital Red 4 TB [ WDC WD40EFRX-68WT0N0 ]
  • Seagate 4 TB NAS HDD [ ST4000VN000-1H4168 ]
  • Western Digital Se 4 TB [ WDC WD4000F9YZ-09N20L0 ]
  • Western Digital Re 4 TB [ WDC WD4000FYYZ-01UL1B0 ]

While the WD Red and Seagate NAS HDD compete against each other in the same market segment (consumer / SOHO NAS units with 1-5 bays), the WD Re and WD Se are portrayed as complementary offerings for higher end NAS units. We will also try to determine how they differ in the course of this article.

Western Digital provided us with at least two drives each of the WD Red, WD Se and WD Re, but, Seagate came forward with only one disk. Readers of our initial WD Red 3 TB review would have found us evaluating the disks in multiple NAS units with multiple RAID configurations. Unfortunately, Seagate's sampling forced us to rethink our review strategy for these NAS drives. We will start off with a feature set comparison of the four drives followed by a look at the raw performance when connected directly to a SATA 6 Gbps port. A 2-bay Intel Atom-based NAS (LenovoEMC PX2-300D) with single-bay occupancy is then used to evaluate performance in a networked environment. Power consumption numbers and other factors are addressed in the final section with the networked configuration as a point of reference.

We used two testbeds in our evaluation, one for benchmarking the raw drive performance and the other for evaluating performance when placed in a NAS unit.

SATA Drive Benchmarking Testbed Setup
Processor Intel i7-3770K CPU - 4C/8T - 3.50GHz, 8MB Cache
Motherboard Asus P8H77-M Pro
OS Hard Drive Seagate Barracuda XT 2 TB
Secondary Drives Corsair Performance 3 Series™ P3-128 128 GB SSD
WD40EFRX / ST4000VN000 / WD4000F9YZ / WD4000FYYZ
Memory G.SKILL ECO Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) F3-10666CL7D-4GBECO CAS 7-7-7-21
Case Antec VERIS Fusion Remote Max
Power Supply Antec TruePower New TP-550 550W
Operating System Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Our NAS testbed was built for evaluating NAS units when subject to access from multiple clients (virtual machines). We ran the benchmarks presented in this review on one of the twenty five available Windows 7 VMs.

AnandTech NAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z9PE-D8 WS Dual LGA2011 SSI-EEB
CPU 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2630L
Coolers 2 x Dynatron R17
Memory G.Skill RipjawsZ F3-12800CL10Q2-64GBZL (8x8GB) CAS 10-10-10-30
OS Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Secondary Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Tertiary Drive OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid (1TB HDD + 100GB NAND)
Other Drives 12 x OCZ Technology Vertex 4 64GB (Offline in the Host OS)
Network Cards 6 x Intel ESA I-340 Quad-GbE Port Network Adapter
Chassis SilverStoneTek Raven RV03
PSU SilverStoneTek Strider Plus Gold Evolution 850W
OS Windows Server 2008 R2
Network Switch Netgear ProSafe GSM7352S-200

The hard drives under the scanner were placed in a single-drive configuration in the Intel Atom D525-based LenovoEMC PX2-300D. The network links of the PX2-300D were bonded in LACP 802.3ad mode, but that shouldn't have any bearing on the results since we are looking at a single client scenario with a single GbE link.

Feature Set Comparison
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  • Rick83 - Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - link

    I think the Re at least is only relevant when you are space or controller constrained, as otherwise getting a second cheaper disk is probably going to give better speed and reliability on average.

    Generally, I'd have preferred a comparison with the cheaper drives, as I don't see the point of spending more on something that will probably have the same observed failure rates in real usage, and will saturate Gbit LAN when streaming

    Of course, if you commit to only a 2-bay NAS, then it might pay off to go with disks with slightly tighter tolerances and more thorough QA, but once you hit 4+ bays, there's rarely a reason to not just throw redundancy at the problem.
  • colleenames - Thursday, September 5, 2013 - link

  • VMguy - Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - link

    Excellent review. Very helpful for allowing us to select drives to target specific workloads in smaller (or budget constrained) environments.

    Are you planning to continue this style of review with other ESATA/SAS drives such as the Constellation.2? Those drives seem to enjoy wider OEM support and are in the same price range as the Se/Re.

  • VMguy - Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - link

    Er, sorry. that should have read Constellation ES.3
  • edlee - Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - link

    I wish you did a temperature torture test, would have loved to see the results.
  • arthur449 - Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - link

    Running the hard drive(s) at temperatures beyond their stated maximum simply decreases their lifespan; it won't cause a dramatic failure or lead to an escape scenario for the magic smoke within the drive. At least, not for the duration that Ganesh T S devoted to this comparison.
  • tuxRoller - Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - link

    I thought Goggle's data showed this (higher temperature implies lower lifecycle) to be false?
  • bobbozzo - Thursday, September 5, 2013 - link

    Google said that temperature variations WITHIN A NORMAL DATACENTER ENVIRONMENT did not noticably affect drive failure rates.
    e.g. none were overheating.
  • dingetje - Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - link

    would like to see the plattercount of the 4tb red confirmed
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - link

    Confirmed to be four 1 TB platters.

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