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WD RE 4TB Enterprise-Class HDD Review
Date: Oct 16, 2012
Author: Seth Colaner
Introduction and Specifications
When considering a new storage solution, most users try to find the right balance between speed and capacity. SSDs are super fast, no doubt about it, but an HDD spinning at 7200RPM or 10,000RPM will still offer solid performance, and you have access to dramatically more storage capacity for a far lower cost per GB compared to an SSD.

Western Digital’s 4TB WD RE SATA drive certainly satisfies the need for capacity. And at a 7200RPM spindle speed with a SATA 6Gbps interface, 64MB of cache, and up to 171MBps sustained transfer rates, the performance balance is there as well. In the enterprise, though, there’s a third consideration that can trump the other two: reliability.

IT folks are concerned with, among other things, hardware lifecycles, the frequency of data corruption and drive failures. Selecting storage components that can endure under the strain of enterprise-level workloads without failing or causing problems is paramount, both to the IT department’s hardware budget and to the man hours it must expend to effectively manage the company’s data.

WD built this drive with a number of features designed to meet those requirements.

Specifications & Features
Model Number: 
Form Factor:  
Load/unload cycles: 
Transfer Rates: 
Limited Warranty: 
SATA 6Gbps
3.5-inch (5 platter design, 800GB/platter)
600,000 minimum
up to 171MBps sustained
1.2 million hours
5 years
$464.99-$520.99 (street prices)

WD ensures a 1.2 million-hour MTBF rating and does an extended thermal burn-in test on the WD RE. In addition, what WD is calling NoTouch load ramp technology keeps the recording heads off of the disks, while dynamic fly height technology helps keep the heads at an optimal height at all times.

To further protect the drive, WD included a multi-axis shock sensor to adjust for any shock events as well as StableTrac technology that reduces vibrations by securing and dampening the motor shaft at both ends.

While the above will certainly help ensure the longevity of the WD RE, data integrity is just as important. To that end, the drive features dual actuator technology that more accurately positions the heads over the proper track--one actuator essentially puts the head in the right spot while the other further fine tunes the positioning. RAFF technology, which is also present on this drive, dynamically detects and corrects for linear and rotational vibrations for better performance even in environments with more movement than average.

Finally, the 4TB WD RE is ideal for enterprise environments because they pack in impressive storage density. A single 3.5-inch HDD offers 4TB of storage thanks to five 800GB platters.

Note that there are other iterations of the WD RE that come in 3TB, 2TB, 1TB, 500GB, and 250GB capacities as well, in addition to 4TB and 1TB WD RE drives with SAS interfaces.
Test System and SANDRA
Our Test Methodologies: Under each test condition, the hard drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with an SSD for the OS and benchmark installations. Our testbed's motherboard was updated with the latest BIOS available as of press time and AHCI (or RAID) mode was enabled. The drive were secure erased and left blank without partitions wherever possible, unless a test required them to be partitioned and formatted, as was the case with our ATTO, PCMark 7, and CrystalDiskMark benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system, ensured all temp and prefetch data was purged, and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle and for the system to reach an idle state before invoking a test.

HotHardware Test System
Intel Core i7 and SSD Powered


Motherboard -

Video Card -

Memory -

Audio -

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-3770K

(Z77 Chipset, AHCI Enabled)

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285

4GB Kingston DDR3-1600

Integrated on board

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 x64
Intel, iRST 10.5.1027
DirectX 11

NVIDIA GeForce 275.33

Benchmarks Used:
HD Tune v4.61
ATTO v2.47
CrystalDiskMark v3.01 x64
PCMark 7
SiSoftware Sandra 2011

SiSoft SANDRA 2011
Synthetic HDD Benchmarking
First, we ran SiSoft SANDRA, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provided the results from our comparison SSDs. The benchmarks were run without formatting and read and write performance metrics are detailed below.

Aside from the 10,000RPM WD VelociRaptor 1TB, the WD RE 4TB drive held its own among more similarly-spec’d drives in SANDRA. Only the Seagate Barracuda 3TB drive posted better read/write scores, and even so, the two drives’ write scores were almost identical.
ATTO Disk Benchmark
ATTO is another "quick and dirty" type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. We chose .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes and a queue depth of 6 over a total max volume length of 256MB. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc. This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with default NTFS partitions in Windows 7 x64.

ATTO Disk Benchmark
More Information Here: http://bit.ly/btuV6w

It appears we have the makings of a trend here; the WD RE posted strong overall read scores in ATTO, taking a backseat to the Seagate Barracuda 3TB by a slim margin and the 1TB VelociRaptor drive by a relatively wide one.

In the write test, however, the WD RE delivered a strong second-place performance--even better than the big VelociRaptor in smaller transfer sizes--as the Seagate Barracuda 3TB faltered.
HD Tune Benchmarks
EFD Software's HD Tune is described on the company's web site as such: "HD Tune is a hard disk utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), securely erase all data and much more." The latest version of the benchmark added temperature statistics and improved support for SSDs, among a few other updates and fixes.

HD Tune v5
More Info Here: http://www.hdtune.com

The HD Tune tests delivered some interesting results. In the Average Transfer Rate test, the WD RE performed as expected--well behind the 1TB VelociRaptor--and the read and write scores were worse and better than the Seagate Barracuda 3TB’s, respectively. However, the WD RE whipped out an impressive Burst Rate that blew away all the drives except for that darn WD VelociRaptor, and it actually posted a slightly better write score than the 10,000RPM beast.

Access Times were strong as well, and the WD RE’s CPU usage was second only to the WD VelociRaptor.
CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers. It provides a quick look at best and worst case scenarios, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers.

CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
Synthetic File Transfer Tests

The WD RE delivered solid, consistent results in CrystalDiskMark; in every test, it scored near or better than the rest of the field (save for the overachieving 1TB VelociRaptor). It’s worth noting in particular, though, that the drive’s write scores were much stronger than its read scores here.
PCMark 7 Storage Benchmarks
We really like PCMark 7's Secondary Storage benchmark module for its pseudo real-world application measurement approach to testing. PCMark 7 offers a trace-based measurement of system response times under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system operation. From simple application start-up performance, to data streaming from a drive in a game engine, and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel more comfortable that these tests reasonably illustrate the performance profile of a hard drive in an end-user / consumer PC usage model, more so than a purely synthetic transfer test.

Futuremark's PCMark 7 Secondary Storage

As in many of our other tests, the WD RE scored higher than most of the field by a relatively small margin, although it was firmly beaten by both of the WD VelociRaptor drives in the group.

When we break down the Secondary Storage scores here, the story is essentially the same as above, although our drive posted particularly strong Video Editing and Windows Media Center numbers.
Our Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: If you take the WD VelociRaptor 1TB with its blazing 10,000RPM speed out of the equation, the WD RE 4TB SATA hard drive scored first or second in nearly every performance test we threw at it and in fact bested even the 1TB VelociRaptor drive in smaller (<4K) write transfers and write burst rate. This drive is particularly impressive across the board concerning write speeds, although its read speeds don’t offer quite the same strength as higher-end products.

On the whole, the WD RE 4TB SATA hard drive is a champ. It delivers strong performance, and it packs plenty of features to ensure reliability and endurance that are backed up by WD’s excellent 5-year warranty, which is a number which will offer confidence to IT managers and end users alike.

Those choice features will cost you, though--current street prices for this model (WD4000FYYZ) range from $464.99 up to $520.99. In comparison, the WD VelociRaptor 1TB, which costs around half as much, offers a performance upgrade but just at quarter of the storage capacity. Thus, for its intended application of high-capacity, high-density, reliable bulk storage, the WD RE 4TB has good value. On the other hand, there are similar products from other manufacturers that offer the same basic specifications and capacity at a substantially lower price, and a step down to 3TB drives results in even more significant cost savings. So we suppose value hunters may be able to find better deals out there but you won't find the same RAID and enterprise-class features that are essentially proprietary to WD.

For the money, though, it’s tough to match that performance, especially with a 5-year warranty backing it up WD’s promise of excellent reliability. We'd definitely recommend the Western Digital RE 4TB SATA hard drive to anyone looking for fast, reliable bulk storage.

  • Strong performance
  • Excellent storage density
  • Dual actuator and RAFF technology for RAID setups
  • 5-year warranty
  • Relatively pricey

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