Who’s afraid of the big, bad Iron­Wolf?

Maximum PC - - TA­BLE OF CON­TENTS -

THESE DAYS, STOR­AGE is all about solid state. SSDs pro­vide not only by far the fastest per­for­mance, they also of­fer the largest ca­pac­i­ties—for a price. Sam­sung will do you a 30TB 2.5-inch SSD, for in­stance. Just don’t ask how much it costs. You might pre­fer to spend the money on a new car.

De­spite that, there is one ap­pli­ca­tion that re­mains dom­i­nated by old-school mag­netic hard drives: stor­age bang for buck. If you want max­i­mum stor­age den­sity for the min­i­mum pos­si­ble price, you’ll need some spin­ning mag­netic plat­ters.

With that in mind, it’s no sur­prise to find that con­ven­tional hard drive tech­nol­ogy marches on de­spite its rel­e­ga­tion to a rel­a­tively small niche. A lit­tle over a year ago, the big­gest main­stream hard drives weighed in at 10TB. Now we’re re­view­ing our first 12TB drive, the Sea­gate Iron­Wolf.

It’s closely re­lated to the Sea­gate Bar­racuda Pro, but fur­ther op­ti­mized for NAS ap­pli­ca­tions. In other words, if you’ve got a NAS box that’s set for a drive up­grade, the Iron­Wolf would like to of­fer its ser­vices. In­deed, Sea­gate of­fers two ver­sions of the Iron­Wolf: vanilla and Pro. This vanilla drive is aimed at con­nected homes, SOHO, and SMB apps, while the Pro ver­sion is for ful­lon com­mer­cial and en­ter­prise users. Both are packed with fea­tures and tech­nol­ogy. That in­cludes Sea­gate’s AgileAr­ray tech, which in­volves dual-plane bal­anc­ing, RAID op­ti­miza­tion, and ad­vanced power man­age­ment. Then there’s Ro­ta­tional Vi­bra­tion (RV) mit­i­ga­tion, in­clud­ing sev­eral RV sen­sors that help main­tain per­for­mance in multi-drive NAS en­clo­sures that can trans­mit sig­nif­i­cant vi­bra­tions.

In 12TB trim, the Iron­Wolf sports a to­tal of eight plat­ters, thus 1.5TB per plat­ter. As a con­se­quence, its 3.5-inch chas­sis is crammed. The usual re­cesses on the bot­tom of the drive are nowhere to be seen. Round­ing the main fea­ture set out is the 7,200rpm spin­dle speed and a chunky 256MB of cache, all run­ning through a stan­dard SATA 6Gb/s in­ter­face. Over­all, this 12TB model is rated at 180TB per year of data traf­fic, has an MTBF (mean time be­tween fail­ures) of 1 mil­lion hours, and a three-year lim­ited war­ranty.

For con­text, the Iron­Wolf Pro is op­ti­mized for 300TB per year, has an MTBF of 1.2 mil­lion hours, and a five-year war­ranty. In re­al­ity, there’s prob­a­bly lit­tle in it in terms of the hard­ware. The Pro is mainly buy­ing more peace of mind in terms of the longer war­ranty. What­ever, what we’re look­ing at is pretty much the state of the art when it comes to main­stream con­ven­tional hard drives, and one hell of a lot of stor­age for a pretty rea­son­able price.

Granted, a 3TB or 4TB drive may of­fer marginally more stor­age per dol­lar, but the 12TB Iron­Wolf is pretty com­pet­i­tive in that re­gard, and of­fers un­beat­able data den­sity. You could, for in­stance, swap out all the 3TB drives from a quad-drive NAS en­clo­sure for just one of these pup­pies, and then add fur­ther drives when bud­get or re­quire­ments dic­tated.

Any­way, the 12TB Iron­Wolf looks good on pa­per and of­fers a pleas­ing ca­pac­ity-todol­lar ra­tio. But how does it per­form? By the stan­dards of a con­ven­tional mag­netic drive, it’s se­ri­ously swift. You’re look­ing at se­quen­tial reads and writes in the 260– 270MB/s re­gion. The 4K ran­dom ac­cess per­for­mance is where mag­netic tech re­ally shows its age, com­pared to solid-state stor­age. 4K reads of around 1MB/s and writes just un­der 3MB/s would be ut­terly cat­a­strophic for an SSD; for this type of drive, they’re very much com­pet­i­tive.

The bot­tom line is that you’re not go­ing to get any­where like the per­for­mance of even a bud­get SSD. But that was a given. If you want ma­jor stor­age den­sity at a rea­son­able price, how­ever, the Iron­Wolf achieves that, and throws in ex­cel­lent per­for­mance for this type of drive. –JEREMY LAIRD

Sea­gate Iron­Wolf 12TB

GOLDILOCKS Epic stor­age ca­pac­ity; awe­some fea­ture set; great in-class per­for­mance.

BIG, BAD WOLF Not the best for TB/$; blown away by any SSD for per­for­mance.

$ 429 www. sea­


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