Stor­age

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Computer Shopper - - CONTENTS - David Lud­low

High trans­fer speeds make the WD Red 6TB a win­ner, al­beit a pricey one, for NAS de­vices

VER­DICT

A high-qual­ity HDD that makes for fast NAS drives, but the price could be more com­pet­i­tive

SSDs ARE BE­COM­ING the de­fault choice for PCs, thanks to their in­cred­i­ble per­for­mance, de­cent ca­pac­i­ties and fall­ing prices, yet the me­chan­i­cal hard disk is far from dead and still has its place. This ap­plies in par­tic­u­lar if you’re build­ing a NAS, where the to­tal amount of stor­age you have is likely to be the most im­por­tant fac­tor. Per­for­mance isn’t quite the same is­sue in a NAS as it is in a PC, ei­ther, as net­work speed is the lim­it­ing fac­tor.

While any old hard disk can be used in a NAS, for the best reli­a­bil­ity it makes sense to choose a drive specif­i­cally de­signed to run in such an en­closed space, such as the WD Red drive. This series has been around for a few years, but the drives have re­cently been up­dated, adding a whop­ping 10TB drive at the top end. As a re­sult, we de­cided that now was a good time to visit the WD Red line to see how well the drives per­form and if this range is now the best choice for a NAS. It’s a par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing ques­tion, given that we re­cently saw Toshiba’s ri­val N300 High-Reli­a­bil­ity Hard Drive (Shop­per 354), which is also de­signed to be used in NAS de­vices.

RELI­ABLE CHOICE

As a re­sult of be­ing specif­i­cally crafted for the con­fined chas­sis of a NAS drive, WD Red drives are built to with­stand the ad­di­tional shock and vi­bra­tion that a multi-bay NAS has to un­dergo. Un­like the ri­val N300 drives, WD Red mod­els do not have an RV sen­sor, which helps a disk deal with very high lev­els of vi­bra­tion. As a re­sult, WD rec­om­mends that its Red drives are used in one- to eight-bay en­clo­sures, and its higher-end WD Red Pro used in larger en­clo­sures. For typ­i­cal home users, then, the WD Red drives will more than do the job.

Heat and run cy­cles are other prob­lems that NAS drives have to deal with, as they’re typ­i­cally left to run 24 hours a day. WD has cer­ti­fied its drives for this type of en­vi­ron­ment, and they’re guar­an­teed for a yearly work­load rate of 180TB per year, the same as the Toshiba N300 range. Built into the WD Red’s firmware is the NASware soft­ware, which op­ti­mises per­for­mance and power con­sump­tion, help­ing re­duce hard disk tem­per­a­tures au­to­mat­i­cally and thus in­creas­ing reli­a­bil­ity.

FID­GET SPIN­NER

Most desk­top-class hard drives have a 7,200rpm spin speed for bet­ter per­for­mance, but the WD Red range uses a 5,400rpm spin speed. The­o­ret­i­cally, slower spin speeds mean re­duced per­for­mance, but there’s also a re­duc­tion in heat and power con­sump­tion.

A hard disk’s cache can help iron out per­for­mance dif­fer­ences, with the amount you get de­pend­ing on the drive’s ca­pac­ity. With the 10TB drive, you get a whop­ping 256MB of cache; 8TB drives have 128MB of cache; and 6TB and be­low have 64MB of cache. In com­par­i­son, the Toshiba N300 range has a spin speed of 7,200rpm and 128MB of cache across the line.

SPEED­ING THROUGH

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions can only in­di­cate a drive’s speeds, so we put the WD Red 6TB drive through our usual range of tests to see how fast it was. Start­ing with our huge file tests, we found that the WD Red man­aged a write

WD Red drives are built to with­stand the ad­di­tional shock and vi­bra­tion that a multi-bay NAS has to un­dergo

speed of 221.9MB/s and a read speed of 234.6/s. This put the drive at 14% slower than the 4TB Toshiba N300, most likely due to the WD Red’s slower spin­dle speed.

How­ever, things started to change in our other tests. Us­ing large files, we found the WD Red 6TB man­aged a read speed of 217.87MB/s and write speed of 235.16MB/s. With small files, we got 217.59MB/s read speeds and 200.06MB/s write speeds. Th­ese proved the WD Red to be faster than the Toshiba N300.

Us­ing the Crys­talDiskMark syn­thetic bench­marks so­lid­i­fied the WD’s over­all per­for­mance lead. Us­ing the se­quen­tial test, we saw read speeds of 228.9MB/s and write speeds of 244.3MB/s. On av­er­age, the WD Red was 13.5% faster than the Toshiba N300.

Switch­ing to the tricky ran­dom test, which reads and writes 4KB files from all over the disk, the WD Red did com­par­a­tively well. We mea­sured it as ca­pa­ble of read speeds of 2.64MB/s and write speeds of 2.34MB/s, putting it 31% faster on av­er­age than the Toshiba N300. In­deed, specs cer­tainly don’t tell the full story.

NAS TO MEET YOU

We’ve been im­pressed with the lat­est in­car­na­tion of the WD Red range of drives. Cer­tainly, WD has the best ca­pac­ity range, with 10TB (£370), 8TB (£270), 6TB (£217), 4TB (£127), 3TB (£99), 2TB (£84) and 1TB (£57) mod­els avail­able. In com­par­i­son, the N300 range is slightly cheaper for the same ca­pac­ity, but has fewer op­tions in its range: 8TB (£228), 6TB (£180) and 4TB (£110).

That makes choos­ing the right drive rather tricky. If you’re build­ing a NAS from scratch and can use drives be­tween 4TB and 8TB, the N300 makes the most sense, as its drives are cheaper. If you need smaller or larger ca­pac­i­ties or want the best per­for­mance, the WD Red line-up is a great choice.

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