Western Digital has spotted a niche in the storage market. To its established range of hard-disk drives, it’s added the WD Red, a new range aimed to fulfill the requirements of network-attached storage (NAS)
The WD Red – available in 1TB, 2TB and 3TB capacities – is a 3.5in SATA hard disk that addresses a growing need for more storage, in particular from home and SOHO customers. In this popular area we find NAS devices with two- or four-drive bays.
Until recently, WD was offering the Caviar Blue for standard desktop PCs, Caviar Black for higher performance systems, and Caviar Green as a reduced power consumption drive in desktop and network storage applications.
Gone now is the allusion to luxury fish spawn. These drives have been renamed to simply WD Blue, WD Black and WD Green.
Similarly, and potentially confusingly now, notebook-class internal hard disks such as the Scorpio Blue and Scorpio Black, have also been renamed, with the Scorpio prefix now removed.
The WD Red is positioned as a blend of the technologies found in the Caviar Green drive, and Western Digital’s enterprise disks like the WD RE4.
We’re told the Red has been designed and tested for compatibility in a range of popular NAS solutions from vendors such as QNAP, Synology and Thecus. It’s specified with 24x7 availability and lists mean time before failure (MTBF) of 1,000,000 hours.
Western Digital is offering free dedicated 24x7 support and a three-year limited warranty.
This compares with the WD RE-4, for example, which lists an MTBF of 1.4 million hours and carries a five-year warranty; or the disk formerly known as the Caviar Green with no advertised MTBF and a three-year warranty.
NASware technology aims to improve reliability and performance through firmware customised for NAS applications. The WD Red drives also include 3D Active Balance Plus, to reduce frame vibration and thereby lower chances of disks being knocked out of a RAID setup when several disks are rumbling at once.
Like the Caviar Green, the WD Red uses lower (but undisclosed) spindle speed technology that WD calls Intellipower. WD recommends that up to five WD Red disks can be used in one NAS enclosure.
In NAS units requiring six or more disks, the WD RE4 is instead recommended for its ability to withstand the added vibration of multiple drives spinning together – helped, for example, by that drive’s StableTrac system that stabilises platters by securing the drive motor spindle on both sides.
Our first test of the WD Red 3TB was of its basic sequential read and write speed, using the ATTO benchmark. And here we saw the very fastest figures, rivalling many standard desktop hard disks – up to 174 MBps for sequential reads and 162 MBps sequential writes.
In the HT Tach test, the WD Red showed an average read speed of 142 MBps in both short and long tests. Write speed was surprisingly poor here though, 90 MBps in the long test, and just 42 MBps in the short test.
Intriguingly, the plotted graph suggested a step-change in performance in the last 30% or so of the disk, as if spindle speed had been increased. Random access times from this benchmark were 19ms.
HD Tune Pro displayed the more familiar steadily falling graph plots we often see when hard disk performance is plotted against capacity. Sequential reads spanned 160 down to 67 MBps, with an average of 120 MBps.
Writes in the same test reached a maximum of 158 and minimum of 67 MBps, averaging 118 MBps across the entire disk. Random access times in HD Tune Pro were 22ms and 19ms, read and write respectively.
CrystalDiskMark discovered impressive sequential read/write speeds too, of 163 and 159 MBps. At the 512kB level, these numbers fell to 48 and 97 MBps. Down at 4kB the WD Red, like most mechanical disk drives, showed very low numbers of 0.58 and 1.53 MBps, rising only slightly to 1.84 and 1.56 MBps in the 4kB, 32-queue depth measurement.
In use we found the WD Red 3TB to be unusually quiet and reassuringly low in vibration.
In the WD Red, Western Digital has pulled off a great balance of features for this specialist network-storage hard disk. It runs as quietly as the low-power Caviar Green yet with performance more like a fast 7200rpm desktop PC hard drive. Currently selling for around £100 for the 2TB version and £140 for 3TB, it’s also accessibly priced.