Introduction and Testbed Setup

A couple of weeks back, Western Digital updated their NAS-specific drive lineup with 5 and 6 TB Red drives. In addition, 7200 RPM Red Pro models with 2 - 4 TB capacities were also introduced. We have already looked at the performance of the WD Red, and it now time for us to take the WD Red Pro for a spin. In our 4 TB NAS drive roundup from last year, we also indicated that efforts would be taken to add more drives to the mix along with an updated benchmarking scheme involving RAID-5 volumes. The Red Pro gives us an opportunity to present results from the evaluation of various drives that have arrived in our labs since then.

The SMB / SOHO / consumer NAS market has been experiencing rapid growth over the last 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. The good news is that the growth is expected to accelerate in the near future (thanks to increasing amounts of user-generated data through the usage of mobile devices). In addition, security threats such as SynoLocker have also underscored the necessity of frequent backups.

Back in July 2012, Western Digital began the trend of hard drive manufacturers bringing out dedicated units for the burgeoning SOHO / consumer NAS market with the 3.5" Red hard drive lineup. The firmware was tuned for 24x7 operation in SOHO and consumer NAS units. 1 TB, 2 TB and 3 TB versions were made available at launch. Later, Seagate also jumped into the fray with a hard drive series carrying similar firmware features. Over the last two years, the vendors have been optimizing the firmware features as well as increasing the capacities. On the enterprise side, hard drive vendors have been supplying different models for different applications, but all of them are quite suitable for 24x7 NAS usage. While mission-critical applications tend to use SAS drives, it is the nearline SATA versions that are more suitable for home / SMB users. These enterprise drives provide better reliability / longer warranties compared to the NAS-specific WD Red and the Seagate NAS HDD lineups.

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 ten different hard drives targeting the NAS market. One of the most glaring omissions in our list is HGST's Deskstar NAS. Due to HGST's strange sampling scheme, we are still trying to obtain enough drives for our NAS-specific benchmkaring, but they did send us their 4 TB SAS drive for participation in this roundup. Other than the HGST SAS drive, the other nine drives all carry a SATA interface.

  1. WD Red Pro (WD4001FFSX-68JNUN0)
  2. Seagate Enterprise Capacity 3.5" HDD v4 (ST4000NM0024-1HT178)
  3. WD Red (WD40EFRX-68WT0N0)
  4. Seagate NAS HDD (ST4000VN000-1H4168)
  5. WD Se (WD4000F9YZ-09N20L0)
  6. Seagate Terascale (ST4000NC000-1FR168)
  7. WD Re (WD4000FYYZ-01UL1B0)
  8. Seagate Constellation ES.3 (ST4000NM0033-9ZM170)
  9. Toshiba MG03ACA400
  10. HGST Ultrastar 7K4000 SAS (HUS724040ALS640)

The above drives do not target the same specific market. For example, the WD Red and Seagate NAS HDD are for 1- 8 bay NAS systems in the tower form factor. The WD Red Pro is meant for rackmount units up to 16 bays, but is not intended to be a replacement for drives such as the WD Re, Seagate Constellation ES.3, Seagate Enterprise Capacity v4 and the Toshiba MG03ACA400 which target enterprise applications requiring durability under heavy workloads. The WD Se and the Seagate Terascale target the capacity-sensitive cold storage / data center market.

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology

Unlike our previous evaluation of 4 TB drives, we managed to obtain enough samples of the new drives to test them in a proper NAS environment. As usual, we will start off with a feature set comparison of the various drives, followed by a look at the raw performance when connected directly to a SATA 6 Gbps port. In the same PC, we also evaluate the performance of the drive using some aspects of our direct attached storage (DAS) testing methodology. For evaluation in a NAS environment, we configured three drives of each model in a RAID-5 volume and processed selected benchmarks from our standard NAS review methodology. Since our NAS drive testbed supports both SATA and SAS drives, but our DAS testbed doesn't, the HGST SAS drive was not subject to any of the DAS benchmarks. We plan to carry more detailed coverage of the HGST SAS unit in a future SAS-specific roundup.

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

AnandTech DAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z97-PRO Wi-Fi ac ATX
CPU Intel Core i7-4790
Memory Corsair Vengeance Pro CMY32GX3M4A2133C11
32 GB (4x 8GB)
DDR3-2133 @ 11-11-11-27
OS Drive Seagate 600 Pro 400 GB
Optical Drive Asus BW-16D1HT 16x Blu-ray Write (w/ M-Disc Support)
Add-on Card Asus Thunderbolt EX II
Chassis Corsair Air 540
PSU Corsair AX760i 760 W
OS Windows 8.1 Pro
Thanks to Asus and Corsair for the build components

In the above testbed, the hot swap bays of the Corsair Air 540 have to be singled out for special mention.
They were quite helpful in getting the drives processed in a fast and efficient manner for benchmarking. For NAS evaluation, we used the QNAP TS-EC1279U-SAS-RP. This is very similar to the unit we reviewed last year, except that we have a slightly faster CPU, more RAM and support for both SATA and SAS drives.

The NAS setup itself was subjected to benchmarking using our standard NAS testbed.

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 Z-Drive R4 CM88 (1.6TB PCIe SSD)
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

Thank You!

We thank the following companies for helping us out with our NAS testbed:

4 TB NAS and Nearline Drives Face-Off: The Contenders
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  • NonSequitor - Friday, August 8, 2014 - link

    Most of the storage stuff I work with is bigger than the one Linux box, so I haven't dug deeply in to the exact details of that implementation. I do know I was bit in the past by a RAID5 with a bad disk in it turning the entire thing to trash. Thankfully some experimentation was able to determine which disk was actually returning garbage.

    However I have not seen the stripe reconstruction count going up during monthly scrubs, so what I'm saying is that my experience is that actual URE counts are lower than the spec. The spec may be a worst case or something else like that.
  • isa - Friday, August 8, 2014 - link

    Umm, Raid 5 and 6 require a minimum of 3 discs, so no thanks. And yes, I'm aware that any form of Raid does not eliminate the need for a backup - all the more reason for finding out the best (most reliable at reasonable cost) disc for a 2 disc Raid 1 config - no way will I spend all of my budget on a Raid 5 or 6 and be forced to abandon a backup.
  • Peroxyde - Friday, August 8, 2014 - link


    I have a 4TB non-NAS SATA drive (Seagate ST4000DM000). Is it OK to pair it with a 4TB NAS SATA drive in RAID1 in a home made NAS server?
  • jaden24 - Friday, August 8, 2014 - link

    While RAID1 is safe, I wouldn't advise it. The ST4000DM000 wasn't designed for RAID mode. I would just use FreeFileSync to automatically replicate the data from the ST4000DM000 to the NAS drive. This is what I do for my home NAS when using desktop drives.

    It will give you peace of mind with your data, and I doubt you will be able to tax the single drive enough with streaming unless you are simultaneously doing large file transfers, but you could do those during non-critical hours to avoid stuttering.
  • Peroxyde - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    Hi Jaden24,
    Thank you for your advice. This is an interesting idea to sync the 2 drives asynchronously.
  • jaden24 - Monday, August 11, 2014 - link

    No problem.
  • shodanshok - Friday, August 8, 2014 - link

    Interesting article :)

    It seems that Western Digital has some internal competition, as the Red Pro pretty much overlaps the WD Se series. Even the WD datasheets show very similar features (UREs above all) and, to tell the truth, the WD Red Pro is rated for much more load/unload cycles (300K vs 600K).

    I think that we will see a WD Se refresh within some months...
  • SirGCal - Friday, August 8, 2014 - link

    I currently have two 8-drive Seagate 4TB drives (5900 RPM, first one that was publicly available) arrays in RAID6 and one in RAIDZ2 (same thing without the expensive raid card). I have no regrets. Had one drive fail and rebuilt the array in just a few hours. Performance is plenty for my home network and can saturate a dual 1G network setup easily. I do wish I had more drives at the time to choose from but if I was to do it now, 8TB!!! or maybe 6... I never have enough storage.
  • bji - Friday, August 8, 2014 - link

    Can you explain what you do with all of that storage?

    On the other end of the spectrum, I have never used more than about 200 GB of any home computer. Unless you're producing huge quantities of your own content (recording HD video constantly or something), it's very hard to fill more persistent storage because each byte of stored data typically costs money (i.e. movie files, program files, music files, etc - usually these all cost money, so filling up large amounts of storage with them must mean spending large amounts of money).

    So how exactly do you fill up 32 TB of storage?
  • piroroadkill - Friday, August 8, 2014 - link

    If you pirate a lot, and keep full bluray images, or indeed rip full bluray images, or similar, AND you back it up, then that would be possible to blow through.

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