Western Digital Red Pro WD4001FFSX 4TB Review (Page 2 of 11)

Page 2 - A Closer Look, Installation, Test System

As always, with our storage reviews, before we move on to the benchmark results, let us briefly discuss the physical attributes of this hard disk drive first. The Red Pro WD4001FFSX 4TB, like the regular Red WD40EFRX 4TB, is your quintessential 3.5" hard drive from Western Digital; all you have at the top is bare metal with a dull silver finish, and a large label placed across the middle. It weighs in at 1.66lbs each. As a differentiating element between product lines, the top and bottom of the sticker is printed red in color, because, well, it is part of the Red Pro series designed for network attached storage systems. The label also says "WD Red Pro" at the bottom, just so you can tell this is not a regular Red. On the label, you will also spot information like its 4TB drive capacity, SATA interface with 64MB cache, WD4001FFSX model code, NASware 3.0 firmware, manufacturing date on June 1, 2014 for our particular unit, and that it is a product of Thailand. A QR code is prominently displayed as well. Once scanned, it will bring up Western Digital's product page for you to learn more about this particular hard drive. The Western Digital Red Pro comes with a five year limited warranty, compared to just three years for the non-Pro model.

Turning the Western Digital Red Pro WD4001FFSX 4TB around, and you will see a green printed circuit board that interfaces between its SATA 6Gb/s interface and the physical mechanical components. Pins can be set to force backwards compatibility, in case you have a system that does not correctly negotiate interface speed automatically. As far as electronic components are concerned, the Western Digital Red Pro features a Marvell 88i9346-NDB2 dual core drive controller. A Samsung K4T51163QJ-BCE7 64MB DDR2-800 IC acts as the cache for the drive. Meanwhile, a Winbond 25Q80BLVIG flash memory module holds the firmware code. To control the motor, a chip labeled WDHC8TD manufactured by STMicroelectronics gets the job done. If you are familiar with Western Digital's enterprise grade drives, it is clear the Red Pro is very similar to their RE series drives. This hardware selection is quite different compared to the non-Pro version of the Western Digital Red series, which are based off the consumer Green series instead.

Mechanically, Western Digital advertises the Red Pro's rotational speed as 7,200RPM. Unlike the regular Red, the company makes no effort to hide this fact. The tradeoff, of course, is higher power consumption, which we will investigate further later on in this review. Meanwhile, the Western Digital Red Pro WD4001FFSX 4TB features five 800GB platters inside, making it slightly lower density than the WD40EFRX as well as the competition. How well will it compare? Well, this is a question yet to be answered in our next eight pages of thorough benchmarking.

But before we delve into the benchmarking, I would like to spend a little bit of time discussing the unique characteristics of the Western Digital Red Pro WD4001FFSX 4TB NAS drive. What makes a NAS drive, a NAS drive? From a hardware perspective, usually, it will feature lower consumption. However, the Western Digital Red Pro WD4001FFSX 4TB is based off their enterprise class RE series drives, and being 7,200RPM and all, it sucks quite a bit more power than the regular Red. The numbers are given by the manufacturer as 0.60W sleep/standby, 6.50W idle, and 8.60W load.

That said, similar to the HGST Deskstar NAS 4TB, the WD Red Pro features a multi-axis shock sensor, which is usually exclusive to enterprise class HDDs. What it does is it actively measures subtle shock events, and with dynamic fly height technology, it automatically compensates head positioning to ensure each I/O operation will not induce excessive physical wear on the disk components. This works in conjunction with dual actuator technology, which improves the data track positional accuracy and drive head positioning, as well as StableTrac, which stabilizes drive platters by securing the motor shaft to reduce vibration caused by the system. Most network attached storage oriented models like the Western Digital Red and Seagate NAS HDD recommends no more than five drives per system, but the Western Digital Red Pro will play nice even if you have up to sixteen drives running concurrently. The Western Digital Red Pro WD4001FFSX 4TB is also rated as having 1,000,000 hours MTBF. Reliability enhancements are also made with what company calls the "3D Active Balance Plus", which refers to the disk being physically balanced properly to reduce excessive vibration and noise in a multi-drive configuration, such as your network attached storage system.

One big element, obviously, comes down to the Western Digital Red being TLER enabled. If a drive is not TLER enabled, it may be dropped out of a RAID array unexpectedly down the road. TLER stands for 'Time Limited Error Recovery', which is Western Digital's name for a feature that limits a hard drive's error recovery time to seven seconds (Seagate calls it ERC; Hitachi calls it CCTL). According to Western Digital, desktop hard drives may enter deep recovery mode, and could take up to two minutes to deal with a bad sector. During this time, the hard drive will not respond. Because of this, RAID controllers may mark the drive as unreliable, because it has failed to respond within a set period of time.

For small NAS environments, most people probably will not need hardcore enterprise grade drives, which are usually quite expensive. TLER and related RAID array configuration problems are more crucial with demanding business environments than a home or SOHO NAS setup with just two or three drives. Linux software RAID that your network attached storage system implements is much more lenient with consumer desktop drives. Personally, I have run RAID 5 arrays in my QNAP systems from 2010 to 2014 using regular disks -- from Western Digital, no less -- with absolutely no problems at all. That said, products like the Red Pro WD4001FFSX 4TB we are reviewing today is essentially an enterprise grade drive designed specifically for large network attached storage systems, especially when their physical operating environment becomes a concern for hardware reliability. Additionally, they are specifically tested for compatibility, and comes TLER enabled from the factory to ensure you will not experience related issues down the road. It is about $25 cheaper per drive than the Western Digital RE WD4000FYYZ 4TB at press time, which will really add up if you are looking to fill up bigger file servers.

Now, it is time for the exciting part: Benchmarking. We took in other NAS oriented 4TB models from Hitachi, Seagate, and even Western Digital themselves (With the Red Pro WD40EFRX 4TB), tested them one by one in our desktop, and dumped them into my QNAP TS-470 to see how they perform in a real NAS. Read to roll?

Our test configuration as follows:

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K @ 4.6GHz
CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-U14S (2x Noctua NF-A15)
Motherboard: ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution
RAM: Kingston HyperX Savage HX324C11SRK2/16 2x8GB
Graphics: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 760 2GB
Chassis: SilverStone Temjin TJ04-E (Noctua NF-S12A PWM, Noctua NF-P12 PWM)
Storage: SanDisk Extreme II 240GB; OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240GB
Power: PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 1200W
Sound: Auzentech X-Fi Bravura
Optical Drive: LiteOn iHAS224-06 24X DVD Writer
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 Professional

Compared Hardware:
- Western Digital Red Pro WD4001FFSX 4TB (Street price: $225 each at press time)
- HGST Deskstar NAS 4TB (Street price: $165 each at press time)
- Seagate NAS HDD ST4000VN000 4TB (Street price: $165 each at press time)
- Western Digital Red WD40EFRX 4TB (Street price: $165 each at press time)

Page Index
1. Introduction, Features, Specifications
2. A Closer Look, Installation, Test System
3. Benchmark: AIDA64 Disk Benchmark
4. Benchmark: ATTO Disk Benchmark
5. Benchmark: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0
6. Benchmark: HD Tach
7. Benchmark: HD Tune Pro 4.60
8. Benchmark: PassMark PerformanceTest 8.0
9. Benchmark: PCMark 7
10. NAS Performance, Power Consumption
11. Conclusion