Western Digital Red WD40EFRX 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's briefly discuss the physical attributes of this hard disk drive first. The 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 1.50lbs 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 series designed for network attached storage systems. On the label, you will also spot information like its 4TB drive capacity, SATA interface with 64MB cache, WD40EFRX model code, NASware 2.0 firmware, manufacturing date on September 16, 2013 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 comes with a three year limited warranty.

Turning the Western Digital Red WD40EFRX 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 features a Marvell 88i9446-NDB2 dual core drive controller. A Hynix H5PS5162GFR-S6C 64MB DDR2 IC acts as the cache for the drive. Meanwhile, a Winbond 25X40CLVIG flash memory module holds the firmware code. To control the motor, a chip labeled WDHC8TD manufactured by STMicroelectronics gets the job done. Mechanically, Western Digital advertises the Red's rotational speed as "IntelliPower". From a marketing perspective, it makes perfect sense. However, from a engineering perspective, this is simply useless information. It is like asking someone, "How much do you weigh?" and they answer, "Cheeseburger." What the heck is that supposed to mean? To translate it to terms we can all understand, it simply means the WD40EFRX is a 5,400 RPM drive. Understandably, a 5,400 RPM drive carries a connotation of being a lower performance unit, but it does feature 1TB platters inside. How well will this fare? 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 WD40EFRX 4TB NAS drive. What makes this NAS drive, a NAS drive? From a hardware perspective, the Red offers low power consumption. The numbers are given by the manufacturer as 0.40W sleep/standby, 3.30W idle, and 4.50W load. Since file servers are designed to be turned on 24/7, reduced power consumption can make a significant difference on your power bill, especially if you have many drives. It is also rated as having 1,000,000 hours MTBF. Reliability enhancements are also made with what Western Digital 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.

The real deal, however, 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.

In the past, if you need hard disks that are guaranteed to play well in a RAID environment, enterprise grade or RAID edition drives are available from each respective drive manufacturer. This is where the problem comes in: Such products are usually two to three times the price of comparable consumer drives with the same capacity! Can the huge price difference be justified just for the home or SOHO user to get some data redundancy working with their small network file server?

For most users, the answer is 'no'. TLER and related RAID array configuration problems as aforementioned are more crucial with demanding business environments than a home or SOHO NAS setup. 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 since 2010 using regular disks -- from Western Digital, no less -- with absolutely no problems at all. That said, products like the Red WD40EFRX 4TB we are reviewing today represents a shift in industry where hard drive manufacturers finally addresses the need for properly designed drives for network attached storage systems. They are specifically tested for compatibility, designed for reliability in this operating environment, and comes TLER enabled from the factory to ensure you will not experience related issues down the road. With a price comparable to desktop drives, the Western Digital Red series is simply a no-brainer if you are looking to fill up your file server.

Now, it is time for the exciting part: Benchmarking. We took in comparable 4TB models from Seagate and Hitachi, 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?

As you can see in our photo above, we have hard drives designed for network attached storage systems from all major manufacturers/brands. This includes Western Digital, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (Which is owned by Western Digital), and Seagate. This is, in aggregate, 24TB of serious business. Our test configuration as follows:

CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K @ 4.50GHz
CPU Cooling: Thermaltake WATER2.0 Pro (Noctua NF-F12)
Motherboard: ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution
RAM: Kingston HyperX Beast KHX21C11T3K2/16X 4x8GB
Graphics: Gigabyte Radeon HD 7870 2GB OC
Chassis: Lian Li PC-B12
Power: PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 1200W
Sound: Auzentech X-Fi Bravura
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional x64 SP1

Compared Hardware:
- Western Digital Red WD40EFRX 4TB (Street price: $180 each at press time)
- HGST Deskstar NAS 4TB (Street price: $185 each at press time)
- Seagate NAS HDD ST4000VN000 4TB (Street price: $160 each at press time)

Page Index
1. Introduction and 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