Hard Drives Designed For NAS Servers

Earlier this year Western Digital (WD) announced the WD Red NAS hard drives that are a line of SATA III 6Gbps hard drives specifically designed for home and small office NAS (network attached storage) systems. Anyone that has ever built a NAS before knows that buying hard drives and running them in RAID can be tricky, so WD has been working with NAS box manufacturers to make sure the WD Red series is compatible and that they are optimized for both power and performance. The WD Red hard drives are available in 3.5-inch 1 TB, 2 TB and 3 TB capacities and are designed from the ground up to work best in NAS servers that have up to five drive bays. Anything over five drive bays they suggest moving up to the WD RE Enterprise hard drive series as they are a bit more robust.

WD Drive Models:

WD30EFRX

For years many bought WD Caviar Green series drives since they were the lowest cost drives available, but they often found that these energy friendly drives often didn't run properly in a NAS environment with RAID arrays. The WD Red series costs a bit more, but has a number of firmware and hardware features that make it different from a traditional desktop hard drive. For example, you have less aggressive head parking (no IntelliPark), a configurable Time Limited Error Recovery (TLER), with a default of 7 seconds, optimized IntelliPower disk rotation speeds, and a vibration reduction mechanism. On top of all that you get a 3-Yr. warranty with free 24x7 phone support if you need it. WD even has a dedicated support line for WD Red customers (1-855-55-WDRED), which is pretty impressive.

WD Red Hard Drive Models & Pricing:

The WD Red WD30EFRX 3TB drive costs $157.90 and the WD Green WD30EZRX 3TB drive costs $129.99, so you are looking at about $30 or an extra 23% to get a true NAS hard drive. Obviously, the WD Red series costs a bit more, but you get a drive with TLER and that can really help you out if you ever get a couple bad sectors on a drive. 

WD Red 3TB SATA Port

The WD Red series uses the standard 3.5" desktop form factor, so you have your usual SATA power and data ports along one end of the drive. You have the ability to download a copy of Acronis True Image software from the WD website after you register the drive if you need data migration software.

WD Red Specifications:

The WD Red 3TB is fairly quiet with an average noise rating of 23 dBA at idle and 24 dBA during seek mode 0. When it comes to power use the WD30EFRZ uses 0.60 Watts when at sleep, 4.10 Watts at idle and 4.40 Watts during read/write operation.

WD Red Hard Drive Back

The back of the WD Red 3TB NAS hard drive has a simple green PCB on the back that is held down by four T9 Torx screws.

WD Red Controller PCB

We removed the screws and took off the PCB in order to show you what controller and memory chip WD is using on this particular hard drive.

marvell-controller

A Marvell 88819346-TFj2 SATA III controller is what gives this hard drive its 6Gbps speeds and just to the right of that is a Samsung 64MB DDR2 memory chip that makes up the drives cache. Most hard drives use DDR1 memory, so WD is using faster DDR2 memory for this drive series.

Now that you know the basics of this hard drive designed for NAS use, we can take a look at the test system and jump to the benchmarks!

Test System and Drive Info

Before we look at the numbers, here is a brief glance at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.

Intel Z77 Test Platform

Bottom 140mm cooling fan

The Intel Z77 platform that we used to test the WD My Passport Edge portable hard drive was running the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe motherboard with BIOS 0607 that came out on 7/27/2012. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-27 1T memory timings. Intel HD Graphics 4000 were used with driver 2875.

When we did NAS testing we used the Thecus N5550 NAS Server with firmware v 2.03.08. A Netgear WNDR4500 N900 wireless router was used that supports gigabit ethernet.

testsettings_550

Intel Test Platform

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor

Intel Core i7-3770K

Motherboard

ASUS P8Z77-I Click Here

Memory

16GB Corsair Vengeance Click Here

Video Card

Intel HD 4000

Click Here

Hard Drive

Kingston HyperX 480GB

Click Here

Cooling

CoolIt Eco II 140mm

Click Here

Power Supply

Corsair AX650 Gold

Click Here

Operating System

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit

Click Here

Detailed Information with HD Tune Pro 5.00:

hdtune info on WD Red 

We fired up HD Tune Pro to take a look at the health of the drive and to see the drive attributes. The drive we are testing uses firmware version 80.00A80.

Detailed Information with CrystalDiskInfo 5.1.1:

cdi 

We also fired up CrystalDiskInfo for those that prefer that utility.

capacity

The WD Red 3TB drive has 2.72TB available to the user in Windows. The reason that the drive isn't exactly 3TB is due to the change in measure from GB (1GB = 1,000,000,000 bytes) to GiB (1GiB = 1,073,741,824).

Benchmarking One Drive In A PC

HD Tune Pro 5.00 Benchmarking

HD Tune Pro 5.00 is an extended version of HD Tune which includes many new features such as write benchmark, secure erasing, AAM setting, folder usage view, disk monitor, command line parameters and file benchmark.

Read Performance Testing

hdtune-read 

Benchmark Results: The WD Red 3TB hard drive had an average read speed of 112.4MB/s with a burst speed of 345.3MB/s and an access time of 22.0ms. The read performance is fairly linear and started out at 112.4MB/s on the outer edges of the platters before slowing to 62.8MB/s on the inner sectors.

Write Performance Testing

hdtune write 

Benchmark Results: The WD Red 3TB had an average write speed of 109.9 MB/s with a burst speed of 312.1 MB/s and an access time of 18.7ms. These are very good write performance numbers!

File Testing

HDTune File Benchmark Results 

Benchmark Results: The file benchmark results look good with ~150 MB/s writes for most file sizes over 16KB. The WD Red 3TB averaged around 27C when being moderatly used.

CrystalDiskMark v3.0.2c

CrystalDiskMark is a small HDD benchmark utility for your hard drive that enables you to rapidly measure sequential and random read/write speeds.

1000MB Files Test Benchmark:

cdm

Benchmark Results:  The WD Red 3TB hard drive reached 153 MB/s read and 147 MB/s write in the sequential test. The 4K random read and write scores were around 1 MB/s, but that is common for a hard drive.

ATTO Disk Benchmark v2.47

ATTO is one of the oldest hard drive benchmarks that is still used today. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that you can easily interpret. The benchmark was run with file sizes from 0.5kb through 8192kb with the total length being 256mb.

ATTO Benchmark Results 

Benchmark Results:  The WD Red 3TB hard drive reached 163 MB/s read and 153 MB/s write in the benchmark test. Not bad performance numbers from a desktop hard drive that is meant to be inside of a NAS running a RAID array!

Speaking of a NAS.... Let's try out five of these drives in RAID 5 in a real NAS server!

Benchmarking on a NAS

3tb-nas-drives

The WD Red Hard Drive Series was designed to be used in a NAS server, so we couldn't call this review complete without trying them out in a NAS! We grabbed five 3TB WD Red hard drives and installed them into the Thecus N5550 NAS Server! This NAS uses an Intel Atom processor along with 2GB of DDR3 memory, so it is pretty beefy and ideal for small business or home use, which is what the WD Red drives are desgined for as well.

drives-in-nas

The Thecus N5550 had no issues at all with the WD Red 3TB hard drives and we had 13975 GB of awesome being detected! We setup a RAID 5 array with a 128KB stripe and left 1 disk for a spare. RAID 5 uses block-level striping with parity data distributed across all member disks. This is a pretty common setup and realistic of what someone buying these drives would do. This left us with 8318 GB of available storage space. In case you are wondering the Thecus N5550 NAS was running firmware version 2.03.08, which just came out on December 7th, 2012. Let's get on to the benchmarks!

 

ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO is one of the oldest hard drive benchmarks that is still used today. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that you can easily interpret. The test was performed with the default runs of 0.5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes with the total length being 256mb.

atto-nas

The Thecus N5550 with the Western Digital Red 3TB drives was able to hit a max of 107MB/s read and 117MB/s write.

CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark is a small HDD benchmark utility for your hard drive that enables you to rapidly measure sequential and random read/write speeds.

Crystal Disk Mark Results

With Crystal Disk Mark the sequential read and writes topped out at 55.4 MB/s read, and 104.5MB/s write.

Intel NAS Performance Toolkit Exerciser

The Intel NAS Performance Toolkit is a file system exerciser and analysis tool designed to enable performance comparisons between network attached storage (NAS) devices. Intel NASPT focuses on user level performance using real world workload traces gathered from typical digital home applications such as HD video playback and record, data backup and restore utilities, office productivity applications, video rendering/content creation and more. Intel NASPT reproduces the file system traffic observed in these traces onto whatever storage solution the user provides, records the system response, and reports a rich variety of performance information. The end result is readily comparable performance measurements that are useful to developers as well as intuitive and compelling to consumers. The Intel NAS Performance Toolkit is one of the only benchmarks that was designed from the ground up just to measure NAS performance. The benchmark tests 18 different test scenarios to give you a great overall idea of how the NAS performs.

raid5-1spare

The Intel NAS Performance Toolkit showed that HD video playback was around 60 MB/s, which isn't too shabby. The other scores can be seen in the image above.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

The Western Digital Red series was designed for NAS servers and it leaves us wondering why no one did this before! Industry analysts believe that the NAS market will greatly expand in the years to come and WD now has a product to fill the void that was present. Buying the least expensive drive at your desired capacity and using it in a NAS was the popular way to find drives to populate a NAS, but now there is a hard drive series made just for NAS and RAID environments.  WD's exclusive NASware technology might sound like a catchy marketing term, but it isn't! These drives have real hardware and firmware changes that differentiate them from a standard desktop hard drive.

WD30EFRX-RED

The performance of the WD Red 3TB hard drive was rather impressive. With a single drive installed on our desktop PC as a secondary storage drive we were able to get ~150MB/s sequential read/write speeds in CrystalDiskMark and HDTune showed burst speeds of nearly 350MB/s!  Not bad performance numbers from a single drive. We showed you these numbers to give you an idea how a single WD Red 3TB performs with its three 1TB platters and variable RPMs (IntelliPower). Using the WD Red 3TB in a NAS is the proper way to test these drives, so we ran five of them in RAID5 on the Thecus N5550 NAS. There are thousands of different combinations with a NAS device as you can alter the RAID array type, stripe sizes and encryption modes that we could have tried out. We obviously don't have time to try out each mode, but we've had solid performance and no degraded RAID arrays since using the WD Red drives in the device. We also used the WD Red hard drive series in a number of NAS servers from QNAP, Promise, Thecus and Synology that we have around the lab and had 100% success across the board.

WD Red Hard Drive Models & Pricing:

When it comes to pricing the WD Red NAS drives are slightly more expensive than the green series, but the additional cost is worth the peace of mind and easy installation process. The WD Red WD30EFRX drive that we used here today comes out to 5 cents per GB, which is fairly inexpensive when you think about it that way. Storage is very affordable right now and if you are looking for a way to backup your digital lifestyle, using a NAS is certainly the way to go! All WD Red NAS drives are backed by a 3-year warranty and have 24/7 support on a dedicated hotline just for this series.

Legit Reviews Recommended Award

After using the Western Digital Red Hard Drives in a NAS environment and checking out the performance and features first hand, we can easily recommend them to anyone building a NAS that is looking for a fast and reliable storage solution.  The only thing better than these drives would be to move up to the WD RE Enterprise series of drives, but you are looking at $303.65 for a WD RE 3TB (WD3000FYYZ) drive. At double the cost it really isn't justifiable for the home user, so WD Red NAS drives get our thumbs up!

Legit Bottom Line: The WD Red 3TB NAS Hard Drive performed great and spending a little extra for the NASware technology appears to be well worth it!